Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Guest post: "Scribbling for Two?" by YA Fantasy Authors Leif and Jason Grundstrom-Whitney

There are distinct challenges for a writer in developing an idea for a poem, short story or book. Where do you start? How do you start? Are you the kind of writer that plans every sentence, a wordsmith that has difficulty moving on as it were before the perfect sentence lies on the page before you? Are you the type of writer that follows an intuitive response, just typing on a tenuous thread that starts to take form as you are in the process itself? Are you the type of writer that blueprints an entire book first before a word of it is ever written? All writers are as unique in their styles as the individual is in personal characteristics and attributes. All have their valid stances and many mix and match the styles written above.

The challenge increases when you have two writers with distinctive styles that come together for a literary project. Though having a great deal in common with one another, we write in different styles; yet we always somehow enjoy the crafting of the daily section. We thought for the purpose of this blog to give you a snapshot of what a typical writing day looks like for us to perhaps help other writers and also show that a mutual paring for a literary project can and does work.

We often start our day with a vigorous walk. On this walk, taking in all the sensory stimulation, the conversation starts generally and rather unfocused until the topic of the book is brought up. On these strolls, we have been able to do a tremendous amount of blueprinting. We talk about what chapter we are currently working on. It might start off as a theme, as in the variation of cultural stories or satirical subversion of young adult fiction tropes we have written into the book. What is the protagonist up to in this chapter? What is the antagonist up to? What is the tension in the interplay with these two amongst the myriad other characters we have in the novel? How do we move the plot forward? Is it helpful to the story? We have had many long excursions filled with blueprinting, interrupted and furthered by lines that jump out to us like zaftig clouds that roll by in the vast azure sky.

We then sit at our dinner table that is a family heirloom across from one another with our separate writing devices. Occasionally we gaze out at the beautiful pastoral landscape outside our large picture windows. Working a chapter at a time, gradually a comprehensive blueprint is formulated. Most of the time there is agreement, though there are periods in which disagreement occurs. There are some days we come to an impasse and have to stop for the day and move away from the project so that we can come back together after following our own private pursuits, yet steeping in the unconscious the problem delaying our progress.

Once the blueprint has been forged, we tackle different sections, having assigned them in a scheme to suit our strengths, and begin working our way slowly towards the completion of the book. Once the writing day is done, we read to each other the sections we have created. Occasionally we will edit right there and then, other days we will leave this as the first project of the next day. We proceed in this fashion until the end of the manuscript: brainstorming sessions/strolls, blueprinting, writing, reading, and editing until we feel our work has been completed and our creativity thoroughly exhausted. We then go through the final edits, carefully combing the manuscript for typos, redundancies, and expanding on what is incomplete and adding what is missing. This may seem to some a lot of work given that there must be a reasonably generous consensus with a section before moving on. Having unique and different styles of writing, we offer each other immediate feedback and both of us have grown as writers whilst working on this creative project. Of course we also feel the kinship of being a father and son team as a continuance of the long line of storytellers that we descend from. It may not be the cleanest process but it is one wherein we have excelled and hope to continue to do so well into the future.


Leif Grundstrom-Whitney is the proud co-author of the epical satire The Hidden Chalice of the Cloud People; the wicked and witty character known as Facinorous contained therein is a product of his multifarious mind. He has been published in several obscure poetry journals (hold your applause). To say that he is an edacious reader would be an understatement worthy of Hemingway. If he had a spirit animal, it would probably be a gregarious raven who knows how to play a Hammond B-3 organ.
Jason Grundstrom-Whitney has been a Social Worker and Substance Abuse Counselor in the State of Maine for many years. In this time, he has introduced meditation (tai-chi, qigong, yoga, and meditation) groups to teens when told he would fail. This was one of the most successful and long lasting groups. He developed a Civil Rights/Peer Helper course that won state and national awards (for High School) and has worked as a civil rights activist. He has also worked as a long term care social worker and now works as a Hospice Medical Social Worker. Jason is a poet, writer, and musician playing bass, harmonica and various wind instruments.

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