The Process

A common interview question for authors is “Do you have a writing process?” This refers to the little things we do or incorporate into our routine in order to be productive in our writing. It’s fascinating because every writer is different, and some have some pretty weird shit they need/do to keep the creative juices flowing.

Christian: When I write non-fiction, yes. I write down all the main points I want to make in order, then do the necessary research and piece the whole thing together like a puzzle. That’s more of an exact science, and there are formulas to follow.

But when I write fiction, none at all. I generally wing it. I don’t know what works for other people, but I hate routines. Too stifling. I think when you try to pour creativity into a bottle is where it all goes wrong. I set targets like word counts and make sure I hit them. That’s about it.

Liam: Yes. I call it “daydreaming on paper.”

Michael: Early morning pottering, tea, radio, social media, i.e. the time-sink – get it out of the way, chores. Sit down to work at ten. Stay until 1pm lunch and news. Two hours in the afternoon. Pleased if I make 1K words. End with a ‘To do’ list for the following day. Weekends are spent editing or critting in the SFF Online Writing Workshop, which I thoroughly recommend.

Katrina: I write things on a bunch of dry erase boards like a big crazy, ignore most of them, and draft in Scrivener because I like how fancy it makes me feel.

Steve: Panic. Write. Repeat.

Renee: I do not have a process. I want one, but I can’t settle into a writing routine long enough to develop one.

So, there you have it. Some of us have a very distinct “routine” we like to follow when writing, and some just work with what we have when we get the urge to write. What about other writers out there? Do you have a process? Any weird shit you have to do or have to have in order to be productive?

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What’s in the Dead of Night?

By C.M. Saunders

Last year, after the rights to Apartment 14F, one of my earlier novellas, reverted back to me, I was finally able to polish it up and put out the version I wanted to. Now, I am giving the other book published by Damnation Books the same treatment.

I haven’t read this story for years. I don’t tend to go back and read stories once they’ve been published. It’s partly because I see writing as a continuous process. I’m a better writer now than I was eight years ago when Dead of Night first came out, and I’m probably a better writer than I was last week. But I have to say, this wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

From the double-meaning title to the cheesy one-liners and OTT violence, Dead of Night probably represents my first shambling steps into splatterpunk territory. It’s one of the first things I wrote that had a female protagonist. And no, it’s not because I’m sexist. I just didn’t think I would be able to write a strong female character convincingly. It took me a long time to realise that well, men and women aren’t very different after all. For this story, I thought I’d turn the usual set of circumstances on their head and have the gal saving the guy for a change. During the course of the story I grew very fond of Maggie.

I found the story flowed quite well, there weren’t many grammatical errors, and I was happy with the overall pacing. The only thing that lets it down is the fact that in some parts, it’s pretty dated. It’s been almost a decade since I wrote it. At the beginning, I had Maggie and Nick Arguing over what CDs to play in the car. Do cars even have CD players anymore? I suppose some still do. But for how much longer?

Dead of Night is packed full of pop culture references. Music, films, books. In the first version the dead celebrity Nick and Maggie discussed in the beginning was Michael Jackson. Since then Prince died, so for the reboot, Prince gets the nod. I always preferred his music anyway. There was a period in the second half of the eighties when he was untouchable. MJ does still get a name check, though, and I gave Meatloaf a nod by nicking one of the lines from ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ (I’ll probably get sued for that). I even slipped in the phrase ‘motley crew.’ Proud of that one.

If you’re a connoisseur, you might catch some of the movie references, too. The ‘Romero’s zombies’ one is easy to get, and the whole Nick losing a hand thing is a thinly-veiled homage to Evil Dead. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid also makes an unlikely appearance.

In a lot of my stories I drop the names of Cardiff City players, past and present. It’s kind of an in-joke nobody fucking notices except me. Steve McPhail and Jay Bothroyd are definitely from the past. I was going to update them, but then I decided it wouldn’t make much difference. McPhail and Bothroyd are still great players and deserve their place in history.

Reading it back now all these years later, though I might not have been aware of it at the time, Dead of Night is clearly a tribute to the King of splatterpunk, Richard Laymon. I even use the word ‘rump. ’ If you aren’t familiar with his work, the joke is that he used ‘rump’ A LOT. At every opportunity. A couple of times a page. It was one of his trademarks.

Perhaps the hardest adjustment I had to make when I knocked out the original version was that I had to write it in ‘American.’ I rarely do that. The vast majority of my stories are set in places I have lived – Wales, England or China. However, because the story is about American Civil War zombies, this one had to be set in America. There was no way around it. I have visited America, but never the Deep South where the story is set. Some artistic license was used there.

I found a couple of continuity errors, even after two rounds of editing by the publisher. That sucked. I had my happy couple hiking several hours to their camp site, then ‘nipping back’ to their car to grab hoodies when it got cold. That was improbable. Perhaps even more improbable than the other stuff going on. Oh, and I know guns probably wouldn’t still work after being in the ground for 150 years or so but fuck it, I wanted them to work so they did. It’s my story.

Finally, I added about 1000 words and inserted more line breaks. I originally wanted to tell the story through two POVs simultaneously, flashing back and forth from one to the other. But of course, that’s extremely difficult to do without head-hopping all over the place, so line breaks it is.

All things considered, I’m pretty happy with this reissue. The book has been out of print for a couple of years now, apart from a few ropey second-hand paperbacks floating about on Amazon. It’s an important part of my back catalogue, and I’m glad it’s finally available again.

Dead of Night is out October 1st on paperback and ebook.

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Online Obsessions: Sites We Can’t Live Without

Christian had this idea that you guys might enjoy knowing a few of our favorite things. Maybe he was wrong, but we’re going to tell you anyway. This week, let’s discuss the website we can’t live without.

Peter: It sounds crap but probably Amazon; I order almost everything I buy from there as I don’t like going out (mostly books and booze).

Christian: Wales Online, for many reasons. I travel a lot, and it’s the best way to keep in touch with things that happen in Wales where I am from. No other website, not even their own, has as much Cardiff City FC coverage. Other than that, I love the wacky news stories they publish, because Wales can be a pretty wacky place. Just the other week, they ran a headline, “MAN ADMITS HAVING SEX WITH HIS TERRIERS, TAFF AND BEN.”

I just love how they gave us the names of the dogs just to, er, ram the point home.

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Renee: You guys can be all “I don’t rely on social media,” snobs or whatever, but I’m just going to say it: I love social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. First, they’re a marketing tool, but second, they’re entertaining and (sometimes) informative. I suppose I could live without them, but I’d be really sad about it. Also, Netflix. Does that count as a website?

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Steve: I used to be such a big fan of Cracked, but these days they’re not as fun as they used to be. I was a serious fan, and the two articles I had published there remain some of my proudest writer achievements. Man, I was a fan boy. There’s was the only forum I frequented, and I’d check them every day religiously. I even had dreams where I’d meet up with the writers. Silly, I know, but that’s how much I loved the site.

They were recently acquired by a larger media company. They jettisoned many of my favourite writers, and steered harder into building readership over building audience. A little bit of my stake in the internet eroded that day, I’m not ashamed to say.

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Liam: I managed to live without any of them for a good while… but I tend to check out what’s going on “behind the wall” at homebrewforums.net several times a day.

Tony: I suppose Yahoo, since that’s my email and I see a lot of the news there. As apps go, Instagram is what I usually check rather than FB. It’s like Playboy back in the day. Just show us the pictures.

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Mike: On British radio there’s a long standing series called Desert Island Discs where minor celebrities discuss six discs they would take with them, interleaved with episodes in their lives. At the end of the programme they have to choose which one of those six discs they would have to take, choose one luxury, and one book other than Shakespeare and the Bible. So, in this context, there is no website I couldn’t live without assuming Google and Bing were a given like Shakespeare and the Bible. And I have my doubts about them – as I do all electronic knowledge. I bought the ‘Complete Works of Edgar Wallace’ on Kindle, and compared its contents with my own battered pulp library of Wallace. There’s one political thriller full of, now laughably, racist comments at the expense of the Chinese. It was written during the ‘yellow peril’ phase in our history. Guess which book wasn’t included in ‘The Complete Works of Edgar Wallace.’ Thing is, who are the guardians, the gatekeepers of websites?

Katrina: Twitter. Like most people, I have an addiction to social media. But since I am old and like my social media to come with a side of intelligent conversations, Facebook and Instagram can fuck off.

Okay, Kittens, now’s your chance to steer us toward something new and wonderful. What’s one site you can’t live without?