Writing Process- My Crazy Idealism At Work
“Willow Dawn Becker is a purveyor of words, often very small ones with lots of scary undertones. She dabbles in dark fiction, horror, scary writing, ghost stories and things about crazy people. Her blog is slightly funny.”
BUT. Her blog is much more than SLIGHTLY funny. Her subscribe page is the most hilarious subscribe page I’ve ever seen in all my time studying internet marketing- I signed up for her list immediately after reading it, and I’m a bit sad I haven’t received any mail yet.
What am I working on?
I just finished writing Part One of a book about a dystopian science fiction society that finds an interdimensional portal into a utopian fantasy world, and decides to invade. The scifi society is our world, one thousand years from now. A nuclear war destroyed most of the ecology, (plus climate change basically did in the ozone layer) so the people live in domed cities that protect them from the harsh conditions on the face of the planet. They are ruled by the twelve major corporations that have a monopoly over the world’s resources. Everyone who can afford to is supposed to have a computer implant in their brains– or else be deemed a second class citizen of inferior intelligence. Not too much different from the present world, eh? (Ha. Ha.)
The path to the fantasy world is opened up via technology (think Stargate or The Subtle Knife)… but in ancient history, natural portals between Earth and the fantasy world used to exist. That’s why we have the ancient stories about dragons, unicorns etc. In pre-history, mythical creatures used to visit Earth! Then, for some reason, the natural portals closed up, and relations between the two world were suspended for milennia.
Now relations are beginning again- and not on the best of terms. The protagonist of my novel is an officer of the scifi army named Wallace. He has a doctorate in anthropology, and was offered the army job immediately after completing his brilliant and controversial thesis defense. He joined the army with the idea of studying the cultures of the mythical creatures, and finding ways to influence the army towards peace. However, as the novel continues he begins to realize more and more, his corporate superiors have no intention of pursuing peace. Bottom line, the scifi world needs to harvest resources to maintain the decadent lifestyle of the 1%.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
1) Most viewpoint characters in the dystopian YA genre are victims of an oppressive government. My viewpoint character willingly works for the oppressive government, and experiences considerable privilege as a result of his cooperation. (Imagine if the viewpoint character in The Hunger Games had been Effie instead of Katniss- that would have changed the story, wouldn’t it have? Or what if Star Wars was told from the view point of an Imperial trooper?) Wallace gradually realizes over time that he’s a stooge for an evil colonizing force, and since he’s a pretty good and decent guy, he has to decide what to do about it. Thus drama.
2) Social media plays a very positive and important role in my plot. There are a few science fiction books about social media out there right now (for example, The Circle, by Dave Eggers) but they mainly depict social media as part of the evil forces of consumerism. It’s high time for a science fiction book that recognizes social media as the tremendously important, emotionally liberating, anti-oppressive tool we’ve seen it can be (Arab Spring, anyone?)
3) The most important relationship in the novel is Wallace’s sibling relationship, not Wallace’s romantic interest. I realize the Disney movie Frozen got there first, but I still feel this is rare enough I can claim it as a point of distinction.
By the way, since this is more a “first job” story than a “coming of age” story, I suppose it’s actual genre is New Adult, not Young Adult. I tend to call it Young Adult so that that people don’t assume it is an erotically focused story.
Why do I write what I do?
I suppose the biggest reason I chose the plot for my current book, was the time I spent in Senegal studying abroad. Although the age of colonization is supposedly “over,” my white skin color definitely did get me some weird treatment in Senegal. Simply put, I looked like the former colonizers- and I was part of a culture that still exploited Senegal economically.
People begged me to take them to the USA, so they could be wealthy like me. I’m just a middle class daughter of two academics, but in Senegal I was wealthy. Every time anyone saw me, they shouted, “Toubab!” which means “White person.” When I complained about this, my Senegalese friend said, “You are being treated like a princess! Enjoy it!” but I didn’t feel like a princess, so much as I felt like an evil queen. Special, but not in a good way.
There was one day in particular, that really made me sensitive to the villainy white people represented. I went on a tour of the harbor, and I got shown this crazy two-headed fish. I was told, “This fish is two-headed because of all the pollution in the harbor. The Senegalese poor eat the mutated-looking fish, and all the normal-looking fish are sold overseas for Americans to eat.”
This first-hand experience with the consequences of colonization is what made me want to write a novel about colonization. And I SPECIFICALLY wanted to write it from the point of view of the “bad guys,” because that’s the most authentic expression of my own cultural heritage and issues. But I wanted to also write a novel where people are good and systems are bad. Becuse that reflects my own belief about the basic goodness of human nature.
How does your writing process work?
My favorite part of Willow’s blog was when she said she used to burn incense to get her started on writing. It can be pretty hard to get yourself to sit down and face the page sometimes, so rituals like that “to summon the muse” I suppose, do help. My ritual to summon the muse is to go to a coffee shop or wine bar and treat myself to a delicious beverage and sip it slowly and look around and feel relaxed and at peace. I need that peacefulness, that distance from the rest of my life, to really focus on writing. (Though if I was a REAL badass, I’d be able to write any time, anywhere.)
I wrote Part One of my novel by tweeting my daily word counts- I felt ashamed of tweeting a low word count, so that kept me highly motivated for a period of time. However, I haven’t done any writing (other than blogging) for the past two or three weeks though. I think I kind of burned myself out a bit sprinting through Part One so fast. I spend my workday staring at screens, so I was starting to get headaches from having my leisure time be screen time too (I always write on the computer. Too hard to edit otherwise.)
Let’s be real: it’s easy to dream, but it’s hard- almost ridiculously hard- to force yourself to spend time WITH THE PAGE. Basically spending time alone with your own brain and your own imagination can be one of the most terrifying things there is. Because you never know what you’ll find deep inside- and you’re putting it out there for everyone to see. You’re making your heart and soul into a saleable product. But in the process of writing, you untangle a lot of knots in your heart and soul, too. So it’s healthy.
Who’s UP NEXT?
What’s the next step in the blog tour? Well, I have chosen not three, but FOUR wonderful writers to carry on the baton. (Yes, I’m just that generous- I gave you an extra writer!) You will be able to read blog posts about their writing process next week.
Eric M. Ralph– Eric is a humorous writer who has a book up on Amazon about God getting sick of his job and quitting in disgust. It is pretty funny and not at all offensive to religious folks like myself (Eric himself is a devout Buddhist.) He is currently working on a time-traveling romantic comedy, and his hobbies are studying literature…. and arguing with everything I say on Twitter. Well, almost everything.
Michelle Robin La– Michelle’s writing is inspired by the stories of her Vietnamese-American husband and in-laws. Her book, Catching Shrimp with Bare Hands, is a memoir of her husband’s life. In a world where so many Americans are profoundly ignorant of other cultures, Michelle’s writing is a welcome educational experience! Her tweets are wise, kind, friendly and serene. She approaches the craft of writing with true dedication.
D. Wilder– (aka Of the Wilds) is a dragon from the wilds (one of those creatively playful writers who tweets “in character.”) Although dragons in fantasy are typically painted as villains, Of the Wilds is bent on showing the world that dragons are lovable and misunderstood. You can read his work for free on his website (although gifts of tribute for his hoard, particularly gold and jewels, are quite welcome.) And just so you know, he writes with humor and honesty about the dragons’ love lives (something the sex positivity activist in me appreciates.)
Jason Cantrell– is currently in a Master’s in Writing program at Rowan’s College of Graduate and Continuing Education, and working on his upcoming novel Manifestation. His short story Radiance is available for 99 cents on Amazon, a beautiful story about the way people with beyond-ordinary abilities are shunned and feared by society. He tweets and blogs with disarming, and occasionally disconcerting, honesty. His poetry displays true empathic imagination- I read some poems of his written from the viewpoint of a bisexual woman, that were 100% on-point (even though Jason is a straight man.)
I tried to write bios with some flavor to them, and not just blandly factual bios. I urge you sincerely to check out these writer’s blogs next week. I heartily recommend them.