I’ve been tagged in the Speculative Fiction Blog Hop by Kevin Hardman! Kevin writes some kick-ass superhero fiction, and is author of the Kid Sensation and Warden series. You can read his blog hop entry and find out more about his work here.
So here we go!
1. What am I working on?
Right now I’m working on two new projects, both still in first draft. And while they generally stick to my favourite format – young adult, female protagonist – they’re both challenging me to get out of my comfort zone. The first is a fantasy novella, which is my go-to genre, but has a lot more action than I’m used to writing! This story follows a headstrong teen with a rocky relationship with her dad as she’s pulled into a fantasy world and blackmailed into helping a witch. It’s a bit of a tribute to the surreal adventure fantasy stories I grew up reading and watching: Alice in Wonderland, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Spirited Away, Pan’s Labyrinth and so on. It’s very visual, which is a challenge, but it’s a lot of fun.
The second project is really new for me: science fiction. I’ve always enjoyed reading and watching it, but writing is definitely a new challenge. And one that I’m really, really enjoying. This is also the first in a trilogy, which means a new way of plotting and a new way of structuring my story. It’s tricky to leave the book on enough of a cliffhanger to keep your readers crying out for the next book while still making it feel like a complete book so they don’t feel cheated. I’m enjoying working on this book so much, but it’s a little bit early in the process to outline the plot for you. But the trilogy as a whole will be a little bit space action, a little bit dystopian rat race, a little bit colonisation adventure. It’s also giving me a great excuse to watch my favourite sci-fi movies and Cosmos.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I can’t say for sure that it makes me unique among other YA spec-fic writers, but the things I really focus on in my work are interesting and diverse characters, with a focus on women protagonists, and I really try to make sure there are consequences for my characters actions. I like active protagonists who make choices, good or bad, and have to deal with the fallout or unexpected rewards. And romance usually takes a backseat in my stories, which in young adult is apparently a bit weird, even though I’d argue that the romantic storyline in books like The Hunger Games has been way overblown for what’s actually in the text.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I love the optimism of young adult works. I love the urgency, the young characters trying their best to navigate a world and situations they might not have a great deal of experience and perspective on. Young people have enormous fortitude and bravery, and their ability to adapt makes for such great character and story potential. Young adult fiction still has such a bad rap for being frivolous or light reading and it’s not, as some like to say, the best time of our lives, but it is where we do so much of our growing and where we shape our perspectives. Youth is about possibility and hoping for the best. And call me a sucker, but I like to find hope even in the darkest settings.
As for the spec-fic side of things, I like the opportunity to create worlds that look a little better than the one I live in. I like to see diversity of race, gender, sexuality. I like monsters, I like magic, I like beautiful things that turn out to be dangerous and ugly things that turn out to be something special. I like that I can write about wonderful women who aren’t considered an exception, but are in good company. Speculative fiction is about freedom of imagination, asking ‘what if?’ It’s what started my love of reading, and it’s what led to my love of writing.
4. How does my writing process work?
A little differently for every book! But it averages out to this: I usually begin with an image of a character in a situation. For The Edge of the Woods it was Emma standing in front of a boy, a row of trees dividing them. For my sci-fi, it was a girl alone on a space shuttle, and for my fantasy adventure it was a girl and a monster facing off with a witch.
From there, I ask questions to unravel the story: who is this person? How did they into that situation? What do they want? I end up with some answers, some scene ideas, maybe a beginning or ending or random bits in between, and it lets me figure out what happens to get this character from what I already know, and what happens to them on the way. At the end of that, I have a pretty good idea of who my protagonist is, and the overall shape of the story.
Then I write the first draft, which is the longest part of the process for me, even though I write very short first drafts – in The Edge of the Woods I added over 30,000 words in the editing! My first drafts leave out a lot of detail and world building and focus on story and character. Does the arc work? Is the pacing good? Do the events logically flow? I take the time to work on the bones of the story so that when it comes to the editing – my favourite part – I can let myself go and indulge in building the book over the top, knowing my story and character journey is in solid shape. This is where I fill in character development, work on my supporting characters, paint the visuals, choose the right words, add new scenes and work on foreshadowing and consistency. And then, when I’ve done as much as I can do myself, I work with an editor to make sure the story actually works as well as I think it does, make any changes, send it out to a few beta readers (I do this the other way round to a lot of writers – I prefer to edit first, beta second) who also act as proofreaders, send it to an actual proofreader, proofread myself and enlist a friend or two to check for errors. And then it’s off to the formatter, and then I publish! And somewhere in there I hire a cover artist.
It’s kind of a long and involved process, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable publishing my work with any less. Maybe when I’m a little more experienced it’ll streamline itself, but for now I’m very happy with the way I work, and it means I can feel confident about the quality of my books and be proud to put them out into the world with my name on them.
And… end of blog hop.
I’m tagging sci-fi whiz Vincent Trigili to go next! Vincent is a father and husband of nearly two decades and holds degrees in both Maths and Computer Science. He got his start in writing fiction as a small child, losing himself in the worlds he dreamed up in order to escape the doldrums of normal life. Now, using his formal education and extensive career experience, he excels in creating fictional worlds of depth and rich fantasy, while maintaining a foundation of reality based on science and technology.
You can read his blog hop entry next week, but until then you can check out his blog and his books at the losttalesofpower.com.