Tagged as if I were a species of migrating raptor by Casey Blair and John Wiswell, and privately by Beth Matthews (who, like the tagging scientists, clearly meant well), I shall now talk about my writing process. Check out Casey’s, John’s, and Beth’s blogs, too. The variety in process is fascinating.
WHAT AM I WORKING ON?
The elevator pitch for my novel is “Watership Down with wolves.” Its working title is To Howl with Wolves. In a time of terrible famine, a young wolf finds herself without a pack. She meets a coyote, and the two of them team up to survive in the shadow of an increasingly voracious and aggressive wolf pack.
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THE GENRE?
Partly, the predator-prey population charts we looked at in elementary school inspired To Howl with Wolves. I found the steadily rising populations, followed by precipitous crashes, rather haunting. What would they mean to the animals living those cycles? Science fiction is often about people doing science, whereas To Howl with Wolves expresses science through animal behavior and ecology. A small library of scholarly articles, books, and government reports, as well as a visit to the Indiana Wolf Park, are behind much of the characters, plot, and setting.
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
I want to read it. It is a wolf-coyote buddy novel, backed up with actual biology. I love wolves and coyotes and realism with animals. I love the exploration of the concept of pack and family and friendship. The ability to take an animal’s perspective also is useful for serious matters like direct emotional expression and for more amusing ones, such as the possibility of a carnivore who is also a foodie.
HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
My writing process is horrifically intuitive. Some days, I swear I am like Schmendrick in The Last Unicorn. “Magic, do as you will!” The words that actually end up on the page are there because they “feel right.”
To channel this, I use a mutating outline, which begins as “emotionally charged scenes I want to write” and eventually progresses to “where the book should end up.”
I do a lot of research and talk a good deal about novel ideas, simmering them in the associative-unconscious part of my brain that does creativity. During the talking, I get a better conscious sense of the ideas. Basically, they will either resonate with the rest of the story, or they won’t. If they don’t, I will keep poking until I find something that does. Then I outline what will happen. Then I write it. Sometimes I am right about the resonance, and I go to the next chapter. Sometimes I am wrong, writing is excruciating, and I start the process over.