My Writing Process

library of congress photo

Scribble, scribble, scribble!

When Shawna Christos approached me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour (see her post here), I hesitated to accept. I have no ironclad process, nor do I feel it’s a good idea to imitate others’ practices (he said, having tried to do it himself). That said, I grow as a writer by reading, writing, thinking about writing, etc., so I hope the below is of interest.

1) What am I working on?

Currently I’m drafting a novel set in Richmond, Virginia, somewhere in the land between magical realism and literary fantasy. I’ve jokingly described it as an “anti-bildungsroman,” because it’s the tale of a painter grappling with life while steadily abandoning her adult responsibilities. Her inner strife manifests in various weird ways, one of which winds up becoming the source of the novel’s primary conflict.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This particular novel is set in Richmond, for starters, which isn’t the world’s most common literary setting. I have an affinity for place, and so many of the stories on the border between realism and fantasy happen in quasi-semi-sort-of-fable land. That’s rarely for me, and definitely not with this book.

I’ve also written many stories set in Seattle, or elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, because it’s my home place and always will be. I’ve lived a substantial portion of my life away from there, though, which leads to a kind of distance that I like to think gives me greater powers of observation. Writing about Richmond while living here presents certain challenges, but que sera.

Artists show up often enough in literary, historical, or genre fiction, but I rarely seem to encounter them in literary fantasy. This makes sense, given the delicate layer of unreality that makes most of that particular stripe of fiction tick, and creatives are an easy out when it comes to writing about things fantastic. That’s going to make this tough to pull off without veering down well-trodden paths, but the book seems to want out, so we’re off to the races.

RVA

RVA

3) Why do I write what I do?

My primary idiom is the fantastic because it’s how I view the world. That’s not to say I expect a dragon to come flying out of the sky when I’m walking down Cary Street, but I think we have a bunch of traits as a species that turn us, more or less subtly, to focus on the day-to-day. By externalizing inner metaphors, I find it easier to talk about the world, and to do so in ways that make sense to me.

4) How does my writing process work?

It changes from year to year and month to month, and sometimes I don’t get the memo from my subconscious about what’s next. That can mean a lot of fooling around with pens, computers, typewriters, journals, index cards, voice recorders, dictation software, etc. until I get it right. At some point the words come out, and then I’m writing.

Revision is a somewhat different process. It involves a pretty standard range of tricks to defamiliarize my story, draft by draft. The steps are some combination of:

  • print draft out, edit by hand, enter edits on computer
  • edit on screen
  • print draft out, edit by hand, rewrite by hand, enter in computer
  • record myself reading the draft aloud, make notes on what I stumble over, then edit
  • play a recording of myself reading the draft, make notes on the parts that sound frail, then edit
  • change font and/or fonts size
  • change text color or background color

…and so on.

Caffeine is usually involved in a.m. writing, alcohol often in p.m. writing.

The other constant to my process is one that Kristi Tuck Austin commented on: “This is shit.” If I say that at any point during the production of a story, damn sure it means I’ve got a winner on my hands. Why? It’s repeatedly proven to be true in terms of publication, quality, or both. My assumption is that it means I’m invested enough in the story to be disgusted when it doesn’t work right, so I go off in a rage/huff. Later, if I persist, I return to find that, yes, this thing I care about is fixable.


 

Next Monday, you’ll want to check out what Mark Meier has to say. He was born in Brazil and grew up in the United States. He taught in urban public schools before graduate school and now teaches at the university level. After considering a career in national intelligence, he instead worked as a consultant doing work for the UN and US EPA. He continues to enjoy learning, having acquired a few languages (including math) and various belts in isshinryu karate, haidong gumdo, and aikido. He has raced as a cyclist and continues to appreciate the outdoors. He belongs to the Authors Guild and other writing and community organizations. He has traveled, lived, or worked in Germany, South Korea, India, Switzerland, and elsewhere, and donates a portion of the profits from his first novel Wisecrack to organizations that support international peace and the rights of women and children.

You’ll also want to check out what S. J. Chambers has to say. Her fiction and poetry has appeared in a variety of venues including Mungbeing magazine (which is currently running her wino-fiction serial “Vintage Scenes”), New Myths, Yankee Pot Roast, and in anthologies such as the World Fantasy nominated Thackery T. Lambshead’s Cabinet Of Curiosities (HarperCollins, 2011), Zombies: Shambling Through The Ages (Prime Books, 2013), The New Gothic (Stone Skin Press, 2013), Acronos II (Tyrannosaurus Books, 2014), and in the forthcoming Steampunk World (Alliteration Ink, 2014) and the Starry Wisdom Library (PS Publishing, 2014) collections. Her non-fiction has appeared at Tor.Com, Bookslut, WeirdFictionReview.Com, and Strange Horizons (where she was also the Articles Senior Editor for two years). Her first book, the Hugo and World Fantasy nominated The Steampunk Bible (Abrams Image, 2011) was co-authored with the award-winning Jeff VanderMeer. She can be found to blog irregularly at selenachambers.wordpress.com.

 

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6 thoughts on “My Writing Process

  1. “My assumption is that it means I’m invested enough in the story to be disgusted when it doesn’t work right, so I go off in a rage/huff. Later, if I persist, I return to find that, yes, this thing I care about is fixable.” Very well put.

  2. S.J. Chambers is a delight. I met her when Pip and I premiered Phoenix Rising at the Steampunk World’s Fair way back in 2011. Very cool you’ll be offering a link over to her work!

    And thanks for playing. I am also doing this over at my blog as well. Nice to be in such wonderful company. 🙂

    • My pleasure! I’ve really enjoyed seeing what people have to post. Likewise, I had a very good time at The Writing Show the other week. I know various folks who publish “hybrid,” but that was the most detailed account I’ve heard.

      Any chance y’all will be at World Fantasy? I don’t do very much con-going, but I couldn’t resist World Fantasy in D.C.

  3. Pingback: The Writing Process Blog Tour: Wherein below ye will find a cat, wine, fountain pens, and scissors. | S. J. Chambers

  4. Pingback: A Break from the Routine: The Blog Ramble | Meier Writing

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