I will be giving a presentation tonight at 7:00 PM called "Dive into History at Home: French Colonial Blacksmith Shops in VR Museums." It is part of the 2021 Winter Virtual Lecture Series - Fort Talk Thursdays, hosted by the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project, the Niles District Library, and the Niles History Center.
Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/2491953910
I always enjoy learning about the writing process of other authors, so I thought I’d share an overview of my own process for writing novels.
The process has evolved for me over the years as I experimented with what worked for me and what didn’t. Sometimes I modify my process depending on the sort of story I am working on.
Writers seem to generally fall into two categories: discovery writers who come up with the story as they write their first draft, and outline writers who plan out where the story is going beforehand. The name of this post is a hint for which way I tend toward—outline writing.
I used to not outline my stories. I enjoyed inventing the story and the fantasy world as I wrote. However, I would often reach a point where I was writing scene after scene without a clear idea of where the story was headed. The ending was a known factor, but the middle of the story wasn’t. Many scenes were useful in exploring characters or aspects of the fantasy world I was inventing, but had less impact on the story as a cohesive whole.
For some of my short stories, I still discovery write since I have ideas in my mind I can follow and the stories are short enough that I can rewrite the story I need to while revising.
For my novels, I make sure to outline early in the process. I might do some free writing of the main characters I have in mind or write out a beginning chapter or two. These chapters usually need rewritten multiple times as a result, but help me acquire an image in my mind of the story. After these first couple chapters, I transition to outlining the rest of the story.
Outlining is a means to quickly write out a whole story in a condensed format. It is a lot more efficient to rewrite the outline or add detail. It also provides an overview of the story to better see the flow of each story thread, balance of rotating character view-points (if the novel has any), and the overall structure of the plot.
The outline can be very detailed, breaking down by chapter and what happens in each chapter. Generally, I outline at least the major points of each chapter, ensuring there is contribution to each sub-plot. Initially, the extra details for a chapter are sparse. As I get closer to writing the chapter, or while I write a first draft, I fill in more of the outline. The outline helps me return to the story to resume writing as envisioned. It also helps me keep track of my writing goals for individual writing sessions or even for the week. I know how much to write for a chapter, and how many chapters need to be written within a timeframe to get a whole novel written.
Then starts the long writing. It takes a long time to write out a novel. Especially if it is an epic that could be the length of several novels in one. I write all of my first drafts by hand with fountain pens. Considering how much I write, I find them to be the best tools for me to do the job, since they effortlessly glide over the page. This helps prevent hand cramps and I find fountain pens and their nuances to be fun. The pens have the added benefit of refills from large bottles of ink that come out cheaper than cartridge refills and have many colors and ink properties for me to choose from. I like using different colors in different pens as a way to keep track of how much I have written in a session. I sometimes write for hours at a time, so it is important for me to have efficient writing tools that complements my writing style.
I could write my first drafts on a computer, since I have a good mechanical keyboard for my desktop PC, plus a laptop/ tablet with keyboard. Additionally, I can touch-type decently fast. The problem is that I type too fast. Hand-writing forces me to slow down and think a little more about the words going on a page. There is also an element of that hard-to-describe author-magic for me to hand-write my first drafts—even for this blog post.
After I have finished several chapters, I start typing the story into a second draft. This is where a lot of my editing takes place. In the process of typing, I create a full second draft of the novel. From there, I can focus on revising individual sentences and fixing typos. As I continue the novel, I revise in foreshadowing and other continuity changes as they pop up. Sometimes I wait until I have many chapters hand-written to begin typing the second draft. Other times I will type out the previous day’s material before resuming work on the first draft as a means to warm-up my mind for that day’s work.
By outlining first and then hand-writing my first draft, I am often able to get a near-final version of the novel in the second draft—the typed version. It still takes a lot of time and work to revise the whole novel into a final polished version. But I don’t have to rewrite the entirety of the novel a dozen times.
The final stage is test reading the novel with input from friends and family. I convert the novel into my own eBook at various stages of the novel’s progress, which makes it easier to distribute and easier to read.
So, that’s my writing process as an author, taking novels from outline to hand-written drafts, to revised typed drafts, and onto the final version. What other aspects of the writing process would you like to read about?
Fountain Pens—TWSBI Diamond 580ALR
TWSBI seems to find its way into my small always-inked group of fountain pens. First was my TWSBI Eco, which was one of my first good fountain pens. Now the TWSBI Diamond 580ALR Limited Edition Purple fountain pen has followed suit.
TWSBI is not an old brand by fountain pen terms, stemming from an older OEM in plastics, and is based in Taiwan. In the relatively short time that they have been manufacturing their own pens and pencils under the TWSBI brand they have established a good reputation for quality at good prices. The Diamond 580ALR, like most of TWSBI’s fountain pens, utilizes a piston mechanism. The piston is integrated into the pen body for a large ink capacity, and tools are provided in the box to disassemble the pen for maintenance. I have not had to do this yet but have only had the pen for several months. Eventually I will have to add new silicone grease to the piston seal, which I have no problem doing.
The pen is made of a combination of plastic and aluminum. The pen body is faceted plastic, providing a mesmerizing view of the ink sloshing around inside. The grip and the components for the piston mechanism are made of aluminum—thus the AL portion of the pen model. The grip is textured with fine grooves which help the metal grip section feel less slippery and don’t protrude so much as to be uncomfortable. The R in ALR designates this model as featuring these grooves.
The cap can be posted onto the back of the pen, but adds too much back-weight in my hand due to the metal components of the cap. I rarely post my pens anyway, so it isn’t an issue for me. The cap has an insert that seals the nib. I haven’t had any issues with the nib drying out after being left unused for extended periods—something I have also observed being true of my TWSBI Eco.
The nib is a TWSBI-branded JoWo medium nib. It writes very well as expected of JoWo nibs. The nib moves smoothly on a page with no scratchiness, although not quite as smooth as some of my other (more expensive) pens. I haven’t had problems with hard starts or ink skipping.
The TWSBI Diamond 580ALR has become one of my go-to pens for daily carry in my pocket. I would be sad if something happened to it, but I feel less worried about this pen leaking or getting too scratched compared to my more delicate gold nib pens. It writes every time I uncap it and does the job of a daily carry pen very well.
Update on VR Museum
Back in my first entry, I mentioned updates about my work on my VR Museum being one of the topics of this blog. Since the creation of that post, my concept evolved into a published work in the Oculus Store for the Oculus, titled VR Museum: Blacksmithing Through Time. I am excited to announce that a second VR Museum will soon be released. It is titled VR Museum: Art Through Time, featuring over 60 artworks.
Originally, I intended to use this blog as a central hub for updates on my various projects. However, as my first VR Museum was preparing to launch, I created another website under my LLC name to showcase the VR Museum series and highlight important content updates. So, if you are interested in learning more about my current and upcoming VR Museum projects you can head on over to https://www.dracanworks.com/.
Fountain Pens—Lamy 2000
This week’s post is about my experience with the Lamy 2000. It is my most recent fountain pen acquisition from several months ago as a graduation present. Since then it has been constantly inked and has become the pen which I use the most. Much of the novel I am currently writing has been written with this pen. It is a standard makrolon model with a medium nib. Like the vintage Conklin Nozac from last week, it is a piston filler. Since the pen was commemorating my graduation with a master’s degree, it was engraved with my name as it appears in my thesis and on my diploma—Jeffrey R. Nau.
Although I haven’t had this Lamy 2000 fountain pen for as long as many of my other pens, it is already the one I have changed inks most often in. I write with it until it runs out of ink and then put a different ink in it rather than just refilling with the same ink. Usually, I settle on one or two inks I will repeatedly put into a pen. For the Lamy 2000, I started with the Lamy Special Edition 2019 Bronze ink I had gotten at the same time and didn’t like the look. It was too light of an orange on the page. So, I decided to go through all the inks I have just to try them all in the same pen (almost all the inks; there are few specialty inks that I only use in certain pens). I might have settled on which inks I will regularly use in my Lamy 2000, but I will need to go back to those inks and write more. One of the things I enjoy about fountain pens is how different inks can look depending on the fountain pen and paper. Each ink I have tried in the Lamy 2000 almost makes it a new writing experience, while maintaining the now-familiar comfort of the pen design and smooth nib.
Fountain Pens - Conklin Nozac
Although this is technically my second blog post, I am considering it my first real one. The first one was more like a Forward or Introduction to the main content.
So, as my first (really second) post, I decided to start with something about the fountain pen shown on my homepage. (It’s okay if you didn’t even realize there was an image there with a fountain pen. Go look if you want but come right back here.)
This fountain pen is one I got from my grandfather. He found it in his desk one day and gave it to me. It turned out to be one of the fountain pen models I had hoped to someday add to my collection. The fountain pen is a Conklin Nozac. A vintage one from the 1930s.
The pen is made from green celluloid in a faceted shape. Between the green stipes are translucent stripes, although they are difficult to see without holding the pen up to the light. The nib is 14k gold which is ground a little on the stub side and has a small amount of flex to it. It was made in Toledo, Ohio which I like as it is my home state (fun fact: Toledo is also the home of Klinger in M*A*S*H).
What I especially like about this pen, aside from the striped celluloid, is the filling system. Unlike most American-made fountain pens of its time, the Conklin Nozac had a piston filling system. Hence its name, for the lack of the then-common rubber sac in pens that held ink. Nozac = no sac. The pen also features a “word gauge” on the barrel. It is meant to indicate how many more words I can write. I tend to use it to see how many words of a chapter I have written.
Like many vintage fountain pens, the pen was covered in dry ink. I enjoy restoring the vintage fountain pens I collect, so I took it apart and cleaned it. I was surprised to find the cork used as the piston seal was intact. Even more surprising (to me anyways) was that I managed to bring the cork seal back into working condition without having to replace the cork like I was prepared to do. This fountain pen is 80-something years old. It still works almost as if it were new.
Welcome to the Blog of J.R. Nau
As this is the start of my new blog, this post is the obligatory post about the kinds of things to expect here. This post coincides with the launch of my new website. I did have a personal website previously, but it was used primarily as a component of my work in graduate school. Now that I have graduated and am working toward beginning my professional career, I decided to completely re-design my website. That included the initialization of this blog.
The aim for this website—and this blog—is to provide a central hub for my projects and showcase some of my other interests. So, there will be a few things you can expect to find in this blog following that aim:
J.R. Nau - developer of the VR Museum and author of the Varynna series.