My friend Tom runs The Real Writing Process podcast, where he interviews authors about their writing process. It’s an exceptionally good podcast and he’s had some big names on there like Joanne Harris, (Chocolat,) R. J. Barker, Gemma Amour, and Adrien Tchaikovsky, to name a few. You should check it out if you’re a writer or interested in the process of writing.
Anyway, Tom convinced me to come to The British Fantasy Society’s FantasyCon event, which was this weekend as I write this.
I had a tremendously great time. I met lots of lovely people, various authors included, (I’m not going to name drop,) watched several fantastic panels, and even got a bit of writing done last night in my hotel room.
Coriphylax opened one eye. A small, brownish thing was standing atop a pile of coins toward the end of the chamber. As the thing came into sharp focus, it appeared to be one of those apes from the towns. A very short one. Probably a youngling.
“And I'm not a human child, if that's what you were thinking,” it said. It pulled back some hair. Pointed ears. Not like an elf's. They were rounder, but still pointed. Not so helical as those of the apes.
This is a short horror story that grew to novella length. I previously worked as a photographer, so there are elements of truth. I did visit a decrepit house in the middle of nowhere once and took photos, but nothing untoward happened to me. This was a “what if…” type of story.
There’s a theory that the uncanny valley—where the closer something look to human, the creepier it looks—which plagues a lot of cg, came about because at one time during our evolution, we had to be wary of something that looked almost, but not quite, human—and they were to be avoided. This was the idea behind this story.
I responded to a microprompt on Mastodon the other day by @FrostPoem with the topic word of “Breakfast”.
This was my original toot:
I’d discovered a level under the sewers of the city. Walls streaked in the filth of 100,000 had led to a proliferation of flora, new to science. I’d been cataloguing them. Several new mycelia jostled for space among vines that sprouted razor-edged blooms that smelled enticing.
I rounded the boundary of the farthest I’d ventured thus far. In a large antechamber, a column of plant matter, opened its maw and said, in perfect common—“Breakfast!”
I’d sit down and type away until I ran out of steam. I’d find out what the story was along the way, BUT unlike most panthers, I didn’t realise that at the end of the draft, you were supposed to rewrite, often several times, to fix the story & plot issues.
This meant usually 2 things happened:
I would run out of steam half way through, not sure of where I was going with anything. This formed the larger part of my writing. Most pieces were abandoned.
I would finish a piece, but it wouldn’t be very good. I’d get disappointed that the story wasn’t better, but hadn’t spent the time making it better.
Story is the only animal that eats itself to reproduce.
That is to say, we consume other stories for inspiration for our own.
I was talking to a poet at work today—my day job is in tech support, so this is not necessarily commonplace—and we riffed on how important it was for writers to read, and read widely. We discussed how it was important for genre writers to read both their genre but also outside their genre too. Then we talked about how any media can be learned from to create another.
Obviously there are more direct analogues between media that are used specifically used to tell stories—film, tv, comics, fiction writing, etc—but you can easily learn from sculpture, or music, or whatever.
So give yourself a break for binging a Netflix series instead of writing your project. You’re just refilling the well of ideas and, if you’re keeping half a critical eye open, learning new things to try in your own stories.
Of course, this is rambling free advice and as such may be worthless. Use your own discretion.
I’m going to preface this post by stating the obvious:
When it comes to writing, there is no correct way to do it.
Want to use a 6B pencil on Post-It notes? Go for it.
Keep notes in a Moleskine? Sure.
Write the whole thing in Microsoft Word? People have.
Hell, George R. R. Martin writes in dos. (Not recommended.)
So, find what works for you. Just know that Microsoft Word has been superseded by many great apps that are designed for novel writing, rather than office documents.
Second thing: It does matter
Hang on, aren’t you contradicting yourself there?
Yes. Here’s why: The world is complicated.
My fantasy novel WIP is set on the world of Feld. Biome-diverse, it has tropical, temperate and frigid zones, and an abundance of flora and fauna.
The first book, which I am currently writing, is set entirely in the great city of Bræstuüm, (Bray-stuw-um,) a city built into a crater left by a meteor strike thousands of years before.
Now, just as a quick aside, I saw something online recently where someone disparaged authors for using umlaut’s in fantasy names. I believe they may have been a linguist, and so presumably had reasonable grounds for their position, but here’s the thing — it’s fiction.
If I write that there, I'm hoping the unwritten “trying to,” that makes up the flabby middle of my decision/statement of intent/occasional gross overestimation, will wither and die—leaving me with something so oxymoronically dripping in brevity, Strunk and White would be stricken speechless, captivated, as they were, by it's stark beauty, born of that most elegant of edifying edicts:
“Omit needless words.”
Mike sighs deeply, wondering if this will come across right. He decided not to give a shit, before definitely giving a shit anyway, then decided to cut this section right back—yes, it was a lot longer before publishing. He hoped he managed to cut it off just before it got anno…
Please insert your preferred light music here, being played through an old-timey radio set, underwater, while we return to our regular programming. Are you imagining it?