Since I’m getting back into the swing of things (writing-wise), I thought I’d share a little of the process with my fan and friend (shhh… I know they are the same person).
So, the publishing industry is mostly non-fiction (over 95%). Very little fiction makes it onto the shelves. Eight years ago, my mentor attempted to steer me towards non-fiction because “my chance of getting published was far higher.”
Real life is boring. There are enough blowhards covering ‘real life’ in newspapers, magazines, countless books and blogs… ahem. I even have a great ‘life story’ to tell – my brutal battle against cancer. However, each time I put pen to paper I only want to write fiction. I want to be taken away to another world. Even now, I’d much rather be writing my piece on our holographic universe or something equally strange. Instead, I’m blogging… okay, I admit – blogging is kinda fun and it’s quick (and I don’t need to revise it 15 times before sending it off to get criticized and rejected by strangers).
So, if the process is so difficult and unrewarding – why the hell do I do it?
Simple answer – I am “home” when I am writing.
I’ve been a whole lotta things in my professional career: dept. store clerk, movie rental clerk, arcade clerk, waiter, janitor, newspaper boy, law clerk, computer tech, technology trainer, IS consultant for enterprise companies. While those are all noble professions, I don’t get the same feeling with them as I do when I write.
I know what you’re thinking – “well, Matt, writing is a hobby… that’s probably why you feel that way.”
To that, I can honestly say writing a book is just as challenging as advising one of the largest banks in the country about their security practices. I’ve done them both, but only one of them will feed my family… and that’s a tragedy (for me).
Okay, enough bitching. Here’s my fiction process:
I start with an idea. It’s usually a simple idea, but it’s a special idea. Something about it sticks in my mind and I dedicate a portion of my waking mind to that idea for weeks on end. Even when I’m with my friends, on the computer, talking with my wife, or playing with my kids – the idea is always consuming brain cycles. If the idea survives for a month or two, I jot some basic notes – characters, story basics, etc. These notes are basic – 1 page, no more. There, the idea sits… unless I cannot let it sit any longer.
So far, in my life, I’ve had three ideas make it to the point of me typing “Chapter 1” into my word processor. If I get that far, I usually do some research too – those notes are more detailed. However, the research is just copy-n-pasted paragraphs and/or links to material – still very basic.
Once all of that is together, I just start writing. No outline. No tape recorder with hours of my lame voice (I do loathe the sound of my voice on a tape recorder/home video). No ‘theme document’ with all the fluffy ideas I want to pass on to future generations.
I just write.
Chapter 1 to Chapter X. Start to finish. One page after the other. Until it’s freakin’ done.
To me, this is the only way I can write fiction. I don’t want my story or characters boxed-in by an outline or predefined rules. Sure, I may have some major scenes in my head, but even those may shift or evolve when I get to them. The best moments are when my characters surprise me. Damn, I love that shit.
By writing ‘off the cuff’ like this, the story flows more naturally. Now, I’m no expert – I have yet to publish a book. However, this method works for me and I can’t see myself changing anytime soon.
I’m also not out to set the world ablaze with the next great American novel. I don’t have some great message to convey or anything. For me, writing is as simple as this parting quote:
“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”