It’s April Fool’s Day here in the States, but I promise — cross my heart — everything in this post is true. 🙂
Well, except for one thing. The title is true and untrue at once. Stick around. You’ll see.
The proper title should be this: Sharing My Writing Process — An Experiment. This post is part of a blog hop, and my invitation came from Travis Perry. There’ll be more about Travis and the hop when I reach the end.
But first, the questions:
Q What are you working on?
A I’m revising and doing last-minute rewrites on an epic fantasy that is planned for publication in summer or early fall. It’s a book I gave up on, but for which I have regained a new appreciation. The first half of a duology and weighing in at over 200k words *, Dragon’s Rook is still very much an unfinished work. As I enter the last handful of chapters, I realize 1) endings are difficult to get right, and 2) there’s a stinkin’ lot of story left to tell.
I’m also writing a modern urban fantasy — vampires, swords, cell phones and such — called The Unmakers. It’s a strange tale, and I’m not always sure how to approach it, but I like it and can’t wait to tell it. The story owes its sensibilities to Bram Stoker, medieval knights, film noir, the Old West, Christian missionaries, and teenage ghost hunters. Yeah. See why I’m not sure how it’s supposed to be told?
I once vowed I’d never write about dragons or vampires, but what do I do? Write about dragons and vampires.
I also want to finish Thieves’ Honor, a science fiction serial I originally started as a NaNoWriMo project back in 2007. Then I resurrected it and posted pieces on my old blog. Johne Cook, an Overlord at Ray Gun Revival, read an episode or two and invited me to write for the magazine. When RGR went into hiatus, Thieves’ Honor was incomplete, which is how it remains today. However, you can read episodes of it here. (click links at top of blog page)
Q How does your work differ from others of its genre?
A I strive to make the fantasy epic and heroic while still letting people be real. Other writers do, too, and many stories are far grittier than mine, but I don’t want to mistake “grit” for “realism”. Sure, folks misbehave and kill each other, and it’s an ugly world out there, but people can be decent, brave, patient, and all the “soft” stuff that doesn’t seem to be mentioned as often as violence, sex, and messed-up people.
Yes, there is violence, sensuality, and messed-up people in my stories. But there’s also hope. I like hope. Makes me get up each day and keep trying.
Q Why do you write what you do?
A Why, indeed?
I write whatever interests me. I hated research papers in school, but now educate myself by researching whatever captures my fancy. Sometimes it leads to unexpected stories, sometimes it enhances what I’m already writing, and sometimes it lets me meet interesting folks I might never meet otherwise — modern blacksmiths, for instance, or medieval re-enactors.
Some stories begin as dreams or what-ifs, some began as challenges from other writers, and one story (unfinished) came to life when I was ill for a long time and unable to leave my bed much. I was bored, weak, kept falling asleep whenever I tried to read, so I let my mind wander.
Q How does your writing process work?
A Dragon’s Rook started out as a short story almost twenty years ago, and looked far different from the sprawling chihuahua-killer it is now. The rook in the title originally only had one meaning — a chess piece — and that meaning obliquely remains. There’s a chess-like game referenced in the story. However, rook gained other meanings as the story grew: blackbird, a place to nest birds, a tower, and a cheat.
The dragons, though? They were an unexpected development, meant only to be brute beasts. Then one started talking. Then it laughed. And then the story changed.
So, process? It’s messy.
As a young writer, I tried following all kinds of advice: where to write, when to write, how much to write, how long a story must be, how a story must look, all sorts of formulas, but imagination shriveled up and creativity died.
Then someone asked the right questions:
1) So what? Who cares? (What’s important in the story, and why?)
2) What’s driving the story: the plot or the characters?(Just as our character determines our actions, choices, and words in real life, so do fictional characters decide what happens and what to say, strongly influencing the plot.)
I ditched the advice and the bogus rules, and started writing what I wanted, how the stories demanded to be told. Ideas returned, and for a time there were nights I never slept, trying to record the ideas flooding my mind. (Not a recommended way of living, especially if one must go to a job on a regular basis, as I did.) After a long dry spell, not only did I write novels, but short stories, poems, essays, freelance articles.
But I don’t write every day, and I don’t write in the same place or at the same time of day. Formulas and schedules don’t work for me. **
Sometimes I have nothing to say, sometimes I can’t write fast enough. I’m still learning to be okay with the silences, when ideas hide and words refuse to obey.
* —– * —– * —– * —– * —– *
Now, about those other writers who make this post’s title untrue:
Travis Perry, blogger at Travis’s Big Idea, and author of several speculative stories, invited me and a few other writers to participate in this “blog hop” on how we write. (I was supposed to post yesterday, but there were other words to be written.) If you like magic mixed in with your science fiction, check out his fun short story, “A Little Problem With the Dilithium Stone“, a fan’s homage to Star Trek and fantasy tales.
K.M. Alexander, not part of this loop but participating in another branch of the blog hop, has answered the same four questions on his site.
If she’s up for it, I’m challenging Suzan Troutt to add her own contribution.
Now, go forth and write!
* And that’s after pulling out about 20k words to streamline the book. Yup. It’s a monster.
** For writers who do work better with schedules or particular parameters, check out the advice on the Nail Your Novel blog.