I don’t often do these blog hops because they quickly take on the character of a chain letter, however, Gibson Michaels was kind enough to tag me, so I’ll dip my toes in the pool. If you’ve been following #MyWritingProcess, you know that this one is four little questions about the process of writing, and they are pretty good questions:
#MyWritingProcess: What are you working on now?
Stuart: EVERYTHING. Winning Writers of the Future sort of threw me for a loop, because now I have a book to promote and marketing and social things to attend to that I didn’t expect until a bit later.
Writing is a little like mountain climbing. You start with a little bouldering, find out what skills and tools you need to master, and then move on to more challenging terrain once you’re fit and ready. I’ve invested a lot in my craft–gone back to school even. With my skills list in mind, I hadn’t planned to return to serious work on novels for another year, but I’m adapting. Turns out, that’s on the list, too.
In the last six months, I’ve started a new novel based on my winning WotF story, built a new website, met and become active in new writing and social groups, and kept busy with signings and appearances. I’m also working on several shorts, am in a new anthology (Tides of Possibility) and am co-editing it’s sister fantasy anthology. Despite all this, I’m still reading and learning all I can.
#MyWritingProcess: How does your work differ from others in the genre?
Stuart: I’ve been praised for the creativity and sophistication of my stories. I’d like to think that’s valid, if only for the effort I put into research and story detail. I always say that even a short story has to take place in a logically coherent world–just don’t weigh down the pages with that world’s crust and beach sand.
I grew up on an airbase on the prairie in South Dakota. At night, you could see the spine of the Milky Way. You could watch satellites pass overhead and wink out as they crossed the terminator. In the morning we’d hike past ghost towns and gold rush relics to find dinosaur bones in the mountains. It was a place of remarkable contrasts, where ancient and modern, scientific and mythic all crashed together. I grew up thinking about the connections between those worlds, and that affects how I approach story craft.
I was heavily influenced by the golden age of scifi, by Heinlein and Clark and Asimov. I try to start from the character of that breathless time in mid-century, when the future seemed so clear, but with the textures of today’s culture folded in. It seems to me that man is forever poised between greatness and doom. It’s my job to dance along the precipice, muse at the echoes, and try to have some fun along the way.
#MyWritingProcess: Why do you write what you do?
Stuart: The little people in my head have to get out somehow. I mean, have you seen the points on their sticks?
Seriously, though, the first story I ever sold arose from a friend’s idle comment–a careless sentence so evocative and beautiful, all the literary neurons in my brain lit up. I kept thinking about it for months until first a character, then a conflict, then a concept evolved around it.
It’s been said that all writers are arrogant, that writing is an inherently arrogant act. I think I’d agree. I mean, if you aren’t writing because you think you have something to say that the world needs to hear, I don’t know why anyone would do it. It’s hard and it’s lonely, and not very profitable for most people. That’s not the question, of course, but it’s related. I write the stories I do because I think they need to be written. I make them the best stories I can, filled with humor and adventure and struggles to tug at the heart strings and soul. But when it comes down to it, I write the stories that emerge around me, like dinosaur bones washing out of a cliff face. You find something like that, and you want to dig it out and know it, to understand and share it–because you can, because you’re the one who stumbled on it.
So yeah, I’m a treasure hunter, and when I find something cool, I want to shine it up and share it before it’s lost forever. And then there are the we little STICKS! 😉
#MyWritingProcess: How does your writing process work?
Stuart: There’s this box, see, and in the box are gears which I lubricate with fingers greasy from pop-corn eating , and inside the box is Lon Chaney’s brain and… no wait. Different process. Forget I said that.
Some people try to plan the work, some people try to wing it. I like to plan the work and then wing it. Each story begins with an idea, maybe just an image, maybe a scene or premise. I start writing what I have, and as I do, the characters and world take shape in remarkable detail–far more than I need to write down on the page. I focus on just the details needed to help really envision that world or that character. Then, when I’ve got a good start, I go back and assemble whatever I have and make sense of it. I organize around an idea, and that suggests plot, and that suggests concept.
There’s a lot of cutting and taping and bleeding and chocolate. There is no chocolate. The concept and plot suggest more scenes and ideas and characters, and I go write those I’m most excited about, then the cycle repeats. Then I pull down the shelves and graph the story arcs and pacing across the walls. I don’t really do that. That would be crazy. Why are you looking at me that way? Often, the beginning and ending arise fairly early. Just as often, they change dramatically. It’s a very iterative process. I wish I could do it all much faster. I need to go paint my walls. Do you know how to get permanent marker off the rafters?
So there you go. Writing makes you crazy. Or is a perquisite. The rule book is not clear on this.
If you are following the #MyWritingProcess hop, drop by to see fellow scifi author, Kyle Russell at holeinhell.blogspot.com, or go check out last week’s victim, www.gibsonmichaels.com