Last week I’ve been tagged in a blog hop about the Writing Process, the roadmap that takes each writer from “What a cool idea” to “THE END, motherfucker!”.
A big thanks for tagging me to Chris Votey, a fellow science-fiction writer I’ve met during this year’s crazy A to Z challenge. Chris is the author of the brand new science-fiction novella Terran Psychosis, first in the Cosmic Revolt series. Check it out if you like some intrigue and humor to go with your alien situation. Also, check out Chris’ blog where he regularly shares awesome writing tips and worldbuilding how-to’s.
Every writer alive (and maybe even dead, dictating his stuff from “beyond” through any willing vessel (don’t look at me)) has a wildly different way of going about this writing thing. We have some things in common—like putting words to paper, drowning in self-pitty, throwing Nachos at the screen—but there are also things we do which only we do the way we do, you know? I know you do. *cough*
So here’s my way.
I know I’ve talked about it before, and you lovely folks who’ve stuck with me thus far are probably bored witless by such posts, but there might still be a tiny grain of satisfaction in reading this. If only for the “I told you so” effect. 😉
1. What are you working on?
I’m currently fighting to finish editing my novel THE DEEP LINK, which is supposed to be the first in trilogy (because, honestly, I cooked up a bigger plot than I could handle in one book so I had to split it up). I’ve been working on this novel for over 3 years, on and off, and even though I still believe in the beauty of its core, I have learned so much along the way that I keep seeing flaws all over the place, every time I look at it.
Don’t groan. I know it’s part of the process. And I won’t give up on it, not until I get some quality feedback from fellow writers & readers. But you know, it gets really frustrating at times.
IN OTHER NEWS
I’ve already come up with a brand new idea / concept / brainfart for a new novel. One that’s not part of this trilogy. I figured I need the tickle of a new idea to motivate me to finish this edit. Guess what. It motivated me, alright — to write the new story. *groan* So now I have to regularly pull my mind-threads out of that new promised land and force them back to this one, so I can finish and haul the novel off to beta-readers (for which I’ll be shopping soon). I haven’t started actually plotting out or writing the new story, but it’s such a temptation…
I bet this has happened to you before too. Care to share some tips with me? To keep me on track, if not to slap some sense back into me.
2. How does your work differ from others in this genre?
Other than doing some things my genre generally frowns upon, the main thing that sets my work apart (so far) is that it’s not yet edited! Har-har. No. Actually, I guess (and hope) it’s the fact that I focus more on the workings of the mind, than on the workings of the setting, society, some ship or machine, or some fantastic alien creature hell-bent on ruining our genome. I love exploring what makes people tic, and what makes them go off. All else is wrapping paper for me.
3. Why do you write what you do?
I tried writing other genres. It didn’t work well. I feel most at home in science-fiction, and the psychological aspects of a story are what I love reading and plotting out most. It’s fun to crack people, and then throw aliens or wars at them when they are at their most vulnerable. *eyes sparkle*
4. How does your writing process work?
I get my “story idea” from the most random inputs, like a word I stumbled over in the thesaurus, or a TV commercial, or a book I’ve read, a game I played, a movie I’ve seen. Usually that initial story idea revolves around something unspectacular, like a piece of setting, a situation or a threat. It doesn’t have any characters yet. For someone who focuses mainly on characters, I guess that’s a little bit odd. But I can’t come up with characters in a void.
When the setting/situation is rounded enough, I grow characters from it. The most unlikely, most mal-adapted or most vulnerable characters that could ever realistically find themselves in that situation. And then I have them make a fatal (yet unavoidable) mistake, which unleashes hell upon them. Not all at once, gradually, incrementally, until the only way to cope or survive is their very last choice — facing a deep fear, doing the unspeakable, working with the unacceptable, or at least committing an act which goes against their very core. I don’t need to know how it all ends, I just need to know what that character’s “unspeakable” is and chart a broad sketch of the road they’ll have to walk to do it.
I don’t outline in detail, but I don’t pants either. I’m a hybrid in that respect. The major points of the story are set before I ever write the first word. I couldn’t start without them, couldn’t just explore the story as I go. I would end up throwing it all away repeatedly, because I’d keep coming up with “better” ways to do things. And that would happen because I can’t write like a fury. That’s why I can’t pants it, probably. I can’t just sit down and write for 8 hours straight, and finish a book in a month’s time (or two), without stopping for breath, without reconsidering my choices (and coming up with other shit). And yet, I neither plot meticulously or edit extensively while I write. I’m somewhere in between, and it works for me.
When the first draft is done, however, I move on to extensive outlining. For that, I use spreadsheets (couldn’t live without them). My first edit has been a massive revision, to push the plot & characters to the next level. The second round was yet another revision, this time to upgrade the setting and background details. And the third round is an actual text edit, focused on eliminating as many of the amateurish mistakes I can possibly catch (passive sentences, repetition, purpleness, clichés, rampant adjectives (with which I have a far bigger problem than with the dreaded adverbs) etc.) That’s where I’m at now. Closing in on the last few chapters, and that illusive THE END.
For my next novel, I will try laying down the main points of the plot in two distinct ways: Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method, and James Scott Bell’s Writing From The Middle. I’m curious which will help me come up with a more intriguing skeleton for my story. I’ll keep you posted, of course. 😉
What also goes into my writing process are the tools. My manuscript headquarters is Scrivener, but given that I don’t always get to write at home on my own PC, I also use MS Word a lot, and sometimes WriteMonkey (which is a simple editor like Notepad, but with some awesome extras, like background transparency, which comes in handy if you also have to run system tests while you type (don’t tell my boss)).
That’s about it.
I’m going to tag a couple of people who I think will enjoy sharing their writing process, and might have a thing or two to teach us.
But I’m also asking you all to share a quirky habit you have that makes your process unique. Or at least, that gets you moving when you feel stuck. Or helps you develop your story ideas. Chime in and tell us how you do things.
And the tag-ees are:
Renee Miller – thriller and paranormal romance writer with a bite,
Andrew Leon – versatile dark fantasy writer (for young and old), and covert cookie monster.