My Fisher Queen, Alyssa Wong, invited me - along with the mad/brilliant/scientist/swordsman Patrick Ropp - to join the Writing Process Blog Tour. I've really enjoyed reading these, although articulation of my own writing process was definitely a challenge. Anyway, for all curious parties, here are my responses!
1. What am I working on?
I’ve got ten stories in various stages of revision, ranging from trainwreck to I-think-this-is-pretty-polished-but-I-could-be-wrong; some have been sent out in earlier forms, some of them I still can’t face. I just started working on a secondary-world fantasy that pulls from disparate threads of Philippine culture, so I’m scrabbling for research and inventing stuff (worldbuilding! My weakness!). Recently I have been the queen of awkward short story lengths. I am also frequently distracted by a notion I will simply call Bishonen in Space. Finally, there is a Book That I Should Be Working On, wafting like a ghost over 2014, and while I have merely smiled at it in fear, its fate was sealed by a blood pact with Alyssa last December. Thus, it’ll get written (in all its grisly drafty glory) sometime in the next six months.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don’t feel particularly confident about any genre, but I like trying all things (as evidenced, I guess, by my published work). I write poetry, so the sound of a story is incredibly important to me. I’m Filipino and I grew up in Manila, so that undoubtedly figures in my work, thoughts, motives. I write mostly in the speculative fiction genre, but I'm not really well-read in SFF canon (something I am slowly trying to remedy). My early influences were the YA books by Anne Fine, Jacqueline Wilson, Sharon Creech, etc, so my stories initially focused mostly on character and certain thematic issues. Then I started reading Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman, and Gregory Maguire, and realized that I wanted to write stories with magic, too.
I owe most of what I know about writing to fandom – reading and writing fanfic has had enormous impact on my style, including the tonal and structural choices I make. Partly because of fanfic, the notion of sharing my work with others is slightly less nervewracking than it otherwise might be. I am grateful for the “might as well try” mentality developed from years of oneshots written, edited, posted, flamed, and faved in a 24-hour timeframe.
Some of my poetry collection, circa last year.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I write to fill the gaps, mostly. I’m fascinated by the what-ifs I see in other narratives. What happened after the fairytale, or what caused it to happen? What if the robot started being anxious about heaven? Why was she so preoccupied with death, even if she was mostly happy? Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting those words out there in the world. Sometimes a character wants to say their piece. Other times I’m reading, or watching a beautiful movie, and I’ll want to write in response that beauty in some way.
I write things I’d like to read, in the hopes that others might get something out of it too. Nothing, nothing makes me happier than knowing my words evoke something in a reader. When someone tells me I laughed, or I cried, or You made it hard for me to breathe, or Thank you for writing this – the swelling in my heart is indescribable.* I write in the hopes that a story is worth telling.
4. How does your writing process work?
I can’t write without reading other things. When I work, I always have at least two windows open – my word document, and then a TextEdit file or a browser window with someone else’s story in it. I have to be steeping in words to get any of my own out. It’s like fueling a gas tank…munch a whole lot on others’ words, drive my own work a bit, munch some more, drive some more. I can only go so far on my own. I try to finish work in a month or less, because if I start something and don't wrap it up soon, it can drag on indefinitely. I can go through many false starts before settling on one that works.
I am a compulsive note taker. I write everything down in the hopes that I’ll find something usable later on. I like scraps. I do quite a bit of freewriting. If I go to a museum or someone's reading I almost always have a notebook so I can jot stuff down. I poke at ideas, and when they don’t cooperate I try to mash them out with a lot of capslocking. I usually have at least one gift from my brain with regards to the story: aka, the certainty that I must use this line, or this form to structure it, or have this character be this way. The rest of it is a question mark mush I have to wade through. As I’m wading, I play the story in my head like a movie, while transcribing what I see. I also do my best to secure the sensation that I want to evoke in the reader. I like writing as close to the finished draft as possible (less possible, as of late. Thankfully I have gotten better at revisions).
Pages of story notes and scraps.
Basically, I believe in Fumbling Along, Finishing, and then Revising Til One Can Take It No More. Bur more often than note I am internally doing one of these:
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* I have in fact received these comments before, usually from fics. I am by no means a big name in any fandom, but the comments I’ve received on my work (whether original or fanfiction) mean everything to me.
Next on the tour are Eliza Victoria and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, two Filipina authors whose stories I love.
Eliza Victoria is a Palanca-award winning poet and fictionist. Her work has appeared in The Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2005-2010, Daily Science Fiction, Expanded Horizons, and Stone Telling, among other places. Eliza writes engaging, powerful, never-safe stories, like the heartbreaking "Parallel."
Rochita Loenen-Ruiz is a graduate of Clarion West 2009, and writes a column for Strange Horizons. Her work has appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Apex Magazine, The Philippine Speculative Fiction series, and Interzone, among other places. Rochita's stories are incredibly inventive and beautifully written, like the stunning "Hi Bugan ya Hi Kinggawan."