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Chelsey Tries: Novel Techniques with Author Zac Duval

I often get asked if I’m an artist.

Since I work for an arts organization, that’s always a valid question. I don’t consider myself an artist. I tell people, “I’m a Communications person. I write about the arts, but I don’t create art myself.”

However, after spending an evening with author and TAP Partner Zac Duval, I started thinking differently about the creativity, pure energy and time that goes into writing.

Zac is a published author that has written multiple sci-fi novels and wrote a children’s book called “Ren and Marie” with illustrator and TAP Partner McCal Joy.

In spending time with him, we discussed how writing requires an artistic process as much as any painting, film or play.

Zac used to think the same way I do (or, did). He told me how, until a couple years ago, he didn’t consider himself an artist either. The literary arts are often under-represented or not considered in the realm of the “arts,” so many authors and writers typically get left out of the conversation. (By the way, it SO is an art form. But more on that later.)

So, for my third “Chelsey Tries” series, I spent a couple of hours sitting with Zac in the Prairie Den to learn the artistic process of writing novels. The purpose of this series is to get more “hands on” in the arts and promote our Partners in a fun way.

Clearly, it was physically impossible to “try” to write a novel in only two short hours (that can take literally years), so we mostly stuck to writing techniques.

He told me about the three development phases that go into writing a novel. The first phase is the “abstract” phase, which is mostly the ideation phase. “It’s a lot like baking a pizza,” Duval explained, in that it requires a lot of “kneading” and working out the story the novel will tell.

The next phase was the “helix” phase, which involves building the fictional world, the characters in that world, and how the characters overlap throughout the book.

Zac, explaining the “what am I doing” phase all writers go through at some point in the artistic process. 🙂

Zac said he enjoys writing sci-fi novels because he gets to create contraptions and technology that don’t exist in real life, which I thought was interesting.

The third phase is outlining each chapter into phases to ensure continuity, which Duval said is “one of the biggest, most important things” when writing a novel. (We’ve all read novels or watched movies with plot holes, and it’s infuriating.)

We also discussed conceptualization, development (as in connecting the dots of the helix), consideration of scope, mind-mapping and a lot of other things that made my brain hurt by the end of the two hours. And that was even before we talked about the editing process – yikes!

But, brain pain aside, I enjoyed the conversation with Zac and learning more techniques for writing that made me feel like a creative, too. Even though this series was focused on writing novels, some techniques can be applied to any writing style.

Zac and McCal are currently working on “Ren and Marie II,” so be on the lookout for an article from us about the book in the near future.

Thanks for the tips, Zac!

Have ideas for my next “Chelsey Tries” series? Email me at chelsey@theartspartnership.net! (I’ll try almost anything. My goal is to get a new perspective on the arts!)



One response to “Chelsey Tries: Novel Techniques with Author Zac Duval”

  1. Nancy Carriveau says:

    Great article Chels! My idea for you is weaving on an old loom, and take me with you! I have an antique one and have just not carved out the time to learn this beautiful art form… past my childhood potholder loom!

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