Maurice Broaddus is the author of The Knights of Breton Court series of novels and the co-editor of the Dark Faith anthologies. His short fiction has appeared in Weird Tales, Cemetery Dance and Apex Magazine, among many other publications. Visit him online at mauricebroaddus.com. Recently Maurice talked with Weird Tales about his writing process, doing research and combating writer’s block.
Tell us about your writing process.
I get up Monday through Friday and drive down to a coffee shop, arriving as soon as they open, to begin my writing day. I treat it like going to the office. I work for about four hours on whatever projects I have going on and then break. When my sons get home from school, I typically do the business stuff of writing or try to squeeze in a blog post. Then late at night, once the rest of the house has gone to bed, I try to get a few more words scribbled onto a page.
Typically, I get an idea (or pull one from my running idea file) and let sit with it for a while. I may do some free writing, jotting down snippets of dialogue or description, just so that I’m armed when I finally sit down to do battle with the blank page. I tend to outline my way through sections (because even if I outline the whole thing, especially in the case of a novel, by the time I’m halfway through so much has changed that I have to scrap the rest and re-outline anyway).
What are the most important questions to ask before writing a story?
Whose story is it? and what does the world look like? My favorite part of the writing process is figuring out the world the story takes place in. So a good chunk of my pre-writing involves figuring out the world and doing character sketches for some of the folks in it.
Another question I ask, but usually later in the process, is “what’s the big idea?” Sometimes I start a story wrestling with some question or issue, but other times I like to wait until I’ve at least done most of the first draft to see if there’s some central idea I can build on in the next draft.
How do you approach research? Do you tackle it before you write, during?
I am a trained research scientist and that was my career for twenty years. So research is one of the things I love to do. It’s one reason why I enjoy writing alt-histories so much. Any excuse to learn about a people, their history, their culture, I seize upon it.
I’m also pretty relational, meaning I love to get out and meet folks. Getting to know people is my favorite way to research. Two quick examples:
1) My Knights of Breton Court series sprang from me working with homeless teenagers, which was how I was able to capture the vibe for those stories. But I still went out to some…questionable areas of town to watch drug dealers in action. Not a recommended way to conduct research, by the way.
2) My current project is a middle grade detective novel. So I find that I’m spending more time with middle schoolers and actively listening to their conversations, the way they speak, and the situations they find themselves in.
How do you combat writer’s block?
My wife often reminds me that we have bills to pay and can’t afford my writer’s angst.
What is your biggest stumbling block when it comes to crafting a story?
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
1) Writers finish things. Plant your butt in a chair and write until it’s done.
2) Don’t be afraid of the process. Don’t short cut it, take your rejections, and keep improving.
3) Be careful who you take advice from.