Normally I don't do these kinds of tag-you're-it blog games, but I got tagged by Steven Savage, for whom I would carry a back-box of Gatorade through the Sahara on hands and knees. The way this shtick works is, you get tagged to answer four questions. To wit:
- What am I working on?
- How does it differ from others of its genre?
- Why do I write what I do?
- How does my writing process work?
So, let us begin the beguine.
1. What am I working on?
My current longform project is Welcome to the Fold, scheduled for release sometime by the end of 2014. The book's very much still under wraps right now, so I'm reluctant to talk about many of the details until we're closer to the release date.
That said: it's about a sort of underground real-world LARP, being played by people who believe the characters they are embodying can be the catalyst for a revolution of spirit. One of the players, a woman with a key character role, becomes the subject of a "rescue" attempt by her boyfriend (not initially a player), only to have both of them drawn into the machinations of the game all the more deeply. They learn the hard way about the real-world cost of making one's dreams real, both on a personal and a universal scale.
After that, there's a whole slew of other projects I have in mind waiting to be written, each as unlike the other as possible. E.g., a young-adult novel about a girl trying to uphold standards for herself that no one else wants her to keep; a future world where genetic engineering makes it possible to turn your own body into the ultimate individual statement; a land reminiscent of imperial China where a small group of rebels a la the Water Margin try to protect a renegade teacher a la Master Kong (Confucius).
2. How does it differ from others of its genre?
The first problem is that I'm not even sure what genre Fold would fall into.
This happens to me often. Summerworld was, I guess, "slipstream fantasy", but it ended up being all the more sui generis in my 'umble opinion. Every box I climb into, I look for ways to bust out of through one wall or another.
This lack of genre-osity might be both the best and worst thing about Fold. Best, in the sense that there's no need to adhere to the constraints imposed by a single genre. You could make arguments for it being a political story, a suspense thriller, a fantasy (especially since the story-within-a-story is swashbucking fantasy of the highest order, and it figures heavily into the goings-on), or a straight-up drama. Worst, in the sense that this very lack of categorization makes it difficult for people to wrap their heads around.
I bet your own head's swimming from me just summarizing the damn thing, and I don't blame you. People like to know what they're getting into when they read a book, and so it seems a disservice to just call it a story the way Miles Davis refused to call his work "jazz" or "bebop" or "post-this" or "avant-that" and instead just stubbornly called it music. The hell with the labels; but doubly to hell with the labelers!
But this is a disingenuous answer, and I know it. The label has to be applied — and if not by you, the by someone else, whether they're looking to file your book on their shelf for sale or for preservation.
So let's cop out. Let's say, the thing that sets this book apart from others in its genre is that it doesn't need one, that it demands to be approached the way D.T. Suzuki insisted one approach Zen: "to be seized with bare hands, with no gloves on".
3. Why do I write what I do?
For this I fall back on the words of Hubert Selby, Jr., who once declared "I started writing because I did not want to die having done nothing with my life." Reading those words was like seeing what would be written on my tombstone. I had no choice but to accept them as my own.
I've rotated through I don't know how many other ways to fill my life and expand my horizons, and in the end I always come back to writing. I once took several months off writing just to teach myself drawing, and I kept finding myself sitting in front of the light table thinking Y'know, there's that book I never finished, and in the end I turned off the light table, turned back around to face the keyboard, and picked up where I left off.
4. How does my writing process work?
Once upon a time I kept notebooks for organizing ideas, and after a while that got unmanageable. I still love jotting ideas down on paper, but that's only an interim step now — everything that's vaguely related to a possible story idea eventually gets put into a wiki I keep for organizing such things.
At any one time I'll have 10 or 12 "candidate ideas", things which most strongly suggest themselves to be a story, and not merely because they're a neat idea but because they have a substantial human dimension to them that I can't ignore. It takes time for even any one of those ideas to reach a sort of critical mass, one where I feel I can dive in and begin writing. Sometimes that takes a little exploration through the jungle of the idea — a few attempts at a first chapter, some off-the-cuff scribbling to get a voice or a mood. But once things click, they click for keeps.
The most crucial thing: I don't like to repeat myself. That means no sequels, no recurring characters, no re-use of worlds or concepts. Once I'm done with something, I'm done with it. The key with any one thing I do is "Where can I go now?", because I only get better by playing over my head. A new view demands that everything in its employ also be new. It's harder work, but I feel I have accomplished that much more whenever I sit down with that much blanker a slate to fill in.
* * *
I'm normally supposed to tag three people here, but I'm going to pull a funny and simply say that the first three folks who want to claim being tagged can just post in the comments and leave a link to their blog-hop post.