I’ve been tagged. By which, of course, I mean that I woke up in my backyard with a floppy plastic card dangling from my earlobe and a radio transmitter affixed around my neck. It wasn’t painful, but I’d still like to have a word with fellow Billings author and inimitable raconteur Craig Lancaster (www.craig-lancaster.com) for giving my name, location, and species to the alien biologists who are clearly responsible. But why do aliens care about such things as the work habits of individual human authors? The answer should terrify us all…
Ow. The collar just shocked me. I think I’d better get on with answering their specific questions.
1) What are you working on?
I’m currently writing Belief: Book Two of the Vanilla Cycle, the sequel to Legitimacy. I've chronicaled the state and origins of this book in this previous post.
Belief picks up the story a year after the events of Legitimacy. CEO Matthew Valdosky has been called before a UN Investigative Committee to answer for the Valdosky Company’s role in the Angel-37 asteroid colony disaster. But before he testifies, he learns from an unexpected source that accepting the blame and resigning will play right into the hands of Dwight Yarrow and the NAIAD group conspiracy. Changing his mind may not be that easy, though. Matthew has his own secrets to hide — secrets that could shake civilization to its very foundations.
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I write science fiction. I love science fiction. However, with the exception of a few key authors, I don’t actually follow the genre very closely, nor do I adhere to any trend or subgenre. My reading list tends to be very eclectic. I’ll read almost anything and seek out good stories anywhere I can. I’m often inspired by works outside my genre. Most notably (or egregiously), I borrowed liberally from the plot and themes of W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage as I wrote the character of Teague Werres for Legitimacy.
I prefer to write hard, near-future science fiction, where the technologies seem plausible and the future history feels possible. However, I’m not a scientist. Rather than fill the worlds I create with minute scientific details, I allow my characters to experience new technologies as would any consumer at any point in history. Yes, certain technologies may impact my characters’ lives, but I work hard to let my characters drive their stories. Science fiction is at its worst when it’s the other way around.
3) Why do you write what you do?
As a reader, I cut my teeth on science fiction, so it feels like home. But I’ve found that sci-fi is a wonderful tool for safely exploring many facets of the human experience. Writers can explore even the touchiest of subjects without breaching taboos or causing direct offense. And, done well, sci-fi rises above simple allegory and can touch off discussions that actually impact humanity’s future. I would love to start one of those discussions.
I also love epic, sweeping tales, but I’m as much a historian as a scientist. Science fiction conveniently frees me to sprawl my stories across time and space without having to adhere to all those pesky historical facts.
4) How does your writing process work?
Like a charm… ZZZZzzzttt. Sorry.
I’ve been teaching myself the craft of writing for the past few years, and I’ve experimented with many strategies for getting through a manuscript. I’ve yet to hit on a single successful process. I outline when I feel I need to, but just as often, I write from my head (or the seat of my pants, as the writers’ trope goes). I begin with a large sense of each book: the cast of characters, the basic plot, backstories, themes, and where I’d like it to end. On my first pass, I tend to include everything, and as such, I create bloated first drafts that contain way, way more than will ever see a Kindle screen. I’ve tried to write leaner, but when I’m flowing, it all just comes out, and it just feels wrong to staunch anything.
I know it’s cliché, but it’s during the revising phase that the real writing happens for me. This was one of the toughest things for me to learn. When I started writing, I wanted my prose to flow forth, needing only a snip here and a tuck there. I hated the idea of touching my words once they were on the page; they seemed so right at the time. But I’ve learned to hone, trim, cut, paste, slash, burn, gnash, gnaw, chew, spit, and polish, and have grown unafraid to do whatever I need to do to get things right. And now, after having gone through the process a couple of times, I live by it. In fact, don’t tell anyone, but I enjoy revision as much as, if not more than, filling a blank page.
This can be a slow process, but I’m also beginning to understand more what works and what doesn’t. Each new first draft is just a little less onerous than the last.
I’m suddenly getting a message. The aliens are telling me that I’m supposed to pass on the names of a few other fellow authors for tagging. I sure hope they’re not going to come down and probe me for this, but I’m going to have to defer this now. I’ve put some feelers out, but I’m leaving on vacation soon, and this will post before I can include their names. I’ll update with a few names when I’m able.
So there, aliens, I’ve done what you asked, and have provided you with the data you require for your nefarious study. Now, please come back. This collar’s getting kind of itchy.
Craig Lancaster's alien study data can be read here: http://www.craig-lancaster.com/2014/06/05/waiting-for-the-wait-to-stop-my-writing-process/ He, in turn, was tagged by Montana author David Abrams, whose entry can be found here: http://davidabramsbooks.blogspot.com/2014/05/screen-staring-and-hand-cramps-my-stop.html
I’d also like to acknowledge author Marsheila Rockwell, a friend of my wife’s, for kindly tagging me with this meme back in March. Of course, I promptly neglected to actually write anything then, but I thank her for not setting aliens on me for her trouble. Her write-up can be found here: http://mrockwell.livejournal.com/172427.html