My Writing Process (Blog Tour)

May 26, 2014 in General Topics

On a regular basis I get asked for advice or guidance from folks who are wondering about my methods for creating the characters and plots that populate my fiction. Oftentimes these beginning writers have dabbled in a few chapters toward their own work, or produced an outline, or something similar, and they’re befuddled on how to proceed. I’m always happy to help, but I usually can’t go into the details that would be most beneficial to them (due to time constraints), and I regret that.

So when I was invited to join a blog tour that was being conducted by many other authors, I was intrigued, largely by the premise: expound on one’s writing, and the process behind it.

Before I begin, let me acknowledge Josh Roseman, the SFWA and multi-time pro-published author that let me in on this shindig. You can find out more about Josh and his excellent tales at As an aside, I strongly recommend you check out his tale “Bring on the Rain”; my gushing about it to Josh actually kicked off our friendship. It’s a great piece.

Now, without further ado, here’s my answers to the questions I’ve been asked via the blog tour:

What are you working on?

At the time of this post, I could very well be working on taking care of a newborn! But as far as my writing goes: right now my big objective is finishing the Beacon Saga, which I’m trying my best to do by late summer or early fall. The final installment is going to be novella to novel-length, whereas the other entries in the series ranged from six thousand to eighteen thousand words. It’ll really feel good to have the serial finished, and I know my readers will be happy to see how the story wraps. But as might be imagined, it’s a lot of work.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I’d say the biggest thing that makes my fiction different from other works in its genres (I write fantasy, science fiction, and horror) is the fact that it’s always so genre-bending. It’s really hard to stamp my work into one categiry of fiction, or even sub-genre, because I straddle so many lines.

Take The Tyrant Strategy, for example, which I’ll be circling back to after I’m done with the Beacon Saga (I’ll be releasing a revised edition of Revenant Man, and I’ve the draft for the second installment in the pipe already). This series doesn’t fit well in any one bucket. You could say it’s military science fiction, except for the fact that it focuses more on its characters and intrigue than it does hardware and epic battles (though we certainly have plenty of both). You might be tempted to call it post-apocalyptic, given the shape of large areas of Earth, but there are significant regions that are doing just as well, if not better, than they ever have. You might want to call it a tale about alien invasion, as the Nartuni and their motives are definitely questionable–but the Nartuni don’t feature as prominently as the human element, which I was more interested in.

So what do you call it? I still couldn’t tell you, and I recognize that is a major gamble. Most publishers wouldn’t go for a book that doesn’t easily fit into a boilerplate. But that aspect also makes my writing unique, and as my audience steadily increases in size, I’ll have a cohort that can tell their peers that–although my work is hard to explain–they’ll definitely want to read it!

Why do you write what you do?

I’m a very philosophical, ruminating kind of person, and I often don’t have an outlet for my thoughts because very few people want to engage in the kinds of topics that occupy so much of my mental energy. Someone might want to discuss something that happened to them on the way to work, for example, while I’m sitting there slotting another nugget of thought into my theories regarding the cycle of nations. The big picture themes of man’s tenure in the world have always held my interest, as do these odd, transitional times we live in, but I don’t often get to discuss any of this with anyone, so my work provides a natural outlet for that.

I guess I can’t help but extend this question to “Why do you write at all?”, and the answer is this: because I have to have somewhere to pour out my thoughts. I love telling a story and I love the rush when that process is going well. If I didn’t have these three things in my life, I’d go batty.

How does your writing process work?

I used to obsessively outline for all my stories, but these days I tend to tailor my approach to whatever it is I’m writing. If something involves a lot of interweaving plots, like Revenant Man did, then I use an elaborate, specific outline to keep everything organized and to ensure nothing is left hanging. For most of my shorter works, I use a method that was suggested to me years ago, and still serves me well: I visualize the ending of the story first, and figure out where the conflict is going, then I move forward from the beginning. If I can’t clearly peg an ending, then it’s usually a sign that the idea isn’t ready to be expanded on.

Sometimes I love the idea of writing something so much that I’ll give it months to congeal in my head. There’s a novel series I’ll hammer into after I’m done with The Tyrant Strategy, and little pieces of it float into my brain now and then, collecting like ashes from a fire onto the soil of my imagination. Eventually, there will be enough there of substance that I’ll be able to start on that series.

Anyway, once I have the plot, I’ll think of the best way to start the tale and just have at it. Things move pretty quickly at this point, though I still often hit stopping points where I have to consider the tale before going forward. Writing the first draft isn’t actually that hard, largely because I allow it to be in pretty bad shape. The following revisions improve it dramatically.

I would say I’m an average writer, but I’m most-skilled at plotting, outlining, and especially editing. I am merciless to a draft, excising all sorts of things part of me usually wants to keep. What I strive for is a clean manuscript with as little fat as possible. I find it’s usually not what you add that makes for a solid tale, it’s the prep work and what you chose to remove.

Once I have what I call a “beta draft” (which is a misnomer, because it’s usually the second or third draft), I’ll hand it off to my beta readers, who are very good at being honest regarding what does and doesn’t work for them. I don’t always follow their suggestions, but I follow many of them, and the draft that results is a “post-beta draft” ready for the editor. At that point, the editor will pound through the draft and correct punctuation, phrasing, and other goblins, as well as indicate if there were any areas that might stand further improvement.

One might read all this and get the opinion that I’m a serial refiner, and I think that’s accurate. Even when this process is finished, though, the key is recognizing that point where diminished returns have been reached regarding further edits. Only then is the manuscript ready to publish.

Wrapping Up

I’ve enjoyed this interview and the chance to be a part of this tour. If you’re reading this and you’d like to see the kind of work I produce, check out my books, particularly the Beacon Saga, of which Part I is (typically) free for your choice of ebook reader.

Special thanks to Josh Roseman, again, for the invite.