I tend to write the most and the best when the process is driven by a personal memory or feeling – something that might have been evoked by a unexpected sound or smell, or a memory triggered by that. Sometimes, a new perspective or pattern of thought evolves, which was brought on by a recurrence of events during the day.
When I start digging into this raw material – often unconnected or disjointed – it takes shape as things that one of my fictionalized alter-egos, Jack, Jim, or maybe Mike – might say, do or have a strong opinion about.
Writing from the Gut?
In short, it’s a chain reaction: gut, sensory experience evokes a thought or a theme, which finds resonance inside my current cast of characters, until one or more scenarios begins to form.
This whole process happens in my skull, with often little or no input from outside parties. It’s like writing inside of a cocoon. Research comes later, when I realize that I’ve painted myself into a corner – when I don’t understand a particular aspect of what I’m describing – or if I’m dealing with things and places, rather than people.
Working this way is largely solitary, and I wonder if or how this process may limit me.
Most of my favourite writers are dead.
I’m largely ignorant of “the book market” or popular writers, save for a have dozen of the biggest, most famous names. I’m not up on new fiction, period. Most of my favourite writers are dead. Raymond Chandler. Dashiell Hammett. John Steinbeck. O. Henry. Ernest Hemingway. All dead.
A few writers I like are still kicking.
Canadian crime/adventure author, Brad Smith. I love his blue-collar humour and crime tales. His voice sounds so familiar to me.
Douglas Coupland. I loved Generation X, and I loved Microserfs even more. I relived my own tech bubble meltdowns reading Microserfs. Life After God was pretty good too. (I’m puzzled as to why Coupland needs his own Roots clothing line. Oh well…)
Elmore Leonard. His is a tough, contemporary voice, that reminds me of how much of our cop/crime fiction we get from TV shows like Law and Order.
But, here’s the thing… I’m selfish.
I read often – almost all the time, but I’m really much more interested in writing my own stuff than in reading someone else’s stuff. What does that mean? Does that mean I’m insensitive to readers and writers who aren’t me? Is it Art School all over again, where no project is as fascinating to you as the one you’re currently working on? It’s taken about 14 readings for me to see my own novel, Owe Nothing, in anything resembling an objective light.
I don’t really know. I suppose all I can say is that in time, I will see my audience more clearly, and when I do, I should listen to them as carefully as I can.