Instead of trudging along with this new blog, a slog as the Brits say (slog-blog?), I’m now hopping. In this blog-hop I get to talk about my writing process in four questions and then link to the next writer, who’ll do the same next Monday.
My invite to hop came from Rhonda Parrish, who is the editor of Fae, an anthology to be published by World Weaver Press, and a great and prolific writer (between lots of naps, or so she claims). She accepted my story “Possession” for Fae and helped it along with great editing tips. It was a pleasure to work with her and I can’t wait for Fae to come out.
- How does my writing process work?
I hop. No, really. This may be true of most writers, or those who focus on short stories, but at last count (which I stopped to make five minutes ago) I had nine stories in the works. Not just outlines. These are things that just need a little work to be finished. But I’ll open one up in the morning, leave it to go check Duotrope, and get a wonderful story idea for a themed issue of Zombies On The Moon that has a deadline at the end of the month, and I’ll start on that instead. And finish it, and often enough get accepted. It may be that this kind of “working under pressure” helps me focus. The idea that when the story’s finished there’s a specific market for it, that I’m going to send it there and it’s going to be exactly what they’re looking for (if all goes well, crossed fingers, etc). And after I’ve sent that story off, I go back to “my” stories, for which I have no particular market in mind, and…But wait, Steampunk Norse Gods is closing in a week. I could do something with that. Hop.
The writing process itself starts with notes. Lots of ’em. I’m a ten-finger typist and I get everything that occurs to me into the computer first, a sort of stream-of-consciousness that might be general plot points or bits of dialogue, research, etc. – a grab-bag. I start writing the story on the same page at the top and “pull up” what I need from below (is there a metaphor in there?) as I go. Add lots of hot tea. If the idea was a tight one, there should ideally be nothing left at the bottom when the story’s finished. If there is, either I’ve got problems or those things weren’t going to fit in there anyway. I always try to let the story “sit” if there’s time. Don’t look at it or think about it for a week. When I go back to it, it’s fresh, meaning all the mistakes, bad writing and logic holes in the plot jump out at me.
Not to say I don’t have handwritten notes. These accumulate anytime I’m not in front of the PC and something occurs to me. Any paper will do. I’ve made notes on gum wrappers. I keep a notebook by the bed and I’ve been known to make a note in the middle of the night without turning on the light, so that I have something that looks like the Voynich manuscript the next day.
- Why do I write what I do?
There are certain parts of life (cleaning out the dishwasher comes to mind) that you just want to skip. Anyone writing genre fiction (and reading it too) is an escapist, or so those others who don’t read it will tell you. I like the idea (and am sometimes disconcerted by it) that my daughter can come home from school and have no idea that I was in 1898 Alaska the entire morning or that Thor tore our street up in a modern-day Ragnarok. Maybe it’s not good – we’re supposed to live in the moment, or at least be aware of every moment, mindfulness and all that – but from every story I write I learn something a) about the world and b) about myself. And I always come back to the world. Richer (not necessarily in actual money – OK, almost never in actual money), and maybe somewhere down the line a story of mine will make someone else’s life richer (not in money).
But mainstream writing can do that too. So why robots and ghosts and fairies? Because they can creep in the back door. Rather than in-your-face reality, the world you know, you’re confronted with something impossible – maybe not robots or fairies, but something weirder – but because they’re impossible they can somehow be the carriers of disease, they infect you with a kind of uncertainty about the world and get you thinking. At least they do me – I love reading this stuff, the weirder the better. I’m actually trying to get away from purely genre in my own writing. I’d love to be able to shake people up the way my favorite writers do, but I’m not there yet. So on to…
- How does my writing differ from others of its genre?
So far, not much. Most of what I write comes down pretty well in one area of genre or another, but I’ve been trying more of the uncategorizable lately. There are lots of online places for these, but they’re the ones that would never dream of calling themselves genre. They talk about magic realism, fabulism and the quirky. Some I’ve published in: Apocrypha and Abstractions, Birkensnake, Defenestrationism. These are my breakouts from the normal genre writing I started with, but I would like to get to a place where I don’t have to jump between what is considered genre and mainstream/literary, but rather where I’ve created something all my own that people can’t pigeonhole. I’m not there at all yet.
Examples of what I’d like to emulate would be Jeff VanderMeer, also the doorstop anthology The Weird edited by him and his wife (the stories are chronological, so if you want to jump into what the most up-to-date Weird looks like, read it backwards, like I did), the anthology Real Unreal: Best American Fantasy edited by Kevin Brockmeier (where a lot of the stories come from “literary” sources that would probably never admit to publishing fantasy, like The Kenyon Review). Also anything by Jeffrey Ford.
No, I’m really not there yet.
Last But Not Least:
- What am I working on now?
Wait, let me check Duotrope. Oh, yeah, a fairy-tale retelling using quiltbag characters. I also just finished the rewrite on a story that will be appearing in the Journal of Unlikely Cartography, one of the themed issues put out by Unlikely Story. I’m looking forward to that, and to a story of mine that will help annihilate SF in an upcoming special issue of Lightspeed called Women Destroy Science Fiction. Friends tell me I need to get out more, but there’s just so many ideas and so little time.
Now, follow the hop to:
Tahlia Merrill Kirk
Tahlia is a writer and the editor of Timeless Tales, an online magazine featuring retellings of myths and fairy-tales, with a special emphasis on mash-ups that make it fun and different. And she just moved to Texas! (Send me some sun, please.) On to you, Tahlia…
My living room. Not really, but I’m trying. Whoever dies with the most books wins (photo credit: Phobos Magazine)
A house near where I live – the fantastic just around the corner