Like many writers, I've always written, illustrated, and told stories. In 6th grade, I wrote a short story inspired by the Hardy Boys on a toy typewriter capable of only producing capital letters. My classmates mocked me for the lack of the small case, but my teacher stopped them. “Never mind the letters, listen to the story,” he told them and read it aloud. They listened and agreed that it was indeed a good story. In his report card remarks at the end of the year, my teacher wrote that he’d never had a student with a better imagination. “Imagination is more important than capital letters,” one might say, to paraphrase Einstein.
Today, I use the full range of typographic conventions, and my command of writing technology has developed considerably. But I find it difficult to write tales of any great length using conventional word processing environments. Handwriting a novel is out of the question because of the lack of ease of editing. Typical word processing workspaces, originally laid out for much smaller displays, just aren’t friendly to my eye and do too little of some of the tasks I find useful, and get in the way of others. Word processors initially were meant for letter writing, really. For example, nothing will stop me faster in my tracks than to have a misspelled word underline itself. Spell checking comes later. I can spell well enough on a first draft, and I don't need questionable spellings disrupting my train of thought.
Second, I need a space to keep notes, to archive passages that no longer fit, but just might be useful someday, somewhere, in some context. Initially I tried opening multiple word processing windows at the same time, but it didn't feel comfortable. I needed to skip between chapters quickly, compare two pages from the book, side by side, place temporary bookmarks within the text. I experimented with various word processors and alternate writing environments, but found none to my taste.
Since I do some simple programming, I decided to develop my own writing environment. It doesn't spellcheck, but it lays out my writing spaces in a way that fits me like a glove. On the left side is where the working text of the book resides; on the right side, is where I keep a tabbed notebook of the overall synopsis, a timeline, a list of characters, miscellaneous bits and individual notes for each chapter. A progress bar along the bottom gives me a visual reference of overall progress, and a word count box centered at the top tracks my daily word count, the word count for individual chapters, word count of the entire work in progress, and approximate numbers of pages for individual chapters, as well as the overall text.
When the manuscript is ready for an editor, I can export that text from my program and do the things that conventional word processors do best: spell-check, headers, formatting, and especially begin the comment exchange that is so much of the work flow between author and editor.
The secret of good writing is rewriting. While I usually write easily, I enjoy first drafts the least. It is easy enough to write carelessly, and at the 50,000-word stage, find yourself unable to proceed because either the characters or the plot aren't clear in your mind. Once the first draft is complete, I enter my favorite stage: revision. I have to start revising before the first draft is complete, though. I keep a running critique once I get about halfway through a novel about what stage of development the chapters are in.
Where do my ideas come from? I can't say except that I am good at fanning little sparks of impressions and gathering them together to feed and propagate. The world created in Man of Fear, however, came to me more or less whole in a dream. The setting, character names, the actions of the first thirty pages or so, and much of the dialog bubbled up in my head during the night, and when I woke, I hurriedly entered them on my computer. There they sat for over ten years. The word processing format had to be converted several times so that I wouldn't lose the text. At some point, the story nudged itself back to my attention, and I returned to it only to have it stall at the dreaded 50,000 word mark. It sat another year or two. At last, in frustration, I developed my writing environment software, plugged in what I had and easily wrote through to the story’s conclusion. Or, at least, to the end, whereupon I began my revision and rewriting processes.
In my dream, the word Cachexiphaithe was used and I wrote it down as I heard the sound. I was cautious about using a word that might have a root meaning already in our language, so I browsed a dictionary and found cachexia: weakness and wasting of the body due to severe chronic illness. I must have stumbled across the word some time in my readings and stored it away subconsciously. Cachexiphaithe (cachexia + faith): wasting away of the physical body that is sustained by faith in aetheric energies.
Which brings me to the issue of faith in a different context. A reader of Man of Fear will find no references to a God or gods or deities of any kind. In place of that, the cultures on that world, religion concerns itself strictly with giving direction to the actions of men and women in an attempt to maintain the balance of good and evil. Such a fundamental piece of thinking has kept their world’s development at a pre-industrial stage for three millennium. That is about to change.