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It's been a little bit since The Prisons has come out. While I love Heather and the gang, and I'm so proud of what The Prisons became, I'm ready to mo...

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How I Wrote Prison 917

August 22, 2017

Everything I write goes through a different process. During NaNoWriMo, I rush everything. Because you have to write 1,667 words a day, the goal is to write anything, regardless of quality. You just have to get something, anything, written. Other novels I have written are planned months in advance, with every chapter, every scene, every word planned ahead of time. Sometimes, it's a mix between the two. Other time, I write something quickly (like this blog post) look over it once, and I'm done. Everything gets a different approach.

 

Writing Prison 917 was very unique. Most of my stories are planned, to some extent. Okay, I have a few characters, let's see what happens with them or I want to see what someone would do if they were in this situation. No matter where the idea comes from, I mull over it for a little while. Even if I write it quickly and with no plot in mind, there is a central idea that everything is coming from. With Prison 917, I didn't have any of that.

 

I hate to say this, because it seems very cliché and, in my opinion, annoying, but Prison 917 originated as a dream. The dream and the finished work are very different, but the core concept of people trapped in a prison with no supervision is the same. When I had that dream, I was working at a job where I had a lot of down time. By a lot, I mean about eight hours a day of down time. I did what very little work I had to do, then I got into writing down this dream.

 

I wasn't planning on doing much with it when I started writing Prison 917. I didn't start at the place where the dream started, because, like in most dreams, it didn't make any logical sense. I took a few steps back, and wrote from there, with the goal of reaching the point where the dream actually started. Once I got there, I followed the plot of the dream as best I could, adding in bits to make it more logical, or more interesting, and taking out things that used dream-logic.

 

The dream had started with a frizzy haired, fuzzy toothed girl showing another girl around a prison. This prison looked very different from the one described in 917; everything was on stilts. I had no logical explanation for that, so that was scrapped right away.  

 

Once I wrote until I got to that point, I kept writing the dream. Everything that happened, even if the logic was flawed. I was planning on going back and seeing if my awake-brain could connect the dots and figure out why my asleep-brain had come up with that idea. Some of them, I could find a reasoning for, or change just a bit so that it made sense. Some things, like all the houses being on stilts, was scrapped.

 

By the time I had finished the dream, I had around 30 pages. The novella, in its original word format, ended up at 67 pages, so I was already about half way. The problem was, there was no end. I had woken up, the dream ended, and there was no sort of resolution to anything.

 

For the next few days, I left 917 alone and mulled over it. What should happen next, who exactly where the characters, what were the motivations, what would they do next. Some characters were easy. Rabbit, for example. I knew what he would do in every situation I thought of. Heather was a mix, and Delany was off the wall with what she would do.

 

Eventually I found something I thought could happen next, and I wrote it out. I hated it. I thought of something else, and tried that. Hated that too. I think it took me about four tries to get something down that I liked and that made sense.

 

But once I got over that hurtle, I was able to race off with it again. I wrote the next 30 odd pages in under a day, again. The story was finished in less than a week, which is the shortest amount of time I've finished a story of any length.

 

I took a few months off, working on other things, focusing on school, sitting around. I came back to the original, rewrote the ending once, and started to edit the entire thing. Editing didn't take me long, I polished up a few parts, reworded a few things, and sent it off to Beta Readers for grammar checks.

Writing Prison 917 took me less than a week in total time, but reworking and editing probably took me three months. The release is probably about a year after I started working on the project.

 

Moral of the story, there is no wrong or right way to write anything, whether it be an essay, a poem, or a novel. Whatever works for the piece is what works for the piece. The follow up to 917 might be written exactly like this, or it might be well thought out and planned out until my fingers bleed. It doesn't matter, as long as you are enjoying yourself.

 

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​© 2018 by Samantha Nicklaus