Method Writing -- The Making of "Bael-Sur"08 Feb 2019
In December 2017, the YouTube channel Tale Foundry released a video about H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu mythos. I’ve never been a fan of horror, but Tale Foundry’s video inspired me to take a stab at writing a weird and creepy story. As I was brainstorming the plot of my short story, I found Cryo Chamber’s Lovecraft-inspired soundscapes. These massive works provided the perfect audio atmosphere for writing “Bael-Sur”.
Jump forward to the final week of 2017, those five days between Christmas and New Year’s. I had just received some work-related bad news. That motivated me to tackle this short story. It also motivated me to try something completely different from my normal writing process – a technique I’ve since called method writing. I waited until nightfall.
I sat at my desk in the dark. The room was lit only by my tabletop Christmas tree and a candle sitting on my dresser on the opposite side of the room. Cryo Chamber played on my tablet, stashed in a corner out of sight. I was wrapped in my plush robe and had a throw blanket over my lap. Surrounded by literal and audio darkness, fueled by the soda I was sipping, I went deep into character – the persona I had chosen to write this story from.
I wrote the first draft of “Bael-Sur” by hand. I hesistated at the points where the narrator had to open up to the reader. I digressed onto needless detail as a stalling tactic. I flew through the climax, feeling the same panic the narrator was feeling in that cave. I was uneasy writing the final sentences. I wanted to hold “that symbol” in my mind’s eye to describe it fully, but like the narrator, I just couldn’t. I hope all or most of these emotions translated into the final text.
It took me three hours to produce that first draft. For the record, it wasn’t a straight three hours. I did pause to use the bathroom and refill my soda about halfway through. Family interrupted once toward the end. These times I metaphorically came up for air were essential for my own mental health, I’m sure. Still, I was able to complete “Bael-Sur” in a single night.
Over the following days and weeks, “Bael-Sur” went through my usual rounds of revisions and edits. I worked on it in broad daylight, but I still had Cryo Chamber playing in the background. I managed to get through all of the Lovecraftian soundscapes they had published at the time by the end of my revisions.
I set this story aside for a year, thinking I could shop it around various literary magazines. But after some sour experiences with another story, I decided that the best home for this experimental piece would be on the blog. In the interim, Cryo Chamber published another Lovecraftian work titled Shub-Niggurath. I listened to the first half of it while making my final round of revisions, bringing it to the version I published in January. I’m listening to the second half while writing this post.
I don’t plan on doing these making-of posts after every longer story I publish. That’d be too narcissistic for my tastes. But I’ve never heard of anyone trying this technique before, so I wanted to share my experience. It definitely was an experience. I don’t think I’d be nearly as proud of my final product if I had used my normal process. While I don’t foresee myself using this technique regularly, I’ll happily use it again with the right project.
Have you ever heard of this method writing technique before? Have you ever tried it yourself? If so, what was your experience? If not, would you be willing to try it? Feel free to share down in the comments.