Old Writing Habits Die Hard
I’ve been working on a steampunk fantasy short story this week. Steampunk is kind of like what Wild, Wild West or The Adventures of Briscoe County was. It’s set in the age of invention, where inventions could be fun and creative, all with a bit of rebellion wrapped in.
However, I don’t play well with historical. I’ve never enjoyed research.
Part of the problem is how history and research was taught in school. It was a list of facts that could be put on a test. I’m better at big picture than details, so I never did well with remembering obscure facts. The other part of the problem is how writers sometimes treat it: as if they were being graded. They have to research every single detail to make sure that the 1% of the audience who might know that fact won’t call them out as being wrong.
But I was reading Lessons of a Lifetime of Writing by David Morrell, and he said the following:
“The point is, research should be considered a reward and not a penance that you have to go through before you start writing.”
That made me think about if I could feel like it was less of homework in school. The truth is that it may always be something that I may never enjoy much.
But that’s how the steampunk story came in. I’ve been having a terrible time getting setting into the story at all, and that’s something that separates the pro writers from the beginners.
Steampunk fantasy is all about setting, so it would really push my learning curve.
The idea came out of a book I was reading on the construction of the Washington Monument. I’ve been exploring books to see what era or type of books will interest me, since it will help my writing overall.
Wasn’t thinking about the story at all when I was reading.
Then I saw an anthology call and thought it might work.
The story is called Stain of Ghost.
My approach was to take a single historical event and keep it in one place. That way I can focus on just a small piece of the time and work at getting the setting and the story to work together.
But took a lot longer than expected. I felt like was remapping myself. I kept looking at the random parts of the story and thinking:
“It’s not coming together. It’s nothing coming together.”
There were six scenes. I tried writing the first two scenes, and it was all over the place while I tried to figure out how to get the historical setting in without getting me overwhelmed by the history. Then I wrote Scene 4, where I needed setting, not history, and something went “Click.”
I tossed about 1K for the first scenes and started those scenes over again. This time, I had gone out to Fort Washington that Saturday, and it was foggy out on the river. So I started with fog on the Potomac as well as something a coworker said to me about March (“She’s a cranky month.”). Suddenly I had three scenes done, looked at the fourth.
Wait? Was I almost done?
It sneaked up on me and was done.