The writing process

Fellow writer (and current victim of my editing pen) Blythe Rippon tagged me on a “writing process blog tour,” which means we all answer the same four questions about how we do what we do. Because, of course, every author writes differently. Some of us drink ourselves into a stupor before setting pen to paper (or these days, fingers to the keyboard), others virtuously get up with the sun and finish writing by lunch. Some need utter silence and others need busy noise around them.

I need chocolate. Well, that and the best writing program ever created, Scrivener. Sometimes a gin and tonic helps to get the creative juices flowing, and…wait, what were the questions?

1. What are you working on?

Right now I’m deeply into The Caphenon, the prequel to my science fiction novel Without A Front. Originally I’d planned for it to be a rewritten prologue to WAF, but my prologue soon acquired multiple chapters, and then a raft of new characters, and then a completely reimagined galactic political set-up…and last I looked it was pushing up against 90K words. Which means it’s already a full-sized novel, and I’m not finished yet. But I’m cranking on it, because it’s slated for publication in winter 2014/15.

Other current writing projects include editing a modern romance novel for Ylva Publishing, editing two short stories that will be coming across my desk soon, writing a magazine article, and writing my own short story for Ylva’s Christmas anthology. The novel and the article are both due at the end of this month, and the short story is due next month, so I’m doing an imitation of a gerbil in an exercise wheel at the moment.

Editing helper

This is my assistant, Graymalkin. Sometimes she helps me write, but at this moment she was helping me edit. She never, ever looks like a gerbil in an exercise wheel.

2. How does your work differ from others in the same genre?

That’s kind of hard to answer, because science fiction is a huge genre incorporating everything from robots to spaceships to dragons. Pretty much anything goes, so long as it makes sense within the physical and social rules of the world/universe being presented. I can say that my work features neither robots nor dragons. Spaceships, though — check. Also lots of strong women in leading roles, which right there sets it apart from the mainstream, though not from lesfic. And most of my characters have a good sense of humor, which I’ve found is often missing from science fiction. (Why, I don’t know. I mean, why does almost everyone prefer Han Solo to Luke Skywalker? Because he’s funny! And Luke is just boooring.)

3. Why do you write what you do?

In the beginning (which is to say twelve years ago), I wrote as an escape from a life I was not enjoying. I wrote to imagine a life that I could enjoy. Ironically enough, it was my writing that brought me out of one and into the other. So if anyone tells you that writing can be an escape, I’m here to add, “sometimes literally.”

Nowadays I write for different reasons. It’s fun, I’m getting encouragement from people rubbing their hands together while waiting for The Caphenon, it satisfies the part of me that needs to create or else feel stifled…but I think the biggest reason was very well put by Obsidian Wings blogger Doctor Science in her recent post “World-building is a literary value and a political act.” She points out that science fiction and fantasy authors exercise greater control over the worlds of their stories, because they create them rather than writing within the confines of our existing world. That creation process doesn’t just include literary choices, it includes political ones as well, which speak to the values of the author. From a reader’s point of view, Doctor Science notes that she has no desire to visit a world created by someone whose values include viewing women as second-class citizens, especially when the whole point of reading science fiction is to temporarily leave the real world behind.

That’s why I write: for the sheer joy of creating a world I’d love to live in. After all, I am living in it during the writing process, so by golly I’m going to build one that reflects my values. And then I’m going to populate it with people I’d love to meet.

4. How does your writing process work?

Oh, this is where I get to talk about chocolate and gin.

Well, I’d like to say that I get up at 06:30 every morning, do half an hour of yoga, go for a 5K run, then come home and bang out 3,000 words before lunch. I’d like to, but I can’t.

Many authors set a daily word goal (I’ve read several accounts of the astonishing-to-me goal of 3,000 words per day), and I can see the benefit of that, but for me it’s pressure I don’t need. If I write 500 good words in one day, that’s great. If I pull off 3,000, that’s awesome. But I don’t write my novels start-to-finish and then go back to edit; I edit as I go. That means I may write 2,500 words one day, and then the next day I go back over that section and edit the holy bejeebers out of it. Sometimes that involves adding another 500 or 2,000 words, but other times it may only change the word count by thirty. And then there are the days when I realize that my just-written X event means the earlier Y event eight chapters ago doesn’t work anymore, so I go back and fix it — which often results in a negative word count for the day, but a much better story.

Writing is an all-the-time process for me. When I’m deep into a story, I’m living it, which means it’s in my head day and night. So far it hasn’t invaded my dreams, but I often go to sleep and wake up thinking about it. Sometimes I roll out of bed and start writing while eating my breakfast, because whatever text formed in my brain during the night/morning needs to be gotten out onto my keyboard RIGHT FREAKING NOW. Other times I don’t start writing until I’ve run errands, cleared my inbox, written a blog post, yadda yadda and oh look, it’s already nine in the evening. Those are the days I tend to write until two a.m.

So I guess I’d have to characterize my writing process as “undisciplined” and “all-consuming.” Also, chocolate and gin really do help.

***

Now it’s my turn to tag someone, so I’m reaching out to two writers at opposite ends of the lesfic spectrum: Emma Weimann, a stablemate at Ylva who is just about to publish her first novel, Heart’s Surrender; and KG MacGregor, one of the best-selling authors of the genre who has just released her umpteenth novel, Anyone But You.

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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5 Responses to The writing process

  1. I love your writing style, and I am going to go look up your novel now!

    • oregon expat says:

      Thank you, Irith! I should warn you that “Without A Front” is no longer available online, because it’s in my pipeline for a major retooling and publication next year. The first few chapters are still available as a preview, though — just enough to be frustrating. 😉

      That novel was a spinoff of my Voyager series, but I’m yanking it into a new galaxy so that I have more room to play. If all goes as planned, I’ll have three novels out next year, which kind of blows my mind.

  2. Lisa Shaw says:

    +1 for the surgically clean desk, +2 for the cat. Editing is exhausting. 😉

  3. chetefon says:

    Great post! Thanks Fletcher. As a reader and newbie writer its so good to read and learn from the professionals. Being TOTALLY a Mac and cat person…I can fully appreciate the contents of your desk! I loved Mac vs Pc and look forward to reading your other books. Thanks again!
    Best wishes from Oz,
    Conchita

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