Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Writing Process - Blog Hop

Jeff Brackett tagged me in a "writing process" blog hop, which basically means someone sent him a list of questions about his writing process, with the instruction to answer them and tag other people. Jeff is the author of the cyberpunk detective novel Streets of Payne, which I reviewed here a few months back (check it out - it's fantastic!), and the post-apocalyptic novel Half Past Midnight. To read about Jeff's process, click here.

Alrighty, my turn...

1) What are you currently working on?
I have classic Writer's ADD, which means I'm always getting ideas for new novels before I'm finished with the one in front of me. Because of that, I've got five and a half different projects on my hands right now! Here they are, in no particular order:
Windborn, the first book in my YA high fantasy series, "Fated Stars," which is currently under contract with Glass House Press. It takes place in a fantastical world, in which enchanted creatures such as unicorns and mermaids dwell alongside humans. Windborn tells the tale of an air nymph trapped by dark magicians seeking to steal her powers over the wind. In her struggle to escape, she discovers that there's far more at stake than her own life. An ancient evil is stirring, one foretold to engulf the entire world in fire. Current status... to borrow a Twitter term, #amwriting.

Tell Me My Name, a novella that takes place immediately prior to the events of Windborn, which is due to be released later this year as part of Glass House's StoryTime event. This one's in editing, and I consider it a half project because it's directly related to Windborn.

Jane Colt #3, the presently untitled third book in my "Jane Colt" space opera series (Books 1 & 2, Artificial Absolutes and Synthetic Illusions, were published by Red Adept Publishing). By this book, Jane's old life in the safe center of interstellar civilization is long gone, and the story will further explore the lawless fringes of the universe. Status: outlined, but further development needed.

Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil, the first book in the my "Flynn Nightsider" YA dystopian fantasy series, also under contract with Glass House Press. The story takes place in a future in which monsters have overrun the earth and those with magic have turned what's left of civilization into a totalitarian nation, protecting the people from supernatural dangers but demanding their freedom in return. Flynn is a discontent 16-year-old who's been treated like dirt his whole life just because he was born without magic, and after a mysterious clue from the past spurs him on a quest to uncover the truth about his mother's death, he winds up joining an underground rebellion to overthrow the oppressors. This one's also in editing.

Butterfly Dome, a YA sci-fi romance and first book in a planned trilogy. After the nations of Earth nearly destroyed their world in the Boundless War, benevolent humanoid aliens brought the humans life-saving technology. But they also brought with them a mysterious disease that only affects children and kills the afflicted before they reach twenty. 15-year-old Iris was born with the disease and quarantined in a government-controlled artist colony, where everyone strives to achieve immortality through fame. But after a strange encounter with an alien boy, she starts to realize all is not as it seems. I wrote the first draft of this one about a year ago and revised it earlier this year, but haven't yet decided what to do with it.

I'm also co-writing a book with a fellow sci-fi author, although it's anything but sci-fi. It's a prehistoric romance that takes place more than twenty thousand years before common era, intended for young readers (Middle Grade/Children's).
2) How does your work differ from others in its genre?
Which one?! Okay, here we go with the list again:

Fated Stars: I conceived this series with the intention of following the tradition of classic fairytales, like The Little Mermaid, and epic fantasies, like The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yet while those two types of stories are indisputably related, they are different in tone. Fairytales are about magic and romance on a very personal scale for the characters while epic fantasies are, well, epic, telling tales of mighty rulers and great, world-changing wars. "Fated Stars" has both, so I like to think it's more epic than most fairytales and more magical than most epic fantasies.

Jane Colt: I see this series as being different from other space operas in its tone and focus. Most space operas I've seen are about powerful people with powerful starships, and I always wondered: what about everyone else? So Jane starts the series out as a relatively ordinary office worker - not a top tier space captain or experienced con artist or anything. I also believe I delve into character matters more than most space operas, which my tighter story focus allows me to do.

Flynn Nightsider: I'm pretty sure that when I first came up with the idea for this one, you had dystopia, and you had fantasy, but not both. The dystopian element of this series was inspired by the Arab Spring protests, as well as the ongoing struggle for balance between order and freedom in China. Meanwhile, the supernatural element was originally a metaphor for the endless dangers authoritarian governments espouse to keep their people compliant.

Butterfly Dome: This one takes classical arts - viola, ballet, opera, etc. - into a somewhat dystopian future, and much of it was inspired by classical theater traditions. I believe it's that mixture of the old and the new that makes it different from other YA sci-fi romances.

As for the prehistoric romance, I think it's the collaboration between myself and my co-writer that makes it different from, say, Clan of the Cave Bear, since we each have our own unique style.
3) Why do you write what you do?
My mind is always spinning tales of "what if", which is why I write sci-fi and fantasy (even the prehistoric story is somewhat fantastical, since it takes place in a world so different from the one we know today). I'm all about creating new worlds and sending my characters off on great adventures. At the same time, they are first and foremost people, which is why I spend a lot of time developing my characters and exploring their psyches. 
4) How does your writing process work?
I always start with the setting, which comes from writing sci-fi and fantasy that takes place in an entirely different world. Before I can get down to the nitty-gritty of the plot, I need to know where it takes place, because that will directly affect what I'm able to do with the characters. So I'll open up a Word document or two (or three or four or five) and hash out the details of the world. For example, with Fated Stars, I set up locations, histories, and mythologies for the faraway, fairytale land it takes place in, and outlined the rules of magic.

Then come the characters. I'll write out basic biographies for each one, which helps me learn who they are beyond the most basic traits I'd given them. For instance, Jane Colt's brother, Devin, has a haunted past that turned him into who he is by the time Book 1 begins. Meanwhile, Jane herself has had a relatively ordinary life, but the way she was raised influences the kinds of actions she takes.

By this point, I probably have at least three or four documents in my novel folder, and still no actual story! So then I'll brainstorm the plot. And when I say brainstorm, I mean "spew out every little thought that passes through my head into another document". After that, I'll pick and choose which areas I really want to develop.

Then comes the plotting. I'll start with a skeleton outline with the basics of what happens. For example, in Flynn Nightsider, I knew I had to open with Flynn uncovering a clue from the past, then have him follow it in search of answers, then end up on the wrong side of the law and get himself captured.

After I have a skeleton outline, I'll divide it into chapters and develop more of the details. For instance, Chapter 1 shows Flynn finding this clue and making the fateful decision to do whatever it takes to discover the truth about his mother's death. Chapter 2 follows his attempt to learn more about said clue while revealing the dangers still posed by the supernatural. Etc.

Sometimes, I'm ready to go by that point, but there's nothing scarier than a blank page. So most of the time, I end up outlining each chapter in even further detail, right down to blow by blow action scenes and details of what needs to be said during a dialogue. Only then am I really ready for actual words and sentences...

This is why I consider myself a storyteller, not a capital w Writer. Because while I certainly enjoy the way words convey a tale, the story is what matters to me, not the sentences themselves.

So there you have it! My answers to the "writing process" blog hop. I'm supposed to tag other writers, but I know how busy everyone is with their own blogs and I think everyone I know has been tagged in something like this before, so I'm going to channel my inner Flynn and say, "Won't follow the rules!"

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