I was tagged by the awesome Clayton Smith to prattle on a bit on my writing process for the Never-Ending Blog Hop #MyWritingProcess (there is no flying dog in this one…I know; I’ve checked). Clayton is a phenomenal talent who writes brilliant whimsical magical realism; he expounds on his own writing process here. I’ve spilled a little beanage below about how I do what I do.
Hold on to your wigs and keys. It’s about to get all right-brainy up in here.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON? There’s never just one project on the whiteboard of my authorly endeavors. Usually, it’s crowded with at least a dozen contenders, each of which takes its turn being front-runner at any given time. At the moment, I’m rolling out brand-new wordwork on my quirky magical realism dude-centric existential romance novel, Sleight of Handelman. It centers around an in-the-background guy who discovers at a young age that he has the illusionist tendencies, which leads him to become a magician…but his magic is real, and is highly attuned to his state of being at any given moment. Not in a Carrie-ish way, though. More like he’s tapped into reality on a quantum level, and the universe responds to his emotional state. That probably makes it sound way less magical than it really is. I’m hoping to make sense of it all and have it out on Valentine’s Day 2015. I’m also working on a new series for young readers, called The Godmother Chronicles; it’s a collection of one-off fairy tales wittily told from the point of view of the fairy godmother. In addition to those, I have an idea for a fourth Joe Vampire novel in the very early stages of idea-smithing, a finished manuscript for young readers called Starfire and the Miracle Tree, a psychodrama called Once the Lotus Opens, a superhero satire, a rock star memoir send-up, and a special something that will be written for National Novel Writing Month in November. Wow. I’d better get to work, huh?
HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN ITS GENRE? I’ve found it difficult to identify a genre that my work fits into, cleanly or otherwise. I generalize it under the term “dude lit,” which means I write stories with the intention of appealing to contemporary male sensibilities. Works in this mode are usually found in other genres – horror or spy/military action or deep fantasy, in particular. Rather than aiming for any of those, I prefer to write from a largely real-world perspective, mixing a base of humor with deeper emotion and scattering elements of fantasy or magical realism via theme, rather than basing the stories squarely in a fantastical universe. And I always profile my main characters before deciding on the situations in which they find themselves. In this sense, readers will hopefully feel less like they’re reading a fantasy or sci-fi story, and more like they’re reading a story about characters whose situations just happen to be fantasy-based. The more I move into more realistic, drama-based storytelling, the more this mode shifts for me. Kind of exciting to see where it might go.
WHY DO YOU WRITE? Primarily, I do it because I have a story—many, actually— in my head that I’d like to see told from beginning to end. That sounds supremely self-centered, and in a way I guess it is; if I didn’t feel this way, I wouldn’t bother writing at all. But beyond wanting to read the story, I want to prove to myself that I can actually TELL the story. This is true for everything I write; I always have something to prove to myself as a storyteller. And once I see that it holds together the way I’d hoped it would (after hundreds of hours of work, of course), there’s a second level of validation that comes from having someone else read it and understand it—and even appreciate it, on the occasions that they like what I’ve written. Also: I like to talk. A LOT. Writing is just another form of expressing myself in words. So there’s that, too…
HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK? The ideas arrive as single sentences, usually; Joe Vampire, for instance, came about in the form of “What if vampires were just ordinary people with a condition they didn’t want to have?” Once I latch onto that, I’ll profile the main character—nothing overly distinct; just a framework to begin with. From there, anything goes. I’ll start imagining scenes and descriptions and dialogue, and I’ll notate everything on a Word document—or on sticky notes, or on napkins…sometimes I even use a notebook J. At some point, when the free flow comes to a slow-down, I’ll make an overview of the main events I want to include. I’ll focus on those for a while, letting whatever happens, happen. There is no order to it whatsoever. This can take a few weeks. Once I’ve come to the point where the majority of information has been captured from it—it almost always seems to happen after I have fifty pages or so of notes—I’ll begin the formal writing process. I’ll force myself to write a beginning chapter, and usually an ending chapter, just so I have coordinates to guide the rest of the story. And then, I make my best attempt to write my way from Chapter Two to The End, though the chapters don’t always come in order. I used to consider this a messy way of doing things, but I’ve learned that the more order I impose on the process, the less I get done. So I just roll with it. Seems to work okay so far.
Mystery solved…or mystery deepened? It’s a close call.
Next up on the blog hop: the crazy-talented Jonathan Charles Bruce. He’s written the superhero-redefining novel Project Northwoods, which you can snag at Amazon. He also writes a fantastically entertaining website, on which he’ll post his own writing process. Eager to see what goes into his work.