There are some people who, when they make you an offer, it’s most unwise to refuse. Don Corleone. Darth Vader. The Terminator. So when Willow Becker asked me if I would like to contribute to this Blog Hop Writing Process project, you can perhaps see the position I was in 😉 How could I resist dear Willow, though? She’s charm and good humour wrapped up in splendid and topped off with a shiny bow of awesome. She’s also one of the driving forces behind fridayphrases.com , which means that I love her lots. You can read her own take on the Writing Process here, as well as her fiction and many wonderful articles on Life, the Universe and Everything.
My sincere thanks to Willow for asking me to participate in this blog hop. It’s a great opportunity to connect with other writers, and to get a little sneak peek into how their creative minds work.
WHAT AM I WORKING ON?
Right now my writing time is divided between a couple of ventures. In the next few months, I have two projects scheduled to come to fruition that I’m very excited about. I have a short story entitled ‘No Man’s Land’ due be published in an anthology from Grey Matter Press called Equilibrium Overturned (love that title!), and also a novella which, all being well, should see the light of day sometime in the summer. This one is with another publisher, and interestingly is in a “dual-novella” format, in that my work is being paired with a piece from another, and very exciting, author. I love an old-school double bill, so I’m looking forward to sharing more details about this as publication draws nearer.
It’s been really interesting to me to work on both of these projects, in that they’re the first times I’ve worked in any formal capacity with an editor. Having someone cast a professional eye over my work like that was an intriguing experience, and enlightening in that it highlighted to me certain stylistic quirks that I didn’t know I had, some of which I’m happy with, and others which I shall be happy to lose.
Ongoing alongside these projects, I’m currently working on my first full length novel. I suppose if I had to describe it I’d go with “Urban Horror Thriller”. It’s set primarily in a crumbling, mostly-abandoned Tower Block, and what I’m hoping for is to give something of a gritty feel to the supernatural aspects. I’m around 25 thousands words from the end and I’m hoping to have it finished sometime around June/July of this year.
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
At first I thought this was quite a tricky question to answer, but ultimately it’s as simple as “It differs because it’s me writing it.”
To me, writing is like seeing shapes in the clouds. You and I might lay back on the warm grass, watching those little crystals of water or ice embrace tiny particles of dust in the blue sky, and, wondrously, this cold and unstoppable physical law will inspire you to see unicorns or angels, cats or dogs, the famous or the infamous, whatever your mind is wired to see.
If your mind is wired like mine, or if you’re meeting me halfway by reading the ink on a page or the pixels I’ve arranged on a screen, all I can hope to do is use my own experiences and emotional view of the world to convince you we’re seeing pretty much the same thing. That’s all any writer does. All our work differs from others in its genre.
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
As I say I’m wired to see what I see, and to imagine what I imagine. As a kid, my earliest stories were superficially science-fictional, cherry-picking concepts from my favourite films and TV shows and comic books and mashing them into tales that didn’t so much explore strange new worlds as recycle them … many is the story from that time that saw a Doctor Doom/Darth Vader hybrid commanding an army of “like Cybermen but not really Cybermen” against a brave band of Mutant mercenaries armed with laser swords (definitely NOT lightsabres). Incidentally, I used to draw fake movie posters for these stories, crazy, sprawling artwork crammed with all the elements I’d stolen from my influences. Thankfully, none of these drawings survive, but they tended to be a variation on this:
The thing is, if I was writing about a cyborg, say, I started to realise how much more I enjoyed writing about the seeping, decaying remains of his or her flesh than the sleek, mechanical aspects of the cybernetics. Eventually, I came to understand that my science-fiction efforts were Horror stories in disguise, and that if I was going to write, that was the territory in which I could have the most fun.
I’ve written elsewhere about my love for the Horror genre, but the short version is that I honestly believe it’s the most flexible field I could ever work in. I can have my zombies and demons and killers (oh my!), but if I want I can also have comedy or erotica or teen angst or political drama or whatever I need. I don’t think it works the other way. Any of those genres can exist brilliantly on their own, but make the President a vampire or the angst-ridden teens serial killers and the story’s heart begins to blacken, to turn to the Dark Side.
For me, the genre remains honourable and undiluted no matter what other themes and elements it can comfortably incorporate. That’s why the Horror element always comes first when people talk about mashing it up with another genre. Zombie Western, Zombie Romance, never the other way around. Horror defines itself, and the stories it tells, and that’s why I love writing it.
HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
Unfortunately, my day job doesn’t allow me the luxury of a fixed time to write, or indeed a great deal of free time at all, and so any creativity tends to be left to the end of the week for Friday Phrases, and as much novel-writing as I can manage to fit in over the weekend.
If I have a whole day, I’m at my most creative in the mornings. I’ll aim for around two thousand words of new stuff then, and spend the afternoon checking through what I’ve already written. I usually find this PM editing a relatively painless process, as I’m in the habit of editing the work as I write it. I know many writers might shake their heads at this, considering it a great sin against productivity and creativity. It’s far better, they might argue, to let the prose flow, to let one’s imagination spill unrestrained on to the page, and later to use craft and skill to shape the words into the best they can possibly be.
For the record, those writers are absolutely 100% correct, but generally speaking it’s not how it works for me. There is a reason for this, I think.
A few years ago, I tried my hand at a little stand-up comedy. I’d been writing a few jokes for radio shows and the like and thought it might be interesting to see how my material played to a live crowd. Believe me, though writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely endeavour, it can feel like a party compared to standing alone on stage in front of a cold audience daring you to make them laugh.
The material was a weird stream-of-consciousness thing which wondered what might happen if – and those of you of a sensitive disposition might want to look away now – an adult movie was created by the cast of Sesame Street.
It was strange. I fully suspect anyone still reading can guess the kind of things the beloved Count was so joyfully enumerating, and even deduce what appallingly inappropriate selection of letters and numbers my imagined episode was brought to you by. What role I speculated that the renamed Cookie Monster might play in these sordid events is perhaps best left consigned to history.
The material got a few laughs, but the guy behind the microphone was an idiot, so I stopped. The experience did leave me with a curious learning curve that informs my writing today, though. All those times when I stumbled over a line, or ducked a thrown beer bottle, or misplaced one of the events in my routine and had to backtrack in as naturalistically a fashion as possible … all those things meant that I learned to cut and paste my thoughts, and quickly. To edit and shape as I went along, rewriting “as live”, if you like. It’s one reason why the shoot-from-the-hip nature of writing the Friday Phrases really appeals to me. Many of mine share the same structure as a joke, I think, albeit a joke where the punchline involves a demon or a dismemberment.
So that’s about it for my Writing Process … thanks for reading!
WHO’S UP NEXT?
I’m really excited to learn more about how this next group of writers work. All of them are immensely talented, and I’m very grateful to them all for accepting my request to participate …
Heather is a wonderful writer who describes her WIP as “Urban Paranormal with Romantic Elements”. Her blog is full of surprises, from brilliant flash fiction to startlingly incisive articles on creativity and the Human Condition.
Justine’s blog is filled with short fiction and inspirational articles about the trials and triumphs of writing. Her own latest triumph, the very well received “Nature’s Destiny” is available now.
CL Raven are prolific writers of great dark fiction, samples of which can be found on their blog along with brilliant articles on their fascinating lives as Ghosthunting thrillseekers with a love of Red Bull.
Thanks again to Willow, and thanks for reading 🙂