The Creative Process
Clean cut looking ship’s captain, looking at Jake critically: How old are you, son? Standard years, not local.
Jake, fourteen Earth years old, slightly shaggy shoulder length red hair: Seven, give or take a bit.
First dude, looking a bit disappointed and shaking his head: I’m sorry, but I can’t take you on. You’re . . .
Jake: Why not?! I’ve been doin’ a man’s work for two or three Standard years already, for fuck’s sake! I’m young, yeah, but I ain’t a kid.
The man again: My boss sets the standard for my ship, sorry. The charter won’t let me.
Jake nods, looking angry, and starts to walk off. Stopped by gruffer looking captain, craggy features, unkempt long dark hair: You said you been doing a man’s work for a couple of years already?
Jake: Yes, sir.
Unkempt captain: What kinda work?
Jake: Ranch hand, mostly. Bit of this and that to make more money from time to time. I’m decent at speeder repair too.
Unkempt captain: Ranch hand? Good. ~nods and smiles, very slightly~ I need a cattleman for this run. You in?
Jake, thoughtfully: Depends on how much it pays, I guess.
Jake, to Harlan, his boss . . . and the father of his girlfriend, a few hours later: So, I guess this is it.
Harlan: Looks that way. Your dad would be proud of you, finally gettin’ off this rock. Spirits know he always wanted to.
Jake, quietly: I know.
Harlan: You told Valerie yet?
Above, you have the rawest bit of my writing process I’ve ever shared. You see, for me stories very, very rarely start with an idea. Usually I’ve got some dialogue, maybe a bit of a setting around it, and generally it’s characters I already know from other stuff . . . I’ve been revising Jake’s Last Mission all week, so it’s not surprising he was on my mind. Also, this . . . or rather the version of this that was going through my head at 8:50 this morning, but more on that later . . . like most of my “ideas”, was there suddenly in that weird period where you’re not quite awake but not quite asleep either.
I wake up with weird little bits of dialogue in my head lots of days. I never bother with recording in any way most of them because they go no further, regardless of what I try to do with them. This one though . . . I was trying to enjoy the scenery as we drove back from my wife’s book-signing today and this dialogue kept creeping back into my mind, with little revisions each time. I couldn’t figure out what to do with it . . . both segments end abruptly and the next thing I know about Jake’s life (from something I worked out ages ago) is that he gets married over a year later, so I’ve got this little bit with nothing to do with it. Yay.
Usually, I just let these things sit in my brain and percolate or get lost. But, well, I was reading writing advice books (to make fun of . . . this really is a sickness, I think) and they kept going on about “how authors get ideas” and “here, step-by-step, is how to go from idea to final draft” and . . . it was all so motherfucking completely alien to how I do things! So, I decided to share how things work for me, at least at the beginning.
And a bit of what might, someday, be a story. What’ll I do with this? That depends. This might be all there ever is. Or I might someday have a lot more of what’s going on around it in my head, and then I’ll pour that out on paper/screen, and then revise the fuck out of it several times before I have something to publish.
As for what inspired this . . . who the fuck knows the direct inspiration? I know parts of it: months ago I read an article about cattlemen on merchant ship’s and it occurred to me that it might have been a way for Jake to transition from ranch hand to spaceman, I’ve been listening to the Hamilton cast album pretty much non-stop for the last month or so and, well, listen to the first verse here and I’m pretty sure you’ll understand how it puts me in mind of a guy who went from orphaned ranch hand on a world in the galactic boonies to commander of a world several thousand light years away’s entire space fleet. And, as I said, I’ve been working on the expansion of Jake’s Last Mission, so that doubled the amount Jake was on my mind.
In other news, the revision of No More Lies has hit a point where it’s equally divided between scenes I love so much that I can’t see errors in them even when they’re pointed out to me and scenes that I detest so much that I want to delete them and rewrite them completely. So it’s sitting until I can approach it more rationally.
Jake’s Last Mission, Expanded which is still lacking a decent title obviously, is finished . . . for meanings of “finished” that ignore editing and revision and figuring out which of “Mugdaran” and “Mugdarran” is the one I meant to use (I’ve added both to spellcheck’s dictionary. Oops! And it turns out that previously published works use them an equal number of times. Shit.)
None of my other stories are progressing at all, which is incredibly annoying. I keep getting ideas for what to do about the Quinn/Renata story at very inopportune times — I can’t exactly sit down in the middle of the grocery store and write (well, I guess I could, but I’d look a bit crazier than I like to) — that won’t stay in my head long enough for me to get them down on paper for some reason. Like I said, annoying.
Now, back to trying to convince my cat to push the curtain out of her way and get in the window like a normal cat instead of trying to scale the curtain to get to the window. (She is very convinced that climbing over things always gets her to where she wants to be. She tries to climb windows all the time to try to get to things outside. She is a very strange little cat.)