My old pal from Locus, Amelia Beamer, tagged me in an ongoing Writing Process Blog Tour and, of course, I jumped on board. Amelia is the author of The Loving Dead, the number two zombie novel of the past decade according to Barnes & Noble. She works as an independent editor and proofreader with major publishers including Shueisha English Edition, a new general imprint of popular Japanese titles translated into English. She built her publishing career working as an editor at Locus for seven years, and for three years before that as a student assistant at the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. She publishes short fiction, book reviews, poetry, and cultural criticism. Her most recent short fiction appears in Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane, and Zombies vs Robots: Women on War!
You’ll find Amelia’s post at: http://www.ameliabeamer.com/
My take on craft:
1) What am I working on?
Currently, I’m finishing the last book in my series, The Psalms of Isaak, published in the US by Tor Books. Hymn is about half finished and should wrap in about two months. After eight years on this series, I’m seeing the finish line and am excited to take a break and work on something else. While writing, I find I do better if I also keep some short stories underway so I have a few of those at any given time that I’m poking at or blasting out depending on deadlines. When I’m finished with my series, I will be adapting one of my short stories as a screenplay to clear my head of these characters. I’m also working on an editing project that will take up about six months once we get started…and of course, more shorter pieces – short stories, novelettes and novellas – mixed in. Beyond that, I see a short YA collaborative novel in my future and something completely outside of the genre to stretch my muscles a bit. After that, probably another SF/F book. I have a concept cooking for another series, Tears of the Pantheon, but I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to tackle it. Eight years on my current series – and all of the craziness of those years – has me feeling like I need a little break though I do love the open expanse a series gives my redneck muse, Leroy, down on the Story Factory’s production line.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m told that I have a nice blend of literary and commercial sensibilities in my series. It’s also been hailed as a seamless blend of science fiction and fantasy though as folks read through the books they may see that it’s not actually so. It’s more of an experiment in fiction using Clarke’s Third Law.
I’m also very character driven. I’m less likely to write grand scenes of combat and more likely to write about how the characters feel about the war either before or after the action.
In my short fiction, I lean toward the quirky and odd, pulling characters from history, mythology, and even literature and throwing them into unusual circumstances in a lot of my early work. Lately, I’ve been writing mostly to anthology or magazine invites and lining up the tales I tell with the tales they need. I enjoy the challenge of crafting a story that fits the theme and stands out.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Overall, I write to process the soup in my subconscious and to explore various thoughts, feelings and ideas that are cooking down in the basement of my brain…and to tell entertaining, emotionally resonant and thought-provoking stories while doing so. It’s a bit like wearing my underwear on my head and dancing about. And I am fortunate that in doing so, I actually get paid.
4) How does your writing process work?
It’s different depending on what I’m writing. Of course it all starts the spark of an idea discovered either from within or without as I wander through life. People facing problems in a place that feels real.
For my current series, I decide how big the house of story is going to be, then use three act dramatic structure to frame the walls within the house, both for the book and the overall series. I use a screenwriter’s sensibilities here, with my first act comprising the first 25% of the word count I’m aiming for the book for Act 1, 50% for Act 2, and then 25% for Act 3. I’m writing multiple POV and I’ve stayed pretty consistent through each book – three different POV character scenes of 1.5-2k words per chapter – so I use an Excel spreadsheet to map out which characters are in which chapters, then think about their individual three act “skeletons” and drop sentences into the cells as I discover the story. I’m a discovery writer who needs some structure to hang on to here and there throughout the process, typically at the transition into each act, where I plug in enough to get me started. Then I let go of the railing and write in bursts until the next pause. It must be working – from Canticle forward, my books have landed within a few thousand words of my goal.
For short stories, the process is less structured and I’m more of a “pantser” tearing through the story quickly and holding it all in my head while I do so. Sometimes I know the front, sometimes the back, sometimes the character, sometimes the place. But it is always the notion of putting a character in conflict and forcing them to solve a problem in a heuristic process. My short stories tend to be a bit literary in flavor with a solidly speculative angle.
So that’s me. I’m grateful to Amelia for asking me to the party. Next up is my very first writing pal and my best friend, John “J.A.” Pitts.
John learned to love science fiction at the knee of his grandmother, listening to her read authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard during his childhood in rural Kentucky.
He lives his life surrounded by books and story. Selling his own tales still comes as a surprise to him.
The first three books in the Sarah Beauhall urban fantasy series are out from Tor Books.
His first short story collection, Bravado’s House of Blues, came out fall of 2013 from Fairwood Press.
John has won the Spectrum award for best novel and landed on the American Library Association’s Over the Rainbow book list twice for his representation of GLBTQ characters in his work.
Watch for his post next Monday at http://japitts.net.