My friend and fellow Chicago author K.B. Jensen (Painting With Fire) tagged me as one of her successors on the #MyWritingProcess blog hop, an ongoing tour de blogs (French-to-English translation: "tour of blogs") that asks authors to answer four questions about their writing process. 

So. Here we go, then.

What are you working on?

In total? About 70 different projects. (No joke. My "works in progress" file is a scatterstorm.) But the big project I'm working on is my second novel, IF. It's the story of a young, unimaginative boy who screws up when his teacher asks him to create an imaginary friend (IF). The proportions are all wrong, the coloring's off, and how on earth did he get a giant hole in the middle? (Seriously, you guys. It's a mess.) Burning with embarrassment, he banishes the broken IF back to the Boundarylands, the realm of collective imagination...but it doesn't take long for him to realize that probably wasn't the right thing to do, and so, with the help of his four classmates, he sets off on a journey into the world of imagination to find the IF and set things right.

But it won't be as easy as it sounds. There's a darkness spreading through the imaginary world like a virus, and at its center is a mysterious, cruel ruler who has a very special interest in the real-world children. And if they want to find the IF and get out alive, they'll have to face down the evil in the heart of the realm.

It's a really fun, all-ages novel filled with adventuresome imagination. Nowhere else will you get such a grand combination of cowboys, ninjas, tooth monsters, reason-storms, evil shadows, life-size pillow forts, birds made of lava, and Greek gods running amok in the Wild West. Nowhere.

Look for it in mid-2015! (You can also get a free sample chapter: click here for details.)

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

It's hard to say which genre my works tends to fall into, really. I guess the best fit would be speculative fiction, which is a pretty wide area. I think the main difference between what I write and what other spec fiction writers publish is that my stories tend to swing pretty quickly among emotions; I tend to go from humor to horror in 4.3 seconds flat. Apocalypticon is a great example, and IF will be, too, to a certain extent. The horror factor is way toned down in IF, but, hey, when you travel through the world of dreams, you're bound to stumble across a few nightmares.

Why do you write?

If I don't write, my brain space gets overcrowded with ideas, and they start to affect my ability to function normally. When I go a long time without writing, I end up sleeping poorly, forgetting things, unable to focus on real life tasks, because I have too much tumbling around in my head. Writing is like a valve release. Which I guess makes my brain a boiler. Which would explain why I'm always hot. #Science.

How does your writing process work?

It's pretty unprocessed. When I get an idea, it's never a full story. It's a beginning, or an ending, or a detail along the way. I let it bounce around the inner head region for a while and see what sort of organic growth it takes on. (I actually do a lot of my best storyline development in bed, between lying down and falling asleep, in case you're interested in TMI. Between the quiet and the drifting off to dream land, it's actually a really great environment for developing my particular brand of story, though it usually makes falling asleep really difficult.)

Once I have at least a solid beginning and a general path in mind, I start writing. I never outline. I just can't see that specifically into the story's future, and besides, I like letting the world unfold naturally around the characters. This makes finishing a long-form project in any sort of timely fashion nearly impossible (the very first pages of Apocalypticon were drafted in 2007; the book was published in 2014. Which is nothing compared to my play, Death and McCootie, which debuted last summer at the New York International Fringe Festival. I started writing that one in 2001).

Outlines just aren't for me. I think up way too much randomness along the way to stick to one.

HOWE'ER! Not all is unstructured. I do wake up around 5am at least three or four times a week in order to hammer out some wordage before I get moving for the day. My brain is surprisingly functional pre-dawn.

The next victims of the #MyWritingProcess are hereby announced:

Steven Luna, author of Songs from the Phenomenal Nothing and the Joe Vampire series. Steven is a terribly nice person who enjoys a good bit of cross-country scheming, as evidenced by his enthusiastic co-founding of Dapper Press. #shamelessplug

Cassandra Greenwald, a fellow Chicagoan and a talented editor who is currently working on her debut novel. Cassandra is a paragon of curiosity and health, which makes her a terrific vegan. When you meet her, order her a burger so that she'll give it to me.

They'll be posting their respective answers on their respective blogs on Monday, August 25!

Clayton SmithComment