14 July 2014

Four Questions, Four Disturbing Insights

Hat tip to Britt Ringel, author of the This Corner of the Universe series of military sci-fi novels, for tricking me into participating in this “Writer’s Process Blog Tour.”  Each week a new set of writers answers four questions about what they are working on, and how they work on whatever it is they’re working on.  I've invited three more brave souls to join me in this tour by blogging their responses next week.  If they do not maintain the chain, bad luck will befall them.*  You’ll find links to their pages below.

Question 1: What are you working on?

I've typically got way too many irons in the fire, and right now is no exception to that rule.  I am working in fits and starts on two books: One is The Kraken of Cape Farewell, which is the sixth volume in my Magnetron Chronicles series.  The other is a paranormal/psychological thriller called Station Five (honestly, I haven't even looked at it in months).  I'm also putting the finishing touches on a deluxe edition of my previously self-published Rise of the Hogalum Society to be published later this summer by a small independent press.  And speaking of irons, I recently joined a flash fiction writing group at The Iron Writer Challenge.  I've had two winning stories so far, and as of this date I am in the running for the TIW Summer Open Finals.

Question 2: How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Most of what I've written is loosely categorized as steampunk, but I think of my stories as “retro-Victorian adventure spoofs.”  Most steampunk is written with a fairly modern voice, but I go to great lengths to capture the flavor of the “scientific romance” masters of yore, such as Jules Verne.  I find that most steampunk is excruciatingly earnest, but I like to spoof the genre with a (I hope) comically overblown style, dramatic irony, pop culture Easter eggs, and a completely ludicrous and insanely complex plot.  Phineas Magnetron (the narrator) is so serious, he clearly doesn't know that most of what he says is actually quite silly.  Even though the stories aren't terribly serious, I’m deadly serious about story construction and historical accuracy.

Question 3: Why do you write what you write?

That’s actually a long story, but let’s just say I stumbled into the genre years ago, long before I had ever heard the term “steampunk.”  I fell in love with the period and the larger-than-life characters.  I found it incredibly challenging to emulate the style of the old masters, and I guess I just love a challenge.

Question 4: How does your writing process work?

I'll have to start by warning anyone reading these words not to write the way I do.  I do not recommend my method for anyone, necessarily.  It just seems to work for me.

That said, I’m definitely a plotter, but you won’t catch me writing a genuine outline with Roman numerals.  I start by sketching out my main story arc in a Word document with each major plot point on its own line, resulting in a "Dick likes Jane," "Spot likes bones" skeleton.  Then I start fleshing things out, filling in the details on new lines as the spirit moves me.  I keep a digital recorder with me to verbally jot down whatever crazy idea comes to me throughout the day, and then I scan through my sort-of outline and enter my little inspirations wherever they seem to fit or flesh something out with a bit more detail.

I do my writing right there in the same Word document.  Eventually, I will have an unwritten Chapter One, a Chapter Two which has been written and rewritten eight times, a sketchy Chapter Three, and a press-ready Chapter Four.  I just work on whatever task suits my mood at the time, whether it's transcribing notes from my recorder, double-checking my timeline for continuity, or going on an undisciplined writing jag.  At some point, I take it from the top and bring everything up to code.  This is followed by extensive rereading and rewriting to make sure everything flows precisely the way I hoped.  Yes, it’s an extraordinarily undisciplined and labor-intensive process, and I kick myself all the time for my shameful lack of self-discipline.  But it works for me.

So, that's it for my weirdness.  It's time to pass three batons to the next suckers writers in the chain.  As it happens, they are all writers I've met in The Iron Writer Challenge group, and they're a pretty talented lot.  They'll be posting next week around Monday, or they'll suffer the consequences.*

  • Mary Fletcher's blog, I Write to Empty the Crazy, is proof that Mary is a much better blogger than I am, and also proof that she might be just a bit crazier than I am.  She writes poetry, short stories, and exorcises her own demons online for your enjoyment and her emotional health.  Hopefully, she will never run completely out of crazy.
  • Author Danielle Lee Zwissler has never owned up to stealing my initials, but isn't a bad sort overall.  She's a prolific indie author with five gun-totin' cowboy romance titles to her credit.  She also blogs, reviews books... you know, typical writer stuff.
  • Tony Jaeger writes some really strange short stories for Iron Writer and blogs on his Creative Writing Time site, where he has also published a novella called Chef one chapter at a time.  “The French Dip here is so fresh,” the waiter joked, “that when you order it, the chef actually goes and kills a Frenchman, just for your sandwich.” See what I mean?

* Bad luck will befall anyone who breaks the chain!  One writer failed to post his blog entry and when he submitted his novel to a publisher it was declined without even so much as a polite form letter!  And then a grand piano fell on him as he was checking his mailbox for the rejection letter!  And the letter never came anyway!

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