The story continues...
When you decide on the ‘statement’ that your story can make how deliberately do you work it in?
Always, the story is the thing. It has to be entertaining enough to hold the interest of the reader and to be honest, my interest as well. I am a fiction writer, not a polemicist, plus I am writing in a pretty narrow genre, with a certain expectation of action and pacing. I certainly cannot go all expository on my readers.
At the same time, the thought is always in my head of what true thing am I trying to say here. Unlike Epic Fantasy, in Sword and Sorcery our protagonists are seldom trying to save the world, so making the stakes high enough lots of times involves a moral dilemma of some sort. Just as in most of the other pulp-born genres, there is usually a poor decision made, followed by the protagonist’s struggle to rectify the mistake, whether the story is a western, hard-boiled detective, noir or S&S.
I've seen you refer to your stories as 'inventory'. Do you then consider writing a profession or a hobby?
I think that comes from my years of writing freelance non-fiction for newspapers and magazines. The only way for a freelancer to make any money is to be prolific, and treat it like a job. And in truth, most people who write with the idea that it is a hobby will tend to produce hobby-quality work. As a reader I have very little time, and I want to feel that regardless of how much I paid to read something, or how much or little the writer was paid, that what I am reading is a professional-quality story.
What sort of process do you follow, beginning to end, for your stories?
There are two things that I need to have before starting a story. One is at least one interesting idea of a scene or a character in an uncomfortable position. The other is an idea of what truth there is to be told from that situation. It sounds corny, and a little contrived, but I really think that for any story to really have an impact it must tell the reader something deeper, in some way illuminate the human condition.
The process itself is pretty simple. Because I have very little time, the main obstacle is slotting in writing time. Fortunately I am a pretty fast writer, and having spent some time as a reporter I am not one to agonize. I do almost no re-writing; usually one draft and a clean-up.