Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My (Bizarre, Embarassing, Illustrated) Writing Process

Well, guys, let me tell you: when my good buddies Daniel Bensen and Libby McGugan tagged me into this fun little game, I wasn't sure what to write.  It sounds dumb, but I've been having so much fun lately that I'm half-wondering if everyone is grinding their teeth at what an insufferable bloviating ass I've become, and it's kind of hard to follow that up with "but let's talk more about what's really important here: me."

Nevertheless: the name of the game is #MyWritingProcess, and I am excited to play!

What am I working on?

The sequel to One Night in Sixes, enticingly titled Medicine for the Dead.  It's already written, but I'm hoping to do a bit more spit-and-polish between now and August.

100% unofficial sneak cover preview!
How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Oh, golly.  Well, if the genre is "epic fantasy", then I guess my books have an exceptionally high Stetson quotient.  If the genre is "fantasy Western", then about the most I can say is that I'm less interested in black hats, white hats, six-guns and monsters than I am in using fantasy power (magic) as a way to think about real-world power (identity and culture, and how those can be used for good or evil.)  And so we arrive at "rural fantasy": a sorcerous, dust-crusted tale in which we don't spend much time dancing with wolves or defending winsome ranchers' daughters, but still manage to have one hair-raising hell of a time.

Why do I write what I do?

Well, I love writing, and early reports indicate that it's even more fun when people like your writing and will even pay you for it!

But to be honest, what I'm really in love with is the idea that... you know, every plot device in the world has been used since Aristotle was a lad - but not so for people.  Even in 2014, there are SO many people who see themselves in fiction very rarely, badly, or not at all.  And the realization that there are still millions of readers who are desperately thirsty to see themselves as center-stage heroes and villains and romantic ideals is a tremendous shame - but also a stunning opportunity.  It is a gold-filigree promise that there are LOTS of fresh new stories itching to be told - and the thought that I could contribute, even a little bit, to filling some of these huge gaping empty spaces on our bookshelves is such a powerful draw.  It's the one thing that makes this what I'm doing feel bigger than me and my own ego - and if I manage to write something that brings even one new fan in to the fantasy aisle, I will know for a fact that I have Done Good.

How does my writing process work?

Well, I feel a bit unqualified to talk like I have some kind of System, because in a lot of ways, this still feels like my first-ever project.  But if you want to follow the Tex Thompson Winning Formula for Writers™, here it is!

1.  Spend last two years of high school (1999-2000) writing massive, 170,000-word fantasy novel, set in Vaguely Plastic Medieval Animeland.  Draw and model characters in animation class.

Seriously, guys - it was REALLY anime.
(But Elim was cute even way back when.)

2.  Four-year hiatus for college and Everquest.  (2000-2004.)

Sorry / not sorry.

3. Take a year and a half to reboot the story in "started-as-outline-and-mutated-into-weirdly-crappy-screenplay" format.  (2004-2005)


4.  Two-year hiatus to finish grad school and attempt employment.  (2005-2007)

5.  Get the idea to ditch Vaguely Plastic Medieval Animeland and try setting the story in a world based on the American Southwest.

Winter view from the Acoma Sky City in New Mexico. 
It's amazing what happens when you leave your hobbit-hole to see the world.

6.  Take three and a half years to write a 314,309-word doorstopper of a tome, while working in food service. (2007-2010)

Hair net optional. Smokes on the loading dock required.
7.  Realize that you are neither Patrick Rothfuss nor Susanna Clarke, and cannot pitch a 300,000-word novel with a straight face.

8.  Break off first third, and spend two years rewriting and revising it in the Cave of Solitude.  (2010-2012)

Which occasionally doubles as the Cave of Obstructive Neediness.

9.  Make New Year's Resolution to grow a personality. (2012)

10.  Join writers' workshop in January (2012), attend writers' conference in May, sign with Agent of Your Dreams in August, go out on submission in January (2013), sign with Fairy Godpublisher in July for release in July (2014).  Commence building a massive vault for wallowing in future royalty checks.

(work in progress)

And that brings us to today, gentle friends.  Medicine for the Dead is the second piece of that original 300,000-word monstrosity, completely rewritten and slated for release in March 2015.  Lord willing and the creek don't rise, we'll be able to do the as-yet-unnamed Return of the Jedi the year after.

And while I imagine that all this above is of extraordinarily limited utility to anyone who isn't me, I would like to state for the record that:
  • you totally can write a 300,000-word book and get it published (just maybe not all at once.)
  • you totally can sell your first-ever story (just maybe not in its first-ever incarnation.)
  • you totally can go from completely clueless newbie to reasonably bad-ass writer. (It just might take you ten or fifteen years to do it.)
So if that affords any comfort to anybody who's still running that first long race, then by all means - let me be the dixie-cup of Powerade you throw in your face on your way to deathless glory!

And introducing...

Three of my great friends and fellow fantasians, who will be posting their own #MyWritingProcess entries soon.  Beat the rush and check out their blogs: it's too late to say you knew them before they were cool, but you definitely want to be able to say you knew them before they were mainstream!

Born in 1987, Hackney, London, Shay suffered a major mishap at the age of two when she came across a pencil and sheet of paper. Twenty odd years later, you could say the result from that encounter was having her right hand replaced with a Bic Pen - blue if she can help it. (Hence her Blue Bic Blog and chic matching @bluebicblog)

As a stay at home mum raising a crazier reincarnation of herself, Shay often delves into the world of Young Adult/Adult Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but when escapism is compulsory, she’s not afraid to pen the wEiRd either…

Mom of 2, wife of 1 and aspiring writer of fiction. Veena loves writing about vampires, werewolves and female heroines who are kick-ass, flawed and always breaking the rules.  Find her at VeenaKashyap.com and on Twitter as @VeenaKWriter and @AuthorVisitsVK

David Goodner’s life-long love of books has carried him through a degree in English from UTA and over a decade of cataloging in the Arlington Public Library.  His love of storytelling has carried him through 30+ years of gaming and writing.

He writes speculative fiction that’s a little (okay, a lot) off kilter both for adults and for children.  He’s on the board of the DFW Writers Workshop, which is not as impressive as it sounds.

Check him out at davidgoodner.com.  Follow him on twitter @RDGoodner.  He’ll probably follow you back.

When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, lad: the strongest castle in all of England.


  1. Ya know, I think there's a reason I bonded with you at DFWcon. We both started out in anime-world-land with our writing, though my Mary Sue Sailor Moon rip-off won't ever see the light of day. :-)

    1. aMEN to that! I have a folder called "Horrible, Horrible Fanfiction (Never Read These)" - unbearable, yet undeletable.

      And so we're clear: Sailor Jupiter was totally the coolest.

    2. I'm a Sailor V fan myself. :-) Sailor Moon is being aired on Hulu right now, and a new reboot is coming out this summer in Japan which will air on the internet simultaneously world wide with subtitles. In case you're interested. :-)

    3. Am I?!

      (Spoiler: it is physically impossible for me to be more interested. My interest is as a bubble-eyed, fuku-wearing entity unto itself. Wait? I cannot possibly!)

  2. Here's the deets:


  3. I had a Sims hiatus. Nice journey... and entertaining.

    1. Ohh, the Sims - boy, you're lucky you made it out alive. Those funny warbling e-people are like sirens for the modern age!

  4. Wooow.

    Re: Step 3 - I knew your book was an X-Man!

    Re: Step 8 - it just occurred to me that with that box under your keyboard you could totally fill it with some strength boosting liquid of choice and work a tube-y straw up to your mouth. And/or cut the front open so you can stash a bowl of snacks... and/or Peaches. Makes me feel cheated that my 'box' is the printer...

    And as for splitting up your epic literature brick, well... more books = more money. Can't be all bad.

    OMG CANNOT WAIT TO READ BOOK 2. Elim's exposed shin is beguiling me - and is that Miz Boone I see up ahead?!

    (Also, may the spirit of the Boone forgive me for spelling her name wrong in my last post. I sacrificed three bags of carrots and one of apples at her saddle-shaped altar.)

    <3, Frankles

    1. Haha, it's all good, Frankles! She can't read, so she has no idea. (And sadly, I no longer have that setup - that's from the old apartment - but you should totally check out the new one!)

      Thanks much for the email, by the way - equally ecstatic reply coming back at you ASAP!

    2. Wow. That thing rocks! And hey, I can see a copy of Pokemon X in your shelf!

      <3 Frankles

  5. I can't believe how many breaks you took! Did you stop writing completely in those times or was it a thing where you always plotted but never filled out a book?
    The longest I've ever gone without writing was two years...it was a depressing time :(

    1. Oh, not at all! Writing college papers sucked up a lot of my juice, but the rest went to online roleplaying games - and not, like, EverQuest, but forum-based text RPs where I would spend hours a night writing as my character. (The old boards are pretty much gone now, but here's a still-living example: The Hammel Institute.) It was great, because it kept me writing and polished my prose enormously, but it was also a really social thing (and since I was only in charge of my character and not the whole story, it was a LOT of fun.) I miss it more than I can say. Like, I LOVE what I'm doing now, but you know how lonely this gig can be!

    2. Don't I just. It's great when you're winning, when most of the glory is yours, but when you feel like you're being left behind, yeah, it's pretty lonely.

      That link is broken by the way:( I'm actually interested in what all this RPing is about so I'm googling it anyway :D