This week’s post is a bit later than usual. Apologies! I’ve had to hand in several assignments and hit plenty of deadlines this week and a lot of my time simply disappeared. Yes. All of the above are excuses for poor planning… but here is the post! I hope you enjoy it.
As I mentioned last week this one is a bit special. We’ve been looking at all the scary things in writing so long that I thought for the last post it might be really interesting to see: Why do writers write when it all seems so difficult? Why make the effort and put in the time?
So this week’s question is this:
What about the writing/editing process do you enjoy the most?
ADRIAN: The freer I can be in creating, the better. Those parts of my writing where I really get to explore the world, to show new perspectives and vistas, are definitely my favourite, even though they can also be the most challenging. The sections from the PoV of non-humans in Children of Ruin almost broke my brain, but they are definitely favourites. I am also a sucker for the big emotional scene – the chase, the fight, the doomed charge into the teeth of the cannon. There are definite scenes I’ve written that still carry a huge emotional weight for me, and hopefully some of that transfers to my readers.
ANNA: I love the feeling of seeing characters and settings come to life on the page. I love it when I really nail a scene – an interaction, a piece of action, a setting – and it feels immediately real and visible. It’s a great feeling when the image in my head matches the one on the page. That can also come with editing; being asked to trim a certain scene, particularly a favourite scene, can be hard, but it’s a bit like sculpting – all of a sudden the true image emerges from the surrounding detritus and what I was trying to say all along is still there, it’s just much better.
And I love being taken by surprise by my subconscious!
YOON: Honestly, the planning is the most fun. Actually writing is kind of a chore because it goes on foreeeeeeever, and then revisions become fun again. Kind of like a sandwich? I like twisty chess plots, which are hard to pull off, so that aspect of Raven Stratagem was particularly satisfying.
CAITLIN: I think my favorite part is the first draft. Seeing how the characters interact with each other (it’s not always how I predict when I first start writing), how my brain starts riffing on my original plans, figuring out the shape of the story. In The Luminous Dead, getting to the crunchy meaty bits about Em and Gyre’s similarities (and how much they hated seeing those) was an absolute joy. Getting those scenes exactly right usually takes several editing passes that are totally agony, but getting the main ingredients down in the first place is just… fun.
THORAIYA: Like a woodworker who has to build their own chessboard and carve their own pieces before they can play with them, I definitely enjoy writing big emotional or action climaxes more than I enjoy setting up the board. It’s sad when you leave the game, too. That’s why, in every trilogy, whether to write or read, my favourite is book two.
EOWYN: It’s hard to explain but there are certain moments in writing and revising when a sentence or a plot element will just appear to me, and it’s as if it’s part of me and has always been there, and when I click it into place, the whole thing shines in a new way that I couldn’t have imagined before but feels perfect now. Those are the rare moments I live for as a writer.
RICH: That’s like asking whether I’d rather be poked in the eye or slapped around the head. I don’t enjoy any of the process, I find it extremely difficult, so you might ask why I do it in the first place? And I guess it’s more of a compulsion than anything. The burning need to create your story and get it on paper for others to read. Add to that the feeling when you receive your first print copies and smell that ‘new book’ smell! There’s nothing like it (just have a look at some author unboxings on YouTube).
Saying that, I did enjoy writing a diverse cast of characters in the Steelhaven books. I enjoyed inhabiting their heads and learning about them as I went (despite already knowing what they’d do, if that makes sense) – I liked Merrick’s witty irreverence, I liked Nobul’s brutal desperation, I liked Rag’s impulsive cunning, I liked Waylian’s unexpected bravery. Despite the hard work, despite the monotony of grinding out that first draft, particularly when times were almost unbearable, it was an experience I cherish. Go figure!
TIM: I like drafting, seeing and hearing the story unfold in my mind and documenting it as well as I can on the page. The romance was great! I had different favorite parts in all the [Axiom] books. In the Wrong Stars, Elena’s confrontation with Sebastien near the end was great, and Callie growing to trust Lantern too. In the Dreaming Stars, all the virtual world stuff was a blast, and their rescue of Q, and the simulation scenes where Sebastien tries to murder everyone. In the Forbidden Stars, Callie’s assault on the prison/lab on the planet was super fun, and every scene Kaustikos was in (scene-stealing little jerk). Also, of course, every single time I got to write Ashok, because Ashok is a character who writes himself.
MARTHA: I like the final stages of revision, where I already have the story down and I’m just polishing and figuring out how to really focus in on the important points. Nothing about writing Murderbot is easy, but I think my favorite parts are when I figure out a scene and know it’s right, and it’s just a matter of polishing it.
JOHN: There’s something wonderful about the act of creation, about seeing what’s inside you expanding onto the page. There’s something strange and beautiful and a little scary about walking around feeling that you’re as much in what you’re writing as you are in the world around you.
KAT: My favorite part about editing Whispers from the Abyss was reading all of the submissions. True, sometimes it was a bit of a slog but often the stories were entertaining on one level or another. I also was on the ground floor to be exposed to awesome authors I may never have heard about before.
What a great set of answers to end on! As much as we may sometimes be afraid or worried about our progress it seems writing isn’t just sweat and hardship! There are many enjoyable things about the writing process as well, whether you enjoy the puzzle of the edit or the many many pathways you can take from an empty page.
As a last call to action to all readers: What do you enjoy the most when you’re working a new project? What makes you get up and do it again and again even if one of them doesn’t work out? Leave a comment below!
I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this series.
It’s been great to work with the authors and editor and get to ask questions! They’ve been very generous with their time and their answers. A huge thank you to all of them! (In no particular order…)
Sue Burke, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Anna Stephens, Eowyn Ivey, Thoraiya Dyer, John Langan, Martha Wells, Caitlin Starling, Yoon Ha Lee, Rich Ford, Tim Pratt, Kat Rocha, and of course you the reader!
Feel free to continue the discussion in the comment section below!