Mind-Writing (and the Warm Bodies sequel)

When I write a novel, I write it twice. The first time, it's in my head. I call it mind-writing. I walk around, run around, sit around, I listen to music and look at pretty things and just think my brains out. I solidify what the story is and how I'm going tell it, and then I write it down in quick, loose sketches. When I'm finished, I have an outline of every scene in the book. Not an outline like the utterly useless kind they taught you in school.

I. Useless
   A. Fucking
   B. Bullshit
        1. Seriously

It's more like a storyboard. You know, those comic-book sketches that eventually become movies? I describe everything that happens and explore the mood and atmosphere and ideas of every scene without stopping to actually "perform" the scenes with prose. What I end up with is essentially the book itself, as written by an idiot.

The second time I write the book is when I take these storyboards and convert them into actual prose. Writing prose is hard. It takes a lot of care to craft a good sentence, even more to connect that sentence to another one, even more to transition from one paragraph to the next, and a whole hell of a lot more to tune the flow of dramatic tension so that each chapter builds into the next all the way to the end. You've probably heard of "pacing." It's hard. So is rhythm, emotion, and thematic coherency. All this stuff is hard even when you know exactly what happens in each scene, so imagine doing all these things WHILE making up the story. Even though I always know the basic elements of a story long before I start working on it--especially in the case of a sequel--there is still a lot of detail to fill in, connecting point A to point B, and doing that and writing the prose at the same time is like walking off a cliff and then trying to build a bridge under you. Aka, suicide.

Mind-writing the story before type-writing it frees me up to focus on the prose and makes the whole mountainous undertaking slightly more approachable.

Anyway, this is my long-winded, faux-academic way of telling you that I started writing the sequel to Warm Bodies today. For the last 8 months, since the day I decided I was going to do a sequel, I have been fiercely mind-writing it. (Well, that and finishing up the prequel novella, The New Hunger--which by the way, you are required to read if you want to understand the sequel.) In many ways, mind-writing is the hardest part. It requires the most sheer creative muscle, ripping ideas and images and emotions out of thin air, and it's by far the most perilous, because you can FAIL. You can't truly fail at writing itself; you can just keep editing and revising forever until it's as good as it can possibly be. But you CAN fail to come up with a good story. You can drive your ideas into an inescapable dead-end and give up in despair. That's a very real danger, so the fact that I made it all the way to the end is actually the biggest news I'll have for you until I announce a publication date.

I finished mind-writing last week, every scene from epigraph to epilogue, and after taking a few days to wipe the tears out of my eyes and regather my courage, I'm now diving into the main event.  I wrote the opening scene this morning. It's pretty good. So, please smash a champagne bottle against my hull and toss your hats in the air. This ship is launched.

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  1. I seriously can't wait for this novel! You are an amazing writer.

  2. I know mind-writing. Even thought, I never named it like that, its the way I'm writing my fanfictions, too. I can't imagine another way to do it. I couldn't even start writing anything without having the whole plot in my head.
    The only thing what makes it a little dangerous for me is: I am unable to take notes. If I should ever hit my head, everything will just be gone. xD

  3. I love hearing about different writers' processes. Thank you for sharing. :-) And I'm sure it will be great!

  4. This is just perfect: "You can't truly fail at writing itself; you can just keep editing and revising forever until it's as good as it can possibly be. But you CAN fail to come up with a good story. You can drive your ideas into an inescapable dead-end and give up in despair. That's a very real danger..."

    What champagne would Julie and Nora recommend?

  5. I terribly understand how hard it is to write: "mind-writing" - as per your terminology, Master Marion, - and the actual execution of writing - the process wherein you put every bit of your brain down the papers, and in which you transform the vividness of your imagination into sentences that should perfectly match each other.

    Well as a stupid and boring 18 year old lad, I've found nothing more appealing in this ridiculous planet than to bury myself deep in the pressure of Literature: Being a part, as well as taking a part of it. I want to write. I always write. But the novel that I currently work on is a bitch: Sometimes awesome, most of the time difficult. I wonder if it is the contents of the novel that make it quite hard to deal with, or it's me that makes it hard because I did not go through any proper training whatsoever. But I guess, even though or even if I fail to come up with a good story I will still keep on writing because my inners tell me to do so. I don't know what's the point of me saying this.

    Anyway, I love your works. And by "works", I mean not just the novels but also the photography. (I do photography as well. Oh, Burn.) And I think we do have something in common: We see the other side of down.


    Warm Bodies sequel will be a blast, I'm pretty sure.


  6. Congrats! I'm excited to read it. I read a lot of zombie books and Warm Bodies was one of the most creatively original that I have read.

  7. Too much excitement in the air! The sequel of Warm Bodies will again touched the hear of R-the-handsome-zombie lovers out there. :)

    P.S. Please have an ebook (jar file) for your book Sir <3

  8. So excited Isaac. I always fail at the mind-writing part. Wisps of ideas, scraps of characters, fluttering faceless plots die before they solidify, before I find the courage to breathe life into them. Following you through this journey, maybe someday I'll borrow a little of your courage and take that step...

  9. I hope you never underestimate the power of your words. But if you ever do, then I hope there's always someone to remind you of the positive impact you have on other's lives.

    I'm not only eager to revisit R and Julie's world, but also to discover the profundities your beautiful brain is forming this time around. In short, major excite.

  10. Didn't you say The New Hunger was going to be an actual physical book at some point, or did I make that up? Is the physical book still coming? Cause I really need to get my hand on that story and I despise ebooks with a passion...

    1. I'm not a fan of them myself... this is just the situation I find myself in.

      It will be a physical book, but it's tied up in publishing politics right now. I will get in print as soon as possible...

  11. Any chance it will be called Burying Lead? :P

  12. I am psyched!! I just finished Warm Bodies (havn't seen the movie yet), wanted to read it as soon as I heard the film came from a book. The second I put it down I thought, "I'm so hoping he writes a sequel! Does he have any other books out?"

    I can't express how much I enjoy your writing style -- "you had me at page-10"... in my mind I'm eloquent, I can climb scaffolds of words to reach the highest cathedral ceiling and paint my words... never stop writing Isaac!


  13. I loved your book. I have been reading Gideon's Sword page 180 by Preston and Child and they had a quote that made me think of you. "Pectus Est Quod Disertos Facit" "It is the heart that makes the man eloquent" from Quintilian's Orations. I don't know if that is a real quote but it sure fits R. Lis Johnson

  14. When will The New Hunger be available for ebooks like the Kindle?

  15. Just wanted to say I enjoyed reading Warm Bodies and the movie was pretty dang good too. There are a few things I wish they would have kept in the movie as I felt it was an important part of the book. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it. Can't want to read New Hunger and the sequel.

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  17. I'm so fucking pumped for this shit.

  18. Mr. Marion,
    Please, please don't let Julie and R go their separate ways for too long. I mean, i think true love presents some pretty severe challenges for all of us, and i have to figure that the need for a sequel to your story means it isn't all peaches n cream for the two of them;( Maybe they have to say goodbye for a bit so they can truly be ready for each other and do what it is they are supposed to do in this world together. I dunno, i bet R says some shitty things to Julie, which would be really sad, cause Julie is my favorite heroine ever. Maybe he just needs time to get good at being human again. Maybe they havn't truly fallen completely in love for good yet. It's like it was right there, right? Like it happened, but then something very hard to explain happens and its gone. Who knows? I guess you just have to keep on going though, right? Well, hopefully R figures himself out in time and doesn't fuck it up completely. I cant wait to read the sequel. much love...

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