(Blogger’s note: None of these images will be used in my original work. They are all created by artists in their own right, and I take no credit for the visual part of this post.)
My current work in progress has been several years in the making. It’s a combination of contemporary and traditional fantasy, in that the setting is present day, but many of my influences draw on legends and mythology as old as the hills. The characters are for the most part of my own reckoning (though some do find their roots in other authors’ tales or cultural folklore).
There are fairies and monsters, beings of light and creatures of darkness. There are humans who believe in things that go bump in the night, and humans who don’t. There’s a secret organization that saves the world on a regular basis, but no one knows it. And there are cats, because, hey, it’s necessary.
I’ve been working really hard at completing this series. My self-imposed deadline is to release the first installment at the end of this year. Since the ideas have been churning around inwardly for quite a while, it’s really time (in terms of emotional health, as well as creative) that they start becoming reality (at least in terms of print on page).
For years, I’ve tried going the traditional route — literary agents, magazine submissions, writing contests. Interestingly, I won a few contests for my non-fiction and poetry, but no one seemed to be very invested in further developing my fiction. Two things happened as a result of this.
One: I decided to stop waiting and self-publish. Two: I realized that there was a reason many critics stated that my longer writing felt somewhat disjointed and in need of clarification. I didn’t write my characters’ motivations or emotions the way other people expected to read them — because I didn’t understand a lot of conventional human emotion or processing. After all, I’m autistic — and that means that some things other humans do as naturally as breathing will simply never come naturally to me.
So this time around, I decided to do what made the most sense: I wrote from the POV of a high-functioning autistic.
When my NT (neurotypical) characters start going somewhere that I just can’t grasp, I go back to my two narrators who are PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified). Maybe I’ll even have my NT people explain a crucial plot point or motivation to one of those narrators — because I may not understand why something would or would not be a good idea without a thorough discussion on the subject. And as I write, if something going on in the rest of my house is threatening to explode, I take notes on things that I can’t forget about later on, so that the flow of the story makes sense. (Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at self-editing, catching those moments of an unfinished thought, or accidentally inserting the wrong character’s or location’s name.)
The other way I’m writing, which may not work for others, and that I never even considered just a few years ago, is this: I’m writing out of order. Since I’ve had the majority of the plot planned out for ages, trying to write in chronological order of the story — when I have a sort of Doctor Who view of the timeline (past and present and future all at once) — was becoming very complicated. It made me stress out. (The dark side of autism is revealed when we get stressed out. ‘Tis not good.)
So, now, instead of having one notebook open at a time, I have several, each targeting a particular volume of the series, and this way, if one morning I have a fantastic idea about the dialogue for something that doesn’t happen until the 4th book — no problem, I can jot it down before it’s lost in the ether of distraction or sleepiness or having to go to an appointment. (I always write my drafts in a notebook or journal first. Whether I’ll be able to secure multiple consecutive hours on my home computer for writing is a gamble. And I can have pen and paper at the ready in different locations and different times of the day.)
The other thing I’ve given up attempting to do is write genre-expected romances. I just don’t fathom what it’s like to be an NT in a relationship with another NT. Their expectations and standards for a marriage are not mine, and analyzing whether these were fulfilled or not and how it may affect the relationship won’t do anything positive for my story. I wouldn’t be able to relate. It wouldn’t ring true.
A few months ago, when my husband asked if I’d considered writing a book about autism, I’d said I wasn’t ready. Ironically, though, there’s going to be a lot of stuff in my fantasy novel about autism awareness and understanding.
To avoid spoilers, I won’t be sharing too many details about this series just yet. But the closer I get to releasing the first book, there will be more discussion! (After all, I need to entice you all to get my books and read them!) If you have specific questions, I’ll answer them in my next post on this topic!