A certain someone by the name of Sabrina Zbasnik seems to have decided I’m a minion of hers, and has thusly assigned me a task. Since I place a great deal of value on all of my limbs, (and NOT having toads placed in my underwear) I’ve decided to do her bidding. Doesn’t hurt that she’s tagged me in something which allows me to get on with my very favorite task, which is answering questions in an autobiographical format. :D Brace yourselves.
1. What am I working on?
Because I write at the pace of a turtle slowly navigating a river of molasses in January, I’m still working on the novel I started nearly two years ago, entitled Moonlight’s Aegis. The basic synopsis is a man struggling with a deep depression ends up living in a small English town which, much to his surprise, ends up being full of vengeful werewolves. Romance and a great deal of pants-wetting thusly ensues. (Though not at the same time, fortunately for him.)
In the (many) moments when I feel burnt out on MA and can’t stand to think about it anymore, I’m also working on two different outlines for future works. The first will be published here, on the blog, and deals with themes of suicide and religion. (Also gigantic, murderous insects. Because that makes EVERYTHING better–just ask the video game industry!)
The second is what I suspect will be a gargantuan, multi-part series with a sort of “magical school” setting. I haven’t decided yet if that one is going to be pure fantasy, or AU urban-fantasy. The choice will come down to whatever it’s easier for me to write about accurately–there are going to be a lot of difficult themes in that one, and I want to make sure that I do them justice. If I end up obsessing over how many apostrophes I can get away with putting into all of my names, I won’t be able to spend as much time sending the message(s) that need to be sent.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
The most significant way which pops to mind I’m not even sure if MA has a genre. I seriously don’t know where to put it. There’s a major romance which happens, but it’s not the focus of the book. There are werewolves running around, but they also aren’t the focus of the book. Depression is a major theme, as are how friendships suffer/form because of reacting to that stressor, and yet that also isn’t the focus of the book. It’s all of these things combining which makes the book what it is, in my mind…but as a result, I don’t know what the fuck to call it.
I guess that’s probably a conversation all on its own: How I can’t even define a work that’s literally coming out of my brain because I’ve gotten so used to seeing genres as absolutes. And all because of marketers. Because that’s how we do in ‘MURICA!
3. Why do I write what I do?
The glib, sound-byte answer to this? Because I don’t know how to do anything else.
The longer, more complicated answer is: That’s not entirely true. I know a lot of things. I know how to cook, how to ride a horse, how to make my own jewelry and clothes and just about anything else you can think of. (Except maybe cars. I don’t think I could build a car.) But when it comes to writing…it’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was 8. I don’t know what cascade of chemical impulses led me to that desire, but it’s never really gone away, despite some very long breaks that I’ve taken.
Writing scares the pants off me sometimes, but at the same time I don’t know how to live without it. I’m completely addicted to coming up with characters and worlds for them to live in. Even my dreams center around making up fantastical worlds. I can’t stop. Or, perhaps more accurately, I don’t want to stop.
And, these days, the more I learn about the injustices in this world, the more I want to try and use writing to help combat them. It might not be much, but it’s the best weapon I have in my arsenal, and I want to use it effectively. I want to make people who are isolated feel less alone.
4. How does my writing process work?
Most of the time, I have some kind of vivid dream that ends up sticking with me after I wake up. Something in it happens to make me “bond” with it–either it has a sympathetic character, an amazing world, or I just get a certain feeling about it. Obviously with dreams, there are a lot of holes to fill in order to have it make sense, but I’m lucky in that most of my dreams make a fair bit of sense starting out. I write these dreams down as soon as I wake up. There are over a dozen stored in my Documents folder right now, and all of them are different.
When I’m not basing a story off of a dream, it’s usually because I’ve imagined some kind of scene in my head that I want to explore and play out. For instance, there’s this one recurring “vision” I keep having of a woman walking through a field of corpses. I don’t know where the image came from, or how I imagined it, but it was powerful and it stuck with me. I’ve spent the last few years building on that scene, until finally coming up with a story that I feel will do it justice. There are still holes to fill, obviously, but I have the overall feel of it.
And then, ironically, the rarest type of brainstorming I do is the intentional kind, where I sit down and take something I’ve seen in real life which interested me and turn it into a story. I know how to do this, obviously, and I enjoy doing it…it just usually isn’t necessary because I’ve got so many “free” ideas already crowding in my head.
Used to be after I got an idea down, I’d run off and start typing immediately. I’d write out whatever scene it was which was most prominent in my mind, then continue from there. But I’d usually lose steam after awhile, once the initial creative frenzy had passed. That’s pretty natural, at least for me, but it also doesn’t make for a very good long-term writing strategy. Since I tend to think in novels, (I suck at writing short stories) not having a good long-term plan is a serious problem for me.
So these days, what I do is use that initial burst of creativity and make an outline instead. Sometimes this is your traditional bullet-point, chapter-by-chapter type of outline; other times it’s what I call a “combat outline” which is basically just a page or two of me rambling on about the plot. Puttering about with outlines also allows me to hop from work to work as my inspiration grabs me, without sacrificing the focus I put on my current WiP.
Plot is very important to me, because without it I can’t show off all the amazing characters I’ve come up with, so I take it seriously. My biggest fear is plot holes, mostly because I’ve seen enough poorly written TV shows to understand how important it is to have a plot which makes (at least a little) sense. So I make sure to assess what kind of plot I’m going to be using before I start. For instance, if it’s a fairly “standard” plot, (such as something folks have seen a lot of before) I make sure to crank up the volume on my characters or the world I’m setting things in. Basically, I want to reward my readers for putting up with a tried-and-true plot by providing them with other things which will make it worth their time to read my work.
Most of all, I want my work to be enjoyable and maybe even a little bit addictive. I figure if someday I can have at least a small, devoted fanbase on Tumblr who read my work and immediately start making poetic gifsets, then I will have “made it”. :D
And now, to tag some fellow vic–erm, fellow writers…
A chain-post wouldn’t be much fun without the chain, now would it? Pikabloggers, I choose you!
J. Elizabeth Hill, because she is a lovely human being and I want to know what she’s up to!
KW Ramsey, because he’s a long-time Twitter friend of mine and I totally flaked out on his bloghop, so tagging him in one of mine seems sensible! Right? RIGHT!?
AK Anderson, because she is another Twitter friend and generally cool person.
OfTheWilds, because dragons!
Nikita Pendergast, because she was the first to enable my#MandarayReads tag and continues to be generally awesome in my mentions. :D
Even if you got tagged, please don’t feel any pressure to do this if you don’t want to. I’m doing this for fun, so if it isn’t for fun, then don’t do it! <3 You’re all lovely humans, thank you for being my friends and partners in writing shenanigans. And thank you to Sabrina, too, for tagging me in the first place. :) It’s just what I needed today.