I was tagged by the extremely talented (and busy) Jennifer Brozek for this Blog Hop, tasked with answering the following four questions.
1. What am I working on?
2. How does it differ from others of its genre?
3. Why do I write what I do?
4. How does my writing process work?
So I’ve cranked up some Steely Dan (Katy Lied from 1975, which features the excellent track Dr Wu). Listen along with me if you like, and let’s roll up the sleeves!
What am I working on?
I have a few things in different stages at this point. I have a “Sekrit Project” that I’m pinning down some specialized beta-readers for. While I’m waiting for that, I have edits to do on the new Cobalt City novel which comes out in October, currently titled Los Muertos. I have two short stories I need to spread out on the garage floor some sunny afternoon and fix and re-submit sometime soon as well. As far as active writing projects, I’m working on the second of three epic fantasy novels set in my Anwat setting. Entitled Redemption of the Yellow Wolf, I’m about 1/3 of the way done with the first draft and hope to have it finished this summer sometime.
I also have, as per usual, a few half-formed short story ideas kicking around. If I find a spare weekend, I might knock out a draft just to feel like I’ve finished something. We’ll see. I’m counting those as bonus projects this year.
How does it differ from others of its genre?
I’m going to apply this to Redemption of the Yellow Wolf since I’m currently deeply into it and it’s the only thing I’m currently, actively writing.
As part of an epic fantasy trilogy, one way in which this differs from the rest of the genre is that it’s not a sequel. The 3rd book won’t be a sequel either. All three books follow unique groups of characters who are scattered to the winds when the city of Ravensgate falls to an angry (and long-thought dead) God. Each book can be read as a stand-alone novel, with its own narrative arc, and its own thematic elements rather than one that arcs over all the books in the series.
Another way in which Redemption of the Yellow Wolf differs is that there is a strong horror element running through the novel. I generally don’t get a feel of cosmic horror in epic fantasy. But I’m very comfortable working with horror, and think that it blends very well with this scale fantasy epic.
Plus, it’s got a one-eyed mongrel cat named Maeg.
Why do I write what I do?
Because no one else will.
It really is kind of that simple. I want to read stories that are a bit off the beaten path. As much as I might love novels by other authors, they aren’t the stories I see in my head. They never will be. The only way those stories will see light is if I write them myself, and I’m passionate about that.
It’s why I started writing super-hero novels before the market flooded with super-hero novels. No one was publishing them, but damn if that wasn’t what I wanted to see. Now, it’s epic fantasy with political intrigue and a healthy dash of Old Gods. Next? Probably that sci-fi novel I want to write about a Pan-African space program.
This shit doesn’t write itself.
How does my writing process work?
Let’s break it down into parts for the folks playing along at home.
- The Idea: When enough random things in my cranial junk drawer clunk together and cause a spark, I jot it down in one of my ever-present pocket notebooks. I’ll add to it, usually filling up a page or three before it moves on to actual project stage. Those notes include things like character ideas and a rough few sentences describing the narrative arc.
- The Outline: I never write anything longer than a short story without an outline. This starts with a few pages of notes detailing all the important characters. After that, I break the outline down by chapters. Knowing my average chapter length, this gives me an idea of overall project length. If there are multiple POV characters, I’ll color-code the chapters by character so I make sure the story spreads out reasonably well.
- The First Draft: I do most of my writing in coffeeshops. I like the bustle. The external distractions are better than the distractions of the house…dishes, laundry, a nap…you name it. I will do the bulk of my writing on the weekends and occasional evenings after work. If I’m caught up in the ever wid’ning gyre, I might take Bradbury (my trusty computer) in to work with me and type up a thousand or so words before work. Generally I have a huge output for the first third and last third, and the “muddy middle” part drags, but I get through it eventually.
- Let it Rest: Once that draft is done, I let it sit for at least a week. I don’t read it. I don’t look at notes. Nothing. If an idea comes to me, I’ll write it down independently, but I won’t open up the main document until it’s time.
- Second Draft: Once it’s sat for a bit, I go through and read the whole thing fore to aft, making corrections, cleaning up sentences, fixing errors, anything that’s needed. If something feels clunky, I’ll strip it out, tear it apart, put it back together again.
- Line Up Readers: Find someone to read it and point out fixes if at all possible. Listen to what they have to say.
- Third Draft: Go in and fix the stuff the readers pointed out. Give it a very careful read for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and just over-all feel. By the time the readers have gotten back, it’s usually sat for a month or more, so it’s easier to spot things.
Usually throughout this entire process I’ll have ideas for other projects. I never work on more than one novel first draft at a time, but I will take breaks to write a short story idea if it’s compelling enough. And when I’m not feeling at my most creative, editing keeps me productive and uses a different part of my brainpan. I have no shortage of things I can be editing at any given time.
4 thoughts on “Blog Hop”
I love the idea of writing and working in the bustle of busy coffee shops. Sometimes I wonder how you would fare spending some years in NYC. I can’t imagine you being happy living there, but a year in “Gotham” seems to me an amazing way for you to truly absorb some of that Transmetropolitan taste that so often shows up in your writing.
Whenever I read about your special affinity for horror, I always lament that you do not have the time to run a truly epic, long-running, horror-based D&D game. I can’t even begin to imagine how wonderful an experience it would be to have such a campaign in my life.
I liked New York. I don’t really have any interest in telling stories there, however. There is no shortage of authors who know the city far better than I ever will, so I’ll let them have it. That said, I’m all about immersion. I want to spend a week or two in Vegas just off Glitter Gulch in one of the old hotels and write my eyes out. And then in a few years, when I have the decks cleared, I want to spend several weeks in Africa, possibly Cameroon, to get down a ton of material for the sci-fi novel I mentioned above. But that’s a long way away.
As for gaming, I’ve had several ideas where my first thought was “This would make a great game.” But inevitably I realize within a day or two that it would make a better story. Especially for something in a horror milieu. I need to have the freedom to split the party, kill people off or otherwise remove them without worrying about players having nothing to do. Writing lets me make better use of those ideas.
That is so true about how a game is so very different from a story. It is really too bad. I still remember that Call of Cthulhu game from years ago when I was killed in the first session. I found ways to enjoy still being a part of the group, but I can’t rely on a whole party being weird like me and enjoying just sitting around serving food and waiting for an NPC opportunity. Who knows, maybe one day, when you come home from Africa and the residuals on your books are paying all the bills, we can give it a try with a group of us from the “good old days.”