I love tags and memes. Have I mentioned that? So when I came across Lana’s post, and saw that she tagged any reader who wanted to do it, I was immediately interested.
The tag covers all kinds of subjects, which is why it feels like a unique writer’s resume–but a fun resume. 🙂
What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?
Genres – Mostly Crossover!
Half the stories I write or plan to write are genre crossovers. The story set in the tropics in the year 1781 looks at face value like a high-seas and island adventure with the necessary pirates. But it’s actually a mystery, one with an island setting (and therefore called “Island Mystery” at the moment. Aren’t I clever? 🙂 ) The semi-western story has the trappings of a typical pioneer story–but it’s actually a fantasy-of-manners set in the 1820s–30s west/southwest. And with an emphasis on politics. My British political novel looks like…well, a political novel–and it is, but it’s technically alternate history and social critique. And my steampunk story looks like any number of genres, but is a solid combo of steampunk, social sci-fi, hard sci-fic, and social critique.
Now that I think about it, a lot of my stories could be listed under “social critique” as well.
The funny thing is, I didn’t plan on writing genre crossovers–I just thought, “Hey, what if X historical event happened differently? And I’m annoyed by Y, so let’s make that a plot point as well.” Or whatever.
The only problem is how to market these stories. I read an article that recommended putting it like this: “It’s a (particular genre), but folks who like (other genre) might also enjoy it.” Except that my crossovers thus far have been so solidly blended that to market one genre would ignore another key foundation of the story. I’ll figure it out, hopefully before I publish anything.
Styles – It Varies
Really, this varies with the story setting and time period. If the story is set in 1830s America, I try to match the general style of language in letters and diaries from the time. If the story is set in the 1890s (such as my steampunk story), I try to match the style of novels written during the turn of the century. I read a lot of period fiction written during the same decade of my story to get an idea of the style of the day.
However, the writing styles I aspire to generally are Dickens, Bronte, and Tolkien.
Topics – Rather Obscure
If any of you readers know of stories with these kinds of topics, feel free to say so!
Settings in the 1820s–30s
British, American, Irish, you name it–a lot of my stories are set in these decades. I think it’s my tendency to explore the ignored questions/aspects of history; compared to the more popular Regency, Victorian, and Wild West eras, the 1820s–30s are slightly obscure. Which baffles me, because interesting things were happening socially and politically in both England and America! On the other hand, I have a taste for social mechanisms and political complexities, so this could be a personal preference thing. Speaking of…
I cannot keep politics out of my stories. I’ve tried. It keeps slipping in. Of the 10 novels I’m planning/writing, only 3 don’t feature politics…and even then one of those three might make political statements in the subtext.
Tejanos (Mexican Texians)
This began after I watched the 2004 film The Alamo and re-read the American Girl Josefina stories. Now, at least five stories feature Mexican characters!
Multitudinous Character Casts
Blame Dickens and Tolkien for this one. I’m not afraid to cut characters who end up being superfluous (though they often reappear in a different story), but I definitely start with a large cast.
Couples who marry long before the story ends
This happens in nearly every story! It’s just more interesting to see how the couple pursues their goals with a significant other. Anyway, romance in my stories often contributes to the main plot–usually as a further exploration of a character’s values, goals, and motives–but at the same time isn’t the ultimate point.
As such, I’ve wondered whether to keep who-ends-up-with-whom a secret. One the one hand, it’s almost pointless if the couple gets together before the end. On the other, I do like to be careful about spoilers. What do you readers think?
How long have you been writing?
Officially since I was 12 or 13; un-officially all my life. I’ve been making up stories as long as I can remember, usually adventures with the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings characters. One of my favorite stories to play was having these characters stumble into our world around the time the movies were released, and me and my other friends having to keep them hidden–otherwise, fans of the movies would freak out and mob them, or blackmail them, or try to turn them into celebrities.
When I was little, I did write and illustrate a six-book series (in the style of the American Girls books) starring me and my 100-Acre Wood friends. These stories were published by School Scissors & Stapler, Inc., despite having no plot whatsoever, only vignettes that somehow connected in my six-year-old-mind. 🙂
Then at age 12, I got a idea about a some kids who stumble into another world (so original!) and journey across the mountains with grown-up comrades. It seemed like the best idea ever, so I began to write it down, and never looked back. Even though that story never panned out, it gave me the discipline and momentum to write more stories!
Why do you write?
Because I have stories in my imagination that I want to read someday! I also love exploring my own thoughts and ideas and intriguing concepts through writing (one of many reasons why I cannot write a short story–simply not enough time to flesh out a concept!).
I also love creating and playing with characters. They provide a good mirror of reality, and often help me see life in a new way.
When is the best time to write?
I grab any time available. I prefer to write in the early morning (don’t laugh; I do prefer this even if my habits are night-owlish) and definitely prefer silence and solitude. However, I’ve learned to tune out my surroundings–closing my eyes helps and helps me focus on my mental image–and stick earbuds in to block noise. 🙂
What parts of writing do you love, and what parts do you hate?
- That flash of inspiration for a character idea/story idea I know is good
- On a similar note, the thrill of a new idea
- Ideas coming together, especially after a struggle to get them there
- Creating and developing characters
- Writing a scene I know is awesome!
- Writing more than I thought I would during the allotted time
- Getting other people interested in my ideas and getting great feedback
- Exploring my own ideas, clarifying my thinking through writing, and inspiring myself by it!
- Writing characters I absolutely love
- Writing fun or fluffy scenes as a break from dark or dangerous plot threads
- Short stories. Not enough to work with, people; come on, give me concepts to flesh out!
- Having to write scenes that are boring, but necessary to the plot
- Having to cut a plot or character I like (though I often re-use them in another story)
- When the characters won’t talk to me and explain what they want to do in the story!
- Non-writers assuming that (a) I’ll have a book finished fairly soon and (b) I’ll definitely get it published
- Repeated questions about when the book will be finished and published
- Consistently having to say “no, not finished yet” to the above questions
- Knowing people are judging/confused about this
- No, I’m not annoyed by that; why do you ask?
- Having a whole day/hour/block of time to write and NO IDEAS
- Writing slower than I expected to
How do you overcome writer’s block?
One of two ways: muscle through it, or take a break.
I start with the first and often ask, “Okay, what is the problem? Why is writing this character so hard/planning this segment so difficult?” After a little thinking, I’m usually able to realize that I’m forcing the character into a box rather than letting him do his own thing, or that I don’t know the character well enough, or that there isn’t enough conflict in this part of the story, or that a plot thread doesn’t contribute to the point. Identifying the problem shows me what to focus on instead, e.g. I need to get to know this character better, or to remove those ideas that don’t contribute.
If I’ve tried all that and remain stuck, I take a break. I’ll get unstuck eventually. 🙂
Are you working on something at this moment?
Yes, the semi-western (with a working title of Gentle Fire). I also jot ideas for other stories as they come!
What are your writing goals this year?
Well, I intended to finish a draft of Gentle Fire by the end of the year…but the year is half over and I’ve barely started. Not sure whether to keep that ambition and get as close as possible to the goal, or to drop it in favor of something more attainable. Beyond that, I’m really not sure; new health problems have cropped up, and I need to manage the symptoms and work around difficult nights/days. So I generally take it day by day, e.g. today, I’ll do a little character development and draft the rest of that scene, and then we’ll see.