Guest Post by Brett Michael Orr: His Writing Process

silver-pocket-watch Photo by Robert Couse-Baker


If you've been following me on Twitter for a while, you might have noticed me tweeting about The Bureau of Time (#TheBureauOfTime), my current Young-Adult Science-Fiction novel. At the moment, The Bureau is in the hands of my wonderful beta-readers, and I hope to have queries and/or submissions out by October/November, which will be a whole year since I started writing The Bureau. Briana, and a lot of other writers too, were wondering how I wrote The Bureau - am I plotter, or a pantser? The answer really is "a bit of both", so I thought I'd take you through the stages that I used when writing The Bureau of Time!

First Draft

The first edition of The Bureau of Time started in November 2014, the first time I had ever attempted the NaNoWriMo competition. Slightly before the event started, I came up with an idea in my head, and jotted down some chapter ideas on an A3 sheet of paper.

This is the way I always plot stories, even quick drafts or short stories - by creating a list of chapters and the progression of the plot.

In these early drafts, moving the plot forward is the only thing you need to worry about, especially on a tight timer like NaNoWriMo. (If you're interested, I have a Tips & Tricks post about NaNo on my blog!) Despite all of this, I eventually abandoned the plan, and just started free-writing towards the ends, which became one of the most significant parts of my novel and carried over into the beta draft. The event was a huge success, and when it ended, I had written 70,000 words in just over 30 days. (And every word of that would eventually be deleted).

The Rewrite, Part 1 - The Plan

Any book I've written will inevitably go through a massive re-write. I'm not sure if other writers do this, or if it's just my personal style, but I like taking the first draft, analyzing it for what worked, then throwing it away and starting again. This is the serious part of my writing - I spent close to three months (December through February) creating endless pages of notes. I created Character Sheets that listed each character's name, age, motivation and other defining attributes, along with a character 'image' sourced from models or actors/actresses.

Any book I've written will inevitably go through a massive re-write...

I also spent a long time drafting a timeline - very important, especially considering my book involves a small amount of time travel, and a lot of interdimensional jumping around. The final key part of plotting was creating a 'chapter breakdown', inspired by J.K. Rowling's hand-written outlines - I did this by hand-writing notes on my Surface Pro, breaking down each chapter and the progress of the smaller 'arcs', such as character relationships, betrayals etc. Then - it was time to write.

The Rewrite, Part 2 - I Can Type Fast

My friend Brett Jonas challenged me to a Typing Test a little while ago - as you can see, I type really fast. Often it doesn't help me when I'm writing, as I zone out very easily, but when I'm on-point, I can drum out words quite quickly (especially if I'm listening to a novel-themed playlist when I write). My rewrite was 97,000 words in just a single month - based almost entirely from my chapter notes, with a slight deviation from the actual plan. Because I had already written the first draft, the re-write flowed more naturally, as I had a better idea of where my story should be going and how the characters would interact.

Polishing Brass Into Gold

I'm not a massive fan of editing - I have a tendency to focus on minute details and somehow miss the bigger picture. I had a list of 'problem areas' that I had started jotting down while I was still re-writing.

I also took a break before editing - I wanted to approach the manuscript refreshed. It was only a week-long break, not too long for me to lose interest, but just long enough to gain a little perspective.

Over the course of about three months, I made my way through the manuscript, slowly editing the most problematic areas and generally polishing it up, ready for the beta period. I had a fantastic support community forming around me, with a Beta Group Chat on Twitter that was supporting me the whole time.

Beta and Beyond!

My betas have been providing me with excellent feedback and critiques, all of which I've been taking into account and preparing to use for edits. Not every piece of feedback will have an impact on the finished draft, but it's definitely enlightening to get real-world feedback on writing style, character, etc. So that's how I designed, drafted, rewrote and edited The Bureau of Time. If the beta-edits go well, I'll be seeking representation later this year, and with a little luck, my novel could be in bookstores within a few years!