What’s a writing process blog hop? Well, it’s a kind of tour of writers explaining a bit about their process using the crafty technique of… answering questions!
I’ve been invited to join this hop by one of my team of top editors who is also a superlative crime & mystery writer, Caroline Bean. Her website is here: http://caronallanfiction.wordpress.com. Please check out her blog and the other blogs in this blog hop.
Each week two writers share their insights and experiences about their own writing process. Today, you can get an insight into mine… At the end of which, I’m introducing two other writers for you to hop to, who will be taking part next week. The questions focus on the writing process, or as you will find in my case, the total lack of writing process.
So let’s get it on…
What are you working on?
I’m primarily writing the next novel in my sci-fi/cli-fi adventure INTO THE RIP series – ‘Blue into the Planet’. I’m at that pulling my hair out stage, where I’ve got 60K words written and no idea what the hell is going on. As an antidote to this general brain-mashing, I’m also working on an anthology of short stores called ‘The Lady in the Glass’—stories about death and dying—and a follow up to my adventure IronScythe fantasy sagas, ‘The Caves of Kuu’Goroth’.
How does your work differ from others in its genre?
I use a slightly different font… But joking aside, I don’t like procrastination in my stories, instead I favour fast-moving action. I want the reader to feel out of breath as the events unfold. I also want to astound and amaze them—I know these are lofty ideals that I probably don’t always achieve, but I get so bored reading about stuff I know about. For instance… elves. They are so dull to me. And dwarves and dragons. It’s all been done before and so much better. But this is a reflection on me, not on individual writers.
Instead, I try to make it hard for myself . I gave myself no easy options in my latest adventure fantasy novel, The Cowl. The world of the IronScythe Sagas has no ice-giants, giant eagles, goblins or trolls. The evil and darkness in this world comes only from humankind. Metals are dangerous, evil and forbidden, which makes weapons and other stuff somewhat of a challenge. My lead character is massively disfigured, shunned—he’s no Conan. Of course there’s some generic stuff in my stories, but I hope that they are at least occasionally startling.
Why do you write what you do?
I have an over-active imagination, which means that given the time and the inclination (and without something to keep my mind occupied) I can convince myself of pretty much anything and it all makes perfect sense! As you can imagine, overthinking in this way can be quite a serious flaw to a happy productive life. I’m a rational chap, and found ways to deal with it, but as young man, I unfortunately developed quite a nasty cancer and my imagination went into manic overdrive. I didn’t have a nervous breakdown, or anything like that, but I got stuck in a repeating anxiety pattern regarding all the tests I had to endure on a monthly basis. My mind worked overtime on every word spoken to me at hospital, every look—everything and anything. The chance of re-occurrence was high, so I had to be ready, but I was obsessing over it. A kind of psychological torture—or at least that what it felt like.
In the end, and against some very stern advice of my oncologist, I went to go and live in Greece for six months (a sort of extended travelling holiday). I needed to get away from the illness and the tests—I was sure my anxiety was not helping my chance of survival. I made my peace with the universe and booked a flight. I travelled the Greek Islands and finally began to relax. Wanting to chart my adventure, I started writing a journal. And writing that journal soon became very important. A sort of catharsis. One morning, on the island Santorini, I had a vivid dream:
A poet dying in a trench during World War One transported to a fantasy world where his spoken rhymes gave him a sort of magical power of healing.
I immediately needed to know more about him and put all of my thinking time into writing his story. It acted like a perfect heat sink for my overactive mind. I wrote for the rest of my time there. And writing has remained the same for me ever since. I don’t obsess about the minutiae of human relationships, my health, the climate, asteroid impact—anything—anymore. I put all that energy into creating worlds, characters, stories and plots.
And that is how I started writing. I lost my first story somewhere along the way—which is probably for the best—it wasn’t very good.
How does your writing process work?
I’m very much the ‘pantster’. The plot finds itself along the way. I let the characters guide me. It is a complete waste of time for me to outline any character or plot arc. My characters do and say whatever they please. Some evolve and even change sex, others arrive fully formed from the outset.
I write down whatever they want to do, or act like, or say. No constraints. I have no idea who the ‘goodies’ or the ‘baddies’ are until they reveal themselves to me. When I’m about two thirds in, I restructure, work out an ending and fill in the gaps. This gets me to my finished first draft.
The next drafts are pure hard work. Subbing. Refining. Plotting. Adding better concepts and ideas. Pruning. I always go through a stage where I doubt my confidence as a writer, that the story is rubbish—it’s a tedious process to be honest. I keep going until my gut feeling that ‘the novel needs more work’ goes away. I often ‘finish’ but become consumed with niggling doubts. My subconscious doing its job. I push on again until it sort of becomes something I almost, conceivably, maybe think is sort of perhaps okay. Possibly.
The Ying Yang of my process: first absolute chaos, then enforced order.
When I’m ‘finished’, the MSS goes off to my team of copy-editors (I have four who do this service free for me—out of respect for my writing, which is fabulous). This the most important step in my publishing process as they are very good at subbing, spotting inconsistencies, lack of flow, jarring/odd text and problems with plot and character. It goes back and forth 2-4 times until we’re all happy and then I’m ready to publish.
I’m an Independent author committed to producing as professional a product as possible. Getting my MSS properly copy-edited is essential. It’s no good getting your friends to read it, or to trust in your own editing abilities—you need other writers and editors to give your writing an objective critique.
With THE COWL, my writing process was a little different from a novel. It’s a series of linked novellas—standalone stories. My very first attempt at novel writing came in the form of Tales of Arn. A two-hundred thousand word fantasy epic… or to give it a more apt description—a two-hundred thousand word epic mess. It is what I like to think of as my ‘apprentice piece’. A wonderful, sprawling, arse-over-tit disaster of a novel. Why am I mentioning this? Because the world building that formed the backbone of the novel—the world of Arn, its two suns and peculiar orbit, its fables and histories, its stone weapons and accursed metals—was the best thing about it. Ever since then, it’s been my desire to bring back Arn and its mad seasons. And that’s exactly what I’ve done with the IronScythe Sagas.
And there you have it! Hope you liked my answers. Now, please go visit these lovely writers who are next on the hop:
Fantasy and other short fiction
Martin is working on his first book The Other Side of Darkness, which will eventually be self published. When he is not doing that he divides his time unevenly between Google+, his day job, and his family. He also manages to write and poorly draw the webcomic Raincloud and Whirlwind. All of his work can be found at his blog.
Poetry, flash-fiction, short story
Michael Dickel writes poetry and fiction that has been published on four continents and translated into four languages. His work appears in print and online. His most recent book is Midwest / Mid East available on Amazon.