I don’t think I’ve even mentioned it here that I myself write, outside of reviewing other people’s work, but I don’t think it’s uncommon for book bloggers. I’ve never been published outside of school newspapers and such, and I’ve never finished anything longer than a lengthy short story, so it’s understandable that no one has ever asked me about my creative process the way writers get all the time.
I guess I’ve always secretly wanted someone to, though, because when I got an email from someone in one of my Yahoo! Groups asking everyone to outline their creative process for a psychology project she’s working on, I was a little bit thrilled. I’m just going to indulge myself and post it here. Apologies if this whole deal is terribly vain of me.
What role does the creative process play in your writing?
That’s pretty much what my writing is, isn’t it? I write fiction, so I spend much more time crafting the characters, setting, and story than I do doing research. Most of what isn’t creative process is editing, really.
Do you think the creative process or the final product is more important?
Hard to say- I’ve never had a huge finished product. When it comes to short stories, though, I definitely enjoy writing them more than editing or being done with them. I’ve put getting published out of my head for the time being, because I feel that the writing is more important than chasing some unlikely goal which may or may not make me happier.
How has your creative process evolved, grown, or developed as you practice writing over the years?
My writing now is different from than when I started four/five years ago in that:
*my stories now contain elements like character development, descriptive language, and plot direction
*I’ve always essentially written about civil rights in a fantasy or sci-fi context, but now I’m actually involved in the LGBTQ rights movement and have learned a lot more about the history of this stuff as I’ve grown, which I feel makes me better able to portray bigotry and ignorance in a way that will resonate with people.
*My sentences are longer (haha), something which I try to limit. My vocabulary is also much better.
How do things usually play out in your mind while you’re trying to write a story?
I’ll come up with a picture of a character of some sort, maybe a whole scene, and it’ll either fascinate me or not. If it gets its hooks in, I’ll start asking myself- who is this person? Who are these other people in this situation with (usually) her? How did they get to this place and what’s really going on? I’ll develop a setting, a list of rules on which the world operates, a political and religious climate. I’ll dream up backstories and back-backstories and history of that world that involves obscure characters I’ll never even mention. I’ll come up with how their wildlife is different, what their culture is like, what stories they tell their children at night. I go into ridiculous detail with it all. And while I’m coming up with all of this stuff, parallel to it, I start with that first scene and go back to the beginning, what it was that started the chain of events. And I’ll move forward, too. I’ll build those world details in as I go and come up with a story, sometimes just a direction based on character relationships to each other, sometimes a whole plot outline. Often by the time I finish all this planning the original scene won’t even be part of the story anymore, but I’ll still have those characters and they’ll be like real people in my head. I read somewhere that many writers show signs of schizophrenia, and I’d be willing to believe it. I certainly have voices all the time.
Do you usually think of a place, plot, idea/ premise, or characters first when creating a story?
The characters first, almost always. Sometimes I’ll come up with characters and put them in a setting that I’ve used before, and which existed before them, but I never start with that setting– I just expand it to accommodate new stories.
Do you feel that writing is more so about creating, discovering, or revealing truths?
I love being able to create an alternate world that doesn’t have the same depressing limitations as ours, but it’s a bit of a paradox because I also feel that everything I unfold in my stories is true. Maybe not literally true- there’s never been a girl named Ella, for example, who was a werewolf and fell prey to the stigma associated to that. However, there have been countless people throughout history who have experienced hatred because what instead of who they were, and many of them triumphed over it, and many of them didn’t. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t quite decided which she’ll be because either path is true. That’s sort of how everything about my writing works, really– what it is, in time and space and material presence, is fantastical. But who these people are and their inner lives and their triumphs and their troubles, that’s based on reality and largely my own life.
Why do you write?
Escapism, because it makes me happy, because I have hopes that I hardly admit to myself of being a respected author someday.
Is the creative process the most rewarding part of writing for you?