Monday, February 24 2014 @ 10:18 AM EST
My good mate Alan Baxter tagged me for this Writing Process blog-chain. You can read his post on the subject at http://www.alanbaxteronline.com/writing-process-blog-chain/. The idea is that writers answer four questions that talk about their work and their process and then tag three other writers to do the same. Here are the questions and my answers to them, as best as I can articulate something that is often a quite often so nebulous for me...
1) What am I working on?
Spending most of my time on my crime novel, A Quiet Place
, because I've sold it to Satalyte Publishing
for publication in early 2015 and haven't even half finished writing it yet!
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
That's kinda hard for me to say, because I started writing it before I'd really read much crime fiction. I've devoured a lot more over the past six months and discovered what I do and don't like. I'm not even 100% sure that it IS a crime novel. Sure, there's criminals and criminal activity, but it's not a Mystery, or a Whodunit, or a Police Procedural. But, you know right from the start the situation and I think it's more like seeing a bad situation and knowing things are just going to get worse and worse from there. Hopefully it is written in such a way, and I've made the characters engaging enough, that readers will really want to hang around until the bitter, violent end and see how things turn out.
Closest I've found in my recent reading -- and I'm no way saying I'm anywhere near as good as these guys (I've got a LONG way to go), but they've become favourites -- are Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, or the work of Daniel Woodrell and James Sallis, and increasingly Nic Pizzolatto... but with a more distinctive Australian setting and feel. Aussie Existentialist Noir? Bogan Noir? I don't know, but it's certain there aren't too many good guys or gals and, a lot like real-life, not everything has to happen for a reason. It's more important to me how the characters react to their situations than anything else.
3) Why do I write what I do?
First, I'll try and answer this one: Why do I write? Because I don't really have much choice. I think you'll find a lot of other writers give this response too. A lot of times, writing is hard, really hard. When you add together all the time you spend writing, all the research, all the worrying you do about a story, the fact you barely get paid a dime, all the highs and lows and the self doubt you put yourself though, it would make logical sense to just give it up... but I can't. The words and stories and characters just get stuck in my head and if I don't let them out, I'd explode! I get cranky and irritable if I don't write. My wife will look at me and say, "You haven't written for a few days, have you? Can you go and write something, because you're not much fun to be around at the moment." And she's right! I'm not really me unless I write.
So, why do I write what I do? Again, it's not really a choice. I didn't choose to write mainly Horror short stories (with the odd Fantasy or Science Fiction tale thrown in). I didn't choose to start writing a crime novel. Words and ideas and images just come to me and I feel compelled to follow them and see where they take me. I've never really planned to write any particular type of story, or use any particular style, or that I had to write something with a certain message or moral behind it. The only answer to why I write what I do is, because that's just how the words come out. A bit glib? Maybe, but it's the truth. I know no other answer.
4) How does my writing process work?
Chaotically. Spasmodically. Painfully. Meticulously.
Most times, my writing starts with a title or an opening sentence. I don't plan things out, I'm not a plotter. I just take that title or opening sentence, let it slosh around in my brain for a week or so, and eventually the next few words or a sentence will present themselves. Once I've got a paragraph or two right in my head, I'll get to a stage where I have to sit down at my desk and transfer them from brain to paper (or risk losing the lot to short-term memory loss). If I've picked the right time to start, the rest just flows on from there, revealing the story to me as I go.
The actual writing part takes a long time though. I know a lot of writers (most?) who just get the first draft done. Don't worry about it, they say, as long as your moving forward you can always fix it in subsequent drafts. It's the second and third draft, they say, where the real magic of bringing a story to life happens! I can't work that way. I obsess over ever paragraph and sentence and word, and sometimes I can't move on until I feel I've got things just right. It's never perfect, and beta-readers and editors always pick up on things I missed or make suggestions that improve things. But, just powering through that first draft and thinking I can fix it later? Nope, can't do it.
In the end, writing to achieve a finished product probably takes me the same amount of time as any other writer. The difference is, while they've reached the end of their first draft and are perfecting the story with second, third or even fourth drafts, I still haven't even reached 'The End'. By the time I do get to those terminal words, I've already done those second and third drafts. I just do them as I go.
I don't know if that's a good way to go about things, but it seems to work for me.
Next week (Monday 10th, March) you can check out the writing processes of three more authors, who've agreed to keep the blog-chain going: