Going to pop the hood for a second and let everyone see how I work. Wait a minute. Don’t let the salacious title fool you. I’ll get to that in a second. But when I’m referring to work, I’m referring to writing.
A writer’s modus operandi is always a topic of conversation with other writers. “How many drafts?” “Do you plot or are you a pantser?” “How many words a day?” In the end, it’s all pretty useless because everyone works so differently. Everyone finds inspiration in their own way. However, we can’t help ourselves, as artists, from comparing, borrowing, or trying new methods to lure out our creative daemons .
I could sit here and explain how I do it. In fact, I’ve done that a bit in other posts. But in the spirit of showing and not telling, I’ll take a different track.
I normally surf duotrope for interesting topics, pick one, sit back and start typing and see what happens. Yeah, it’s really that simple. A bit more thought and I might get published more often, ah well.
Next month’s theme for Crossed Genre publications is Unresolved Sexual Tension and it immediately brought to mind the novel I’m currently writing. So I’m going to borrow a few of those characters, see where this goes AND drag you along for the ride. I’ll invite anyone to throw in critique (I’m going to miss my crit group next week) and I’ll work things out from there, taking my readers through each step in the process.
Once I get the final done, I’m not going to post it (they don’t want reprints, and I’m thinking since a) I have like hardly any followers and b) I’m only showing raw work, this won’t be a “re-print”). Hopefully, you get to see it if not in CG, somewhere – maybe a book many, many moons down the road. If anyone else plans to submit to CG, feel free to share your ideas. This might scare some people but like I’ve said, there are no original ideas anymore. Whether something is “good” or not is all about execution.
To start, I’m using characters I’ve already established in my mind and part of a plot which I’ve mentally mapped out a rough idea. It makes it easier to come up with something on the fly, though my standard MO isn’t much different. Get a prompt, sit, type. This time though, there’s probably less pointless character/plot development on the page. I normally find I have to cut the first several hundred words of a short story as I “write my way into it” and get to the important stuff. If you are a “pantser” ALWAYS check your first several hundred words or so and see if they are necessary or if they are simply backstory you needed to commit to the page before you could start the -real- story.
First Draft (Untitled – thinking moons, lightning, something):
Sidge rolled to his side, tucking his wing under his head. In the pale light that spilled through the window, the furnishings in the room rose from the floor around him like scattered islands. He gathered the loose scraps of cloth that served as his bed around him. Each scrap he had meticulously sewn onto a netting of sorts for ease of portability. Most places he traveled frowned on the shredding of their linens, but he found it a necessary comfort.
He let the many facets of his eyes blur into a peripheral haze as he stared at the foot of the bed next to him. The familiar growl of his Master’s snoring rose and fell with the right side of the rickety bed, his feet twitching with an unsatisfied itch. Beside him, Kaaliya’s hair, painted the footboard blacker than a starless night. He traced the edge to a silvery band of moonlight that reflected off her silken strands and continued the curve upward until he met her face.
Eyes open, she stared out the window. “The moon’s nice,”
“Yeah,” Sidge replied. He looked forward to late night talks with Kaaliya. Sleep was nothing more than a time to rest for him. Often, he’d be at work, mending their traveling clothes or reciting the mantras of the Storm Temple as his Master had taught him. When Kaaliya first joined them on their pilgrimage, he was worried it was his Master’s deafening snore that kept her awake. But she simply never sept much.
“Why the blanket?” Kaaliya asked. She’d always been interested in his habits but she’d never asked about this. “You don’t sleep.”
“I’m not sure. I think it’s instinctual. A nest, or a hive. Gathering materials to conceal.” Sidge thought about his answer knowing he was only speculating having been raised among humans. “What about you?”
“Blankets? It’s either that or a man to warm the bed.” Kaaliya’s smirk came across monochromatic in the light.
“No. Why don’t you sleep like the other humans?” Sidge asked.
“Like him?” Kaaliya shifted in the bed where she lay head to toe with Master Ivar. Master Ivar’s growl briefly sputtered. Sidge couldn’t tell, but he was pretty sure she’d kicked across the distance between them and caught him in the ribs. “It’s easier to sleep when you’re used to a temple with walls of stone and where everyone sees everyone day in and day out. You don’t know the things that are out there at night.”
“Is that why you have other men in your bed?” Sidge had no sooner asked the question before he wished he hadn’t. He was fascinated by humans and their rituals, none of which made sense to him but were of great interest. Often that curiosity exited his mandibles before he could restrain it.
Kaaliya only chuckled and Sidge breathed an inner sigh of relief. She understood him. Even though they’d only been travelling together a short time, she was often more amused about his social awkwardness than anything. ‘Cute’ she’d even called it.
“Men don’t make me feel safer, if that’s what you mean to ask.” Her face relaxed, the smile faded. Just as quickly it returned. “I’ll invite them if I feel the need or,” she kicked Ivar again and he snorted before falling back into rhythm, “if my cheapskate companions can’t afford another bed.”
Sidge didn’t want to inquire about ‘the need.’ Kaaliya always made her mating habits quite plain. It should have been refreshing as most humans were tight lipped about such things. It wasn’t. For his kind however, mating was a practicality and a ritual performed with a precision and manner that humans couldn’t even begin to understand.
He decided to let the subject of money steer the conversation elsewhere. “Do you think we’ll find a sponsor here in Stronghold?”
“Maybe. Hard to say. There’s old money here, taken from the slaveholders centuries back or picked up along the way. Everyone supports the Storm Temple’s cause. I’m sure your Master will find someone to hitch his wagon to.”
“Will you ride the pilgrimage with us when he does?” It was another topic Sidge wasn’t quite sure he wanted to inquire about.
Kaaliya looked out the window. “I’m not sure. I’ve got contacts here. Places I could be quite comfortable.”
There was a silence in the room. For a moment Sidge thought his Master had stopped breathing but it was broken by a hacking cough and wet mumble of incoherent gibberish that sounded like a wounded cow before the cacophany resumed. Kaaliya snickered and Sidge felt his antennae wave joyously as he stifled a laugh. As their laughter died, he wanted to say more but found his words failed him as he lay under Kaliya’s gaze.
“Your wings looks quite lovely in the moonlight.” Kaaliya smiled.
Sidge examined the sliver threads of light tracing the wing folded beneath his head.
“It reminds me of your hair,” Sidge spoke, once again before he’d thought it through. Most humans found insects and thus the Ek’Kiru revolting. “A little. ”
“Instinct or not, you shouldn’t need to conceal anything,” said Kaaliya. It took Sidge a moment before he understood she was referring to his makeshift blanket. He pushed it back exposing his thorax to the same light. A metallic blue in the day, his skin gathered the moon’s rays into arrow straight rivers hemmed in by the dark lines of his joints. His own robe he’d left draped across a chair, something humans found quite appalling despite the fact that modesty given an Ek’Kiru anatomy, or lack thereof, made little sense.
Kaaliya slid out of bed, the straw mattress rustling beneath her. She was clad in her travelling clothes, a formless shirt and leather breeches. Her bare feet fell noiseless on the wooden planks. She didn’t speak as she curled into the space now open under the upraised blanket. Sidge lowered it and let his wing drape across her shoulders.
Before long, Kaaliya’s breath found its own steady rhythm and Sidge listened as though it were a mantra, letting his thoughts slip into a space somewhere between this world and house of the mighty dragon Vasheru who electrified the sky above Sidge’s adopted home at the Storm Temple monastery.