Monday, June 11, 2018

A Thousand Ways to Story: Lace and Blade 4 Authors Talk About Writing Process

 Judith Tarr: 
[How do I write?] Horribly slowly now, but it still works, after a fashion. I get ideas and prompts from all kinds of places. I keep a file of them, multiple files in fact, and when one really needs to have a story, I pull it out and make notes and brainstorm and throw things together and see what comes of it. I do outline, but it's an ongoing, circular, organic process, which grows and changes as the characters wake up and start talking (or often yelling), and the settings make themselves visible, and the gears of story--the friction, the "what does this character want?" and "what are the stakes here?" questions that move it all forward--start to turn. Sometimes in totally unexpected directions.

With this story, I had a visual first, a scene viewed from above. Then I became aware of the viewpoint, and the character started telling me the story. I knew what had to happen in the end, but not how to get there, until I started telling the story. The resolution didn't come clear until I wrote the scene. What I thought was going to happen was not what actually happened at all.

Carol Berg: 
I’m an organic story developer, that is I start with a character in a situation and enough thinking about the world, cultures, and characters to put down the first scene. The act of writing that scene gives me ideas for moving forward in plot, characters, and world development, so that by the time I’m halfway in, I’ve got lots of notes about what needs to happen next. Every day, I read what I wrote the previous day, getting it right enough I can charge forward toward a climax that, so far, has made itself apparent by the time I get there. Revision is my friend and delight!

Marie Brennan:
I am such a night owl. Such a night owl. As I type these words, it's almost 11:30 at night, and this is the warm-up work I'm doing before settling in to put more words on the current story. I'll probably go to bed between 2 and 3 a.m. This has been my habit since college, and I've been lucky that, barring a few summer jobs with very early start times, I've been able to maintain my preferred schedule for basically my entire adult life.

As for the stories themselves, I am much more of a discovery writer than an outliner, though lately I've been working on some collaborative projects where outlining is a necessity. I can do that if I have to, but I prefer when possible to figure out my story as I go along -- that way I stay excited about it, rather than feeling like I'm just filling in the blanks.

Dave Smeds: 
At first I wrote to prove I could do it. Next I wrote to earn money. Both motivations, in my view, demanded that I write the best work I could, so in that respect, I have no regrets. But I write now with the awareness that an author of fiction has an obligation to inject meaning into an essentially meaningless universe. That’s our job as human beings. We are creatures of pattern recognition. It’s our chief survival trait. But a fiction writer must do it better than anyone. Hard to do. However, at this point in my life I’ve proven I can write many types of fiction and I’m at a point where I don’t need the money, really, so what keeps me putting the words down on the chance it will move a reader in a way that would not have happened otherwise. As said, hard to do. I try anyway.

My process would drive any other writer nuts, I suspect. The ideas — whether it is for a scene, a character, a setting, a plot, a premise — bubble up and I go with what fascinates me at the moment. I see the whole story as a piece and fill in the pieces almost randomly as if assembling a jigsaw puzzle. I might write the ending first. I might write a little bit that fits two-thirds of the way along. Often I will start at the beginning, but it’s just about unheard of that I proceed from page one to the end in chronological order. I think that’s happened only three or four times in forty-seven years of writing, and only with very short pieces.

Doranna Durgin:
I write what I do because it’s all inside me, and possibly I would explode if I didn’t find a way to let it out. And I also write what I do because authors before me have made me feel the wonder of their worlds, and I want more than anything to share the wonders I feel from my stories, too. And I write because I want to explore and reveal things I think are important—things we’ve forgotten about our world, through alternative lenses.

How my work differs [from others’] as I go about that is, I think, a reflection of how and where I’ve always lived—I’m an environmental ed major and former park naturalist who’s always lived as close to the real world as possible. Once upon a time, that meant a log cabin on a hundred acres of Appalachian mountainside where I interacted with more critters than humans. Since then I’ve immersed myself in the land on SW Virginia farm acreage (and spent my summers sleeping in a wee tent anyway) followed by rural high altitude desert foothills. Always close to my animals—horses and dogs--and training them, an avocation that led me to the current pack of four that includes the most highly performance-titled Beagle breed champion in the nation. I think this immersion—combined with a neurosensory syndrome—provides a framework for my work that likely differs from other approaches.

Pat MacEwen: 
I’ve had a checkered career that includes degrees in marine biology and anthropology. I’ve also got a sordid past in forensics and war crimes investigations. So I’m a science and history geek with an abiding interest in how things and people and other creatures work, in how they can all go massively wrong, and how we survive it when they do. I like to use arcane bits of biology, and real events and people, and sometimes my old cases, and then ask questions that never come up in mainstream lit. What if the latest group of refugees in your home town are elves? How do you solve crimes involving magic? How do you, as a woman with strong maternal instincts, deal with an alien race that has no concept of mothers but their children are in peril? What is the right thing to do if your own freedom requires enslaving another species?

Marella Sands:
I write fantasy and horror, but the fantasy gets darker all the time. Not sure why, except that I'm pretty happy with my real life, so it's kind of fun to explore the dark recesses of the mind. When I'm not happy, I don't want to write about dark things. My writers group says my horror is different because I don't flinch. So, for what it's worth, that's the feedback I get from those who see my early drafts.

It really depends on what I'm writing. If it's historical, I end up doing a lot (maybe months) of research first. If it's horror, then I might just delve right in because I want to capture the character, setting, and mood that have hit me before I get distracted by the next thing. Then I try to write maybe 2000 words a day for 5-6 days a week. That's not always practical, of course, especially during the semesters when I have papers to grade and classes to prepare for. But you gotta have goals!

No comments:

Post a Comment