You may have seen the Writing Process Blog Tour that’s been doing the rounds recently. I’ve been tagged by Neil Williamson, who in turn was tagged by Liz Williams, and Claire Weaver before her. However, I also recommend checking out Nick Harkaway‘s one on this, and Libby McGuigan‘s, and Jacey Bedford‘s – or, indeed, any of the other Writing Process blogs that have been cropping up, as they’re really quite interesting.
While my answers are mostly about fiction writing, the last part also has a little something about my process when it comes to music and non-fiction work. While it fits here, there seemed to be little point in doing this for the other questions – “because I was commissioned to do it” seems somewhat churlish an answer. I’ve also tagged three folks who I’m hoping will provide three very different insights into their own media… But first things first.
1. What am I working on?
Right now? Mostly short stories in the foam of SFF genres and sub-genres. There’s a re-telling of a Bryan Ferry cover, the story about the rock in the sky, the possible future of world tours, tattoos, the many lighthouses, the escape from the library, the one about metal and bone, and the secret one I can’t talk about yet. Lots and lots, in other words.
2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?
I suppose “but I made this stuff up” won’t really do here, right?
I’d like to think some of what I’m doing now is exploring sub-cultures that I’ve not seen a lot of folks working on in SFF; right now, that’s stories more tied to the North-East of England, as well as alternative scenes here and abroad. Essentially, then, that’s my personal combination of influences put down on paper. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that’s just a roundabout way of saying “but I made this stuff up”. Sorry.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Partly practical reasons: A lot of what I’m writing right now is in response to calls, so in part everything is shaped by my own response to that – the synapses it sparks off, what’s triggered by anything else I might find or be working on, and so forth.
I recently wrote something specifically because I wanted to make sense of my own feelings about something that had happened, which was an interesting experience. More often, I don’t realise why I was writing a story until quite a while afterwards – this feels more natural to me.
Most of all, though, I write what I do because there’s a story in the back of my head that just won’t leave me alone.
4. How does my writing process work?
Fiction: In terms of a fiction schedule, I don’t really have much of one at the moment, due to the (still!) very hectic last few months. While things are calming down, I’m experimenting – which for me is worth doing every few months anyway, just to explore what I’m capable of, keep things interesting… What I’ve learnt this time is I’m still not much of an evening writer, unless I’m after a particular mood in a piece. Ambushing myself, either first thing on a morning or, say, the moment I get home, tends to avoid the fear sneaking in. Unfortunately this is the case for most things I do (save photo and copyediting), so often several of them are fighting for time. In general, though, I try to do 1-2 hours on dayjob days, up to 6 hours a day on days off (which sounds like a lot, but often includes a certain amount of staring out the window and figurative pencil-chewing).
How much I plan depends on the story. Some just seem to appear on the paper, fully formed and walking amongst the daisies. Others need to be sketched, prepared, tempered, and thoroughly hammered into shape before they can even start rolling along properly. The latter are the ones I find the most frustrating, but strangely the results seem to be quite similar in the end. Go fig.
And the music question? No. I can’t write fiction to music. Anything with lyrics is out of the question. Instrumental music? Usually only when I’m editing. I’m very easily swung in my writing by whatever I’m listening to. Crowd noise from strangers is no distraction, oddly enough.
Non-fiction: With release reviewing, I like to have at least two weeks with an album, though that’s not always possible. When I do, there’s a week of listening to the album when and wherever I go, during which I’ll make some initial notes on it (an exception to the no-writing-to-music thing). In the second week I’ll do another draft, just with the basic points I want to cover, how I’ll illustrate them, and then the overall argument I want to make about the record. From that, it’s just a case of fleshing that out to fit the word count, and making pretty and clear sentences.
With live reviews, it’s a little different. Generally I have notes I’ve made during a show, which I’ll flesh out the next day. Depending on the deadline and word count, I’ll either write that up the same day, or leave it to coalesce over 24 hours to create something thematically coherent.
Anything else is generally a mix of these two processes.
I’m tagging the following good folks for their thoughts on this:
Geri Clark-Hellery – Geraldine currently lives in the UK with an orchid who has triffid aspirations, a magic teapot, a travelling dog called Mrf and a very patient husband. Her new fiction and poetry collection, Weird Wild, is out now from Fox Spirit Books.
For reviews and more from Geri, her website is at http://www.geraldineclarkhellery.com/
Alasdair Stuart – author and freelance journalist for the likes of The Guardian, Fortean Times, Bleeding Cool, and SFX, as well as host of the Parsec award winning podcast Pseudopod. Somehow he finds time to write fiction for the likes of the Tales of Eve anthology (Fox Spirt). And once a year he hosts one of the best Eurovision live tweeting streams out there. Now he has to squeeze in one of these blogs as well. Mwahahaha…
For more from Alasdair, head to http://alasdairstuart.com/
Steve Aryan – author, graphic novelist and video game writer, Steve is another multi-talented sort. He also co-runs the Comic Book Outsiders podcast. The first book from Steve’s epic fantasy trilogy, Battlemage, is out through Orbit in 2015. He is very tall.
You can find Steve’s blog at http://stephen-aryan.com/