J. Allen Wolfrum is a fiction author and former Marine based in San Diego, California.


Planning and Abiding by the Rules of the Catranch

Planning and Abiding by the Rules of the Catranch


So what does the drawing board look like?

When I wrote Selected, I started with a blank Google Doc titled Chapter 1 and went from there. I dove right into the writing because I had no idea if I could do it or not and there was only one way to find out. Anyone can outline and plan a book, that's easy, zero pressure, nobody will ever read it. Actually writing Chapter 1, that's a totally different experience, and that's why I started by writing. The story structure and planning went side by side with the writing. In retrospect, the story would have been better if I spent more time planning. But if I spent more time planning, I may have never made it to the writing. 

This time around, I'm spending more time planning out the story structure before writing. Spending time planning feels like procrastination but it's necessary. My grasp on the balance of writing versus planning is tenuous at best. So far what I've done is write until I get to a point where I don't know what to do, then plan, and vice versa. That rhythm between writing and planning seems to keep me moving.

Right now, I'm stuck on the planning phase. I have a plan for about half to three quarters of the book, which is enough to start writing.

If you want to know more about story structure and in the process, ruin the movie watching experience, I highly recommend The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. His book uses the work done by Joseph Campbell regarding the monomyth and Hero's Journey to describe how the Hero's Journey has been used is modern film and literature. Joseph Campbell studied myths and folklore across the world over centuries and found that there are common elements in them all.  Those common elements are described as The Hero's Journey. If you believe in his theory, you can find the elements of The Hero's Journey in popular movies, literature, and religion. Again, depending on your perspective, it either ruins movies or gives you a greater appreciation for the work that goes into making a movie.


This week's reading was focused on The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. The book has been sitting on my nightstand for months and I've never opened it until this week. I bought it based on a series of episodes on the Story Grid podcast. They used Vogler's book as a guide for talking about The Hero's Journey moments and archetypes. Tim and Shawn's conversation on the podcast about the concepts in the book was great but reading through Vogler's explanations and examples is much more helpful. To give you a sense of the book, he uses examples ranging from The Wizard of Oz to Beverly Hills Cop. 


Cold. We've had a fire going for the last three days straight. To be fair, I did sit outside and read in shorts and a t-shirt on Sunday. Cold for San Diego.

Rich and Pam are very much into the fireplace. They each have their own assigned seat on top of the couch. In the mornings, Pam sits over by the window in the sun spot and Rich sits on the opposite side near the lamp. The seating changes by time of day. In the afternoon, Rich takes over the sun spot near the window on top of the couch and Pam moves to the sun spot on the seat of the couch. The seating arrangement is very well defined, there appears to be no room for negotiation. A misplaced pillow or backpack on the couch throws off the balance and the house is engulfed in chaos.

As a human living with Rich and Pam you must learn the rules. They may seem random but there is an order to things. Once you learn the rules, the operation runs smooth. Break the rules and you'll find yourself listening to Pam pound on the dresser door with her paws at 3 am.


Weathermen, The Silk Road, and Excuses for not Writing

Weathermen, The Silk Road, and Excuses for not Writing

Back to the Drawing Board

Back to the Drawing Board