Tade Thompson is a writer that needs no introduction. His first novel MAKING WOLF won the 2016 Kitschies Golden Tentacle award for best debut novel. He has written a number of short stories including “Budo” at Escape Pod. His horror novella GNAW will be released in December from Solaris Books. I have read quite a number of his works, and to say that I am deeply impressed is the least I can say. So I reached out for him to guest blog for us in Mytrendingstories about his writing process in general and specifically, about how he wrote Rosewater, his newly published novel:
Welcome to Rosewater
I write longhand.
My handwriting is atrocious, so this whole process can bring about actual bodily pain when I’m trying to transcribe. I am writing this in longhand right now. Most of the time, I do first draft writing in the morning and rewrites in the evening. I wrote the first draft of Rosewater in a series of notebooks between six and seven a.m. over a two-year period. I discarded fifty thousand words when I realised I was telling the story from the wrong Point of View.
I do not outline.
I have a general idea of where the story is going, an anally detailed idea of the characters, and the opening. I throw the characters into a situation and watch them go. I transcribe daily. I don’t look back until I’ve finished the first draft. I don’t read fiction while I’m writing, but I consume vast amounts of non-fiction. I also read a lot of poetry-Milton, Whitman, Shakespeare, Sexton. They keep words flowing in a certain flight pattern, give a particular weft to the prose. I rewrite diagramatically, doodling, drawing, sketching characters, overdosing on flow charts and Venn diagrams. I’m ruthless in cutting what does not work.
Rosewater has been on my mind for a number of years. I wondered what it would be like if Earth was invaded by some long-game thinking aliens. No trumpets, no fanfare, no big announcement, no mothership. An invasion slower than Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I’m talking centuries here. I figured out how this would work, then I wondered how it would affect humankind. I decided to tell the story of Kaaro, my protagonist, in two stages of his life, when he’s young and cocky, then when he’s older and wiser. I could not do one or the other. I found him too cynical as an older man and too selfish as a younger one. Surely I could have tuned the character slide-O-matic to reduce cynicism and increase empathy. Sure, I could, but that would not be Kaaro.
After about five or six drafts I send the novel out to my posse for beta reading, and really, it’s bad form to send a first draft to a beta reader. In addition to the mechanical aspects of plot, theme, character, dialogue, I check for male privilege, ableism and other biases that can creep up on you.
Yes, Rosewater is set in Nigeria and features mostly Nigerians. Aliens have the whole planet to invade. Why would they restrict themselves to a cornfield in rural USA?
I’m more interested in the humans and their interaction with the science fictional elements of the story. I know there are writers who obsess over the minutiae of the science. I am not one of those writers, although I can muck in with predictive values and confidence intervals like the best of them. My stories are about people, with incidental science. Rosewater is a story about Kaaro with all his flaws, not quite a hero, not quite an anti-hero.
The African blue butterfly, charaxes smaragdalis, was my totem writing this book. It was an image focusing my attention, like in chaos magic. Anything to stave off writers block is welcome.
I’m a Cold War baby. When I was growing up the possibility of nuclear Armageddon was real. Not the dirty-bomb terrorist threat variety. I’m talking full-on cobalt bomb nuclear winter. It could happen next week. It could happen tomorrow. Spy narratives were all around me, both fictional and in the newspapers. The presence of espionage in Rosewater is unsurprising.
The last person to read the draft before submission to publishers is a close friend who has dyslexia. Anything she does not understand, I either reword or cut. I don’t write for particular markets. I write what I want, then I hunt for a suitable market.
That’s my book, and that’s my method. How well do they work? That is up to you.
© 2016 by Tade Thompson
ROSEWATER comes out 15th November, but is available for pre-order now at http://www.apexbookcompany.com/products/rosewater-preorder .
Published by Ezeiyoke Peter