My #writingprocess (#bloghop)

If you were brought here by this guy, I have to say that calling me a "sci-fi virtuoso" is [CHUCKLES] a bit much.

It is, however, a neat marketing trick coz my current work in progress IS a sci-fi novel, set primarily in late twenty-first century Dublin.

Not done yet!

Yusuf Brandon Toropov's finely-honed, beautiful novel is up for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, one of a small fraction of the original entrants. His style of writing isn't of the minimalist kind en vogue at the moment. But I've had the immense privilege to critique some of his work. I've seen his process and by golly, it works a treat. His assiduous dedication would put John Banville to shame. (Banville claims to work a paragraph a day. He is also, apparently, a notorious curmudgeon of a soul. Little wonder. Yusuf ISN'T. He does, however, have high expectations of fellow writers.)

            a) What am I working on?

A slightly dystopic time-travel novel, set primarily in Dublin and in space, in the 2090s, called The Quantum Eavesdropper.

            b) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Specific to Quantum: Trying to straddle the realism of Arthur C. Clarke and the absurdity of Douglas Adams. So there are quips, setpieces, slapstick, and [deep breath] OTT-postmodern-Tarantinoesque violence, but I'd hope the Earth and its universe have a consistent, geopolitical and sciencey realism to them amongst all that absurdity. (The gravity always works when it should, and so too do the pratfalls.) I'm sure there are sci-fi authors whose work is more similar to mine.

            c) Why do I write what I do?
Because Brandon and fantasy writer LT Dalin. (Her name's Liv. She's not a lieutenant. She's a gigantically talented writer of a fantasy trilogy that kicks off at a mental hospital and then goes into a wondrous kingdom where our creatures of legend actually live.) I said to them I hadn't written a substantial narrative for a couple of years, and they said "Get writing." After the first novel failed to take off, I started into Quantum. Their criticisms have been great and they're two super CPs. (I mean of course Cutie Pies, not Critique Partners.)

More broadly, I often write a piece when I have so many ideas / lines / gags / plot details / incidents for it that I just have to get started. This may be through forced focus or else these inspirations may come without asking.

For example, a short story about the social normativity of child molestation in some parts of Afghanistan *which I'd read about* is teased out to ask What if the only non-pedophile policeman working alongside the coalition forces is actually jubble-dobbing for the Taliban? (I know what I said. It's how I say it. And I'm a bit sensitive about it.)

For another example, a short story in which a protagonist's name not fitting into a field on a computer form *which happened in real life* relates via flashback to his childhood self not fitting through a fence in a field, nor his character fitting into society.

Occasionally, I will wake up and scribble on a pad after thinking about a plot for a day or more, or if an idea just strikes me. If I am scribbling for more than a few minutes, or I keep picking up the pen again, it's time to boot up.

            d) How does my writing process work?

MJ Bush uses writerly vocab. I learn new words from her site all the time. So "pantsing". Not really planning at all. As in "seat-of-the-pants" and "flying by the".

I know where things are going, mind you, broadly, for The Quantum Eavesdropper! Promethean themes, and hubris, and existential anxieties and what not, and: Will our hero escape from the edge of "Absolute Reality" type stuff?

Right now, I'm trying to juggle with the science bit and hoping that the characters are gonna work it out amongst themselves. But I'll have to re-draft, of course. 80,000 words into the first draft. 10,000 words of bits and bobs of the next chapters. Filling in the gaps right now.

Issues I've had so far is that Tremayne is stuck at a black hole. Before this, on Earth, the Americans and the Russians want to have words with him. Actually, it's more tha-an [ANOTHER DEEP BREATH. FALSETTO] WO-O-O,-O-O-O---UHHH-Uhhh, uh uhrrrds.

TREMAYNE doesn't yet know he's a "time-traveler", in the future. So he's being bounced from Billy to Jack while working on a case in Dublin, he's apprehended and brought to Moscow, and then RENDERED by the cybermen of the CIA. He doesn't have a motivation beyond survival.


"Stop throwing extra balls at the juggler!" I roar.

Seriously, though, Brandon's assistance has been invaluable in providing a lot more clarity for any potential reader.
Brandon does NOT like my pantsing process. He would happily/grudgingly spend hours discussing characters' arcs and motivations, as long as I reach objectives for them. So he DOES have endless patience in many respects.

BTW, fellow Pantser Paul Kater has just posted about this. (I will approach him about forming a Pantser Division. We're not even Nazis.)

"Monty" Montgomery: Fighting Nazis.

Post BTW, I usually write short stories rather than novels. So pantsing is - I'd suggest - far more acceptable when writing short fiction.

And I AM using an exercise to develop a villain in the novel, based on Lauren Sapala's Writing Process post, which I imagine is the sort of thing non-pansters would do.

Another excellent Cutie Pie is Safie Maken Finlay: SMF. She's one Slick Mother, if you catch me. Her positive notes were a much-needed boost a couple of months back, when I was stalling. She has her own novel for ALL the ages, The Galian Spear, from nine-year-olds up, and from pre-diluvian times to the present-day. Its excellent writing - alongside touches of the historical and mythical, and mytho-historical, and the mystical hysterical, with the gaping eye of some kind of a tectonic evil godhead in it, summoned from the bowels of the Earth, and lots and lots of stuff - make it gander-friendly for both adults and kids.

Feedback is very important on an extended narrative, although I've had little of it on novels in the past until I have completed them. The Cutie Pie, beta-reading scheme is quite a new concept to me.  But it's very beneficial.

Anyway, enough of the shout-outs! I am such a buttlicker!

I'd like to see the processes of these mind-blowingly amazing writers:

John Wiswell - whose blogposts have occasionally caused me to flip out, with flash fic that resembles those optical illusions where if you focus on the shading of the image you initially look at, it's a whole nother picture at the end. (I think he is - actually - a sci-fi virtuoso.)

John is an American Fantasy writer fast at work on a series about thieves in the Post-Post-Post-Post-Apocalypse. He's written for Weird Tales, SF Signal and Flash Fiction Online, and blogs at The Bathroom Monologues. He firmly believes tentacle monsters can be domesticated.

Sean Farrell at Pale Outlaw - whose current work-in-progress is a crime-fiction narrative - set in Eastern Europe - and is very strong indeed, from what little I've seen. Other than great story, his readers learning about the Baltic states is a massive USP. Sean is also a journalist. The richness of his news pieces is partly due to his citations of recent history, Ireland's current affairs from two or ten or thirty years back. Writing about the present-day state of the country, he often revivifies and tickles my old memory-noggin-pathways in a way that is rare in the Irish newspapers I get inboxed. I'm very grateful to have found this work, alongside the gripping fiction he has shared. As you will note from his bio, he has lived a pretty interesting life thus far:

Retired Irish diplomat. Posts included Ambassador to Estonia, Moldova, Director, Irish Abroad, Consul General Chicago, DHOM Anglo Irish Secretariat, Belfast, ECMM Peace Monitor, Croatia and Bosnia, plus London, Washington D.C., The Hague, PRB Brussels, UNGA New York. Since retirement have produced a monthly comment column for the Irish American News and regularly review books for the Irish Independent as well as Irish radio. Have published non – fiction articles in the Irish Independent, Irish Times and Ireland’s Own.  M.A. History. Interests include Music, Chess, Reading, Writing, Tennis, Philately, mild Bibliophile. Married Elizabeth Margaret 1971, three children.

Joe Alfonse, who has a terrific premise for a historical novel set in the late nineteenth century United States! Joe is based in Lexington MA. He's a high school science teacher and dedicated educator who was unsure about whether to do the blog hop due to his time constraints. Happily, he's been in touch and greenlit the thing!

Here's Joe's bio:

I was born and raised outside of Boston in the early 1960’s, the youngest of four children. I attended public schools for the early part of my upbringing then moved into the Catholic School System for my middle and high school years. This coincided with the Boston ‘Busing Crisis’ providing me the opportunity to meet many inner-city kids that bailed out of the Boston Schools so they wouldn’t have to suffer ‘desegregation’.

At the end of my high school education, I had saved just enough money to attend one semester of College before being bereft of funds. Once the money ran out, as the son of a former WWII Marine, the next logical step for me was to join the military, which I did enlisting in the U.S. Air Force in the spring of 1981. Prior to even making it to basic training, I learned another lesson in life in: Never enlist in the ‘undecided’ category, the service can choose what they want you to do instead of me deciding what I want to do for a career path.

Fortunately for me, just two weeks prior to Basic Training while playing basketball, I severely injured my ankle which released me from my Air Force contract.  It took almost 6 months in a cast and a lot of rehab but during which time I did a lot more research into joining the military. Choosing what I now considered the ‘safe’ route, one year later I joined the Army National Guard under the assumption that one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer was a great way to see if I even liked the military or not. Twenty-two years later – a lot of it spent on active duty by choice not chance – I had the opportunity to learn and grow as a person even having the opportunity to not shoot at anyone (which I consider one of the highlights of my career).
I transitioned from the military to become a high school science teacher after finishing my college education using both my civilian learned skills as well as those from the military.

Currently I live in Lexington, Massachusetts with my wife and four college age children. As well as being a father, husband, teacher, and someday I hope a published author, I also am heavily involved in another one of my passions: softball.