Welcome to this tour of my brain. Hopefully it will provide some enlightenment as to my writing process, or at least supply more data for my future commitment proceedings. I lead with a current picture of myself in my writing attire. If you suspect I’m pushing the definition of “current” too far, then I’ll have to assume you’re a causality nerd. Personally, I never get hung up on reality.
I’ve been tagged into this circulating blog post hoopla by that lovely and talented lady of letters, Jessica Schmeidler aka The Write Shadow. Jessica is one of the most kinetic, bright and altogether lovable persons in the writing universe. Follow her blog and twitter feed; her knowledge and passion for the written word will inspire and enlighten you. Better yet, visit Anaiah Press and pick up one of the fantastic books she gave life to as managing editor of several imprints.
Now the obligatory quote for this blog hop thingamabob: “We writers share these things, but informally during workshops and at conferences (and, for a handful of established writers, in printed interviews), but not so much through our open-forum blogs. With the hashtag #MyWritingProcess, you can learn how writers all over the world answer the same four questions. How long it takes one to write a novel, why romance is a fitting genre for another, how one’s playlist grows as the draft grows, why one’s poems are often sparked by distress over news headlines or oddball facts learned on Facebook…”
Now for my answers to those four magic questions:
What am I working on?
I’m looking for representation for a recently finished work, Beyond the Stars, that uses fiction to explore the intersection of cutting edge physics and religion. As for actual writing, I’m spelunking through the mountain of research I accumulated on serial killers for Beyond the Stars to create a short (maybe) story with an unhinged protagonist. Why waste all that crazy? As for longer works, I’m starting a massive rewrite on a novel about the next stage of human evolution. I first wrote this novel years ago, but a number of life-gets-in-the-way issues caused me to stuff it in the closet and mostly forget about it. On taking it out again recently, I discovered two things: 1) I missed an opportunity to exploit a huge hidden theme, and 2) that I’ve become a better writer in the interim (or perhaps just more delusional). So I dumped it into Scrivener and am treating it as a massively detailed outline. I hope this makes for a shorter writing process, but who knows.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
To test the character of a human being, you have to change something and see how that person reacts. You can learn a lot about a person (or persons) this way. I use fiction to ponder how life might change in the future, and how the human experience might differ. I take something on the cutting edge of real science, something that changes things in a profound way, then ask what this might mean for human beings. I then seek out the characters who would suffer most in this future reality, and use them as the vehicle for the story. If all these choices are made well, then the story can shine a unique light on the human experience. A good example of this method is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. He takes a tired old SF trope, clones, and makes it unique by diving deep into his characters to see what it might really be like.
Why do I write what I do?
I’m one of those annoying folks who can’t stop wondering what the deeper meaning of life and the universe might be. This is actually how I became a physicist. Physics is the most basic study of the universe, so I naturally gravitated to it in my quest for answers. What I ultimately discovered, is that human being are still very primitive creatures. Human efforts to truly understand the universe are barely off the starting line. So in the absence of concrete facts, what do you do? For me, the answer was to start asking what if, and trying to logically follow the consequences. Unfortunately, with the primitive state of science today, one can only go so far. In my opinion, not far enough. So then you can only speculate, basically jump off the deep end of science. This leaves one in the realm of fiction, trying to divine a few extra hints about those deeper meanings. Thus, I write what I do.
How does my writing process work?
Wow. This question is basically asking me to unravel the Gordian knot of my own mind. Okay, I’ll take a shot.
Since you are on this site, you already know that my “day job” is nuclear physics. As you’d likely guess, this keeps me well informed about the goings-on at the cutting edge of science. So I have no end of ideas about how our improving understanding of science might change the world in the future. However, only those ideas that might change the human experience in significant ways are potential stories. Still, for me, this doesn’t narrow the possibilities very far. So I focus on those ideas that resonate with me emotionally. Now the pile of ideas is getting smaller. From this point, I wait until inspiration hits me about a character who would really suffer because of one of these ideas. Now I’m ready to write.
The actual way I write is always changing. My family and my physics career take up most of my waking time. So I have to write around those parts of my life. The drive is strong, however, so it always comes to pass that I find the time to write somewhere. As to what I’m writing about at any given time, the answer is usually several things. In general, I usually have one short story and a novel in the actual writing phase, with another novel early in the research and outlining phase. There are also a number of story ideas that I’m jotting notes about as they occur to me. Inspiration chooses which of these projects I actually pick up at any given time. So in summary, chaos.
I’m tagging the following fantastic writers into the #MyWritingProcess fun and games:
@Mary L/Marissa C has a wonderful split personality, writing as both Mary Lindsey and Marissa Clarke. I’ve recently read her novel Ashes on the Waves, based on Edgar Allen Poe’s Annabelle Lee. This beautiful novel transported me back to reading Poe for the first time as a child, magically atmospheric. A must-read for a Poe nut like me. Her latest as Marissa Clarke, Sleeping with the Boss, comes out August 11th. Happy book birthday!
@LisaAnnOKane is the Twitter handle for Lisa Ann O’Kane, who describes herself as a former vagabond and has life experiences that read like a novel. So I guess it’s no surprise that her first novel Essence, just released on June 3rd, is based on those experiences. Follow the link and read her blog, or better yet buy the book, and be prepared for a wild ride!
@and I worked together a few years back as scientists. Nick Tran uses real science as the jumping-off point in his fiction, a quirk that I share. Stop by his blog or follow his twitter feed to experience the incredible range of Nick’s interests. Better yet, pick up his novel The Cartesian Machine to travel to the borderline of science and beyond.