The Writing Process and Hiromi Goto

Canadian writer and Wiscon Guest of Honor for this year, Hiromi Goto, is kind enough to answer a few questions about her writing process.

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Tamago: Do you have a regular drafting process, or does your drafting process vary from book to book? Can you describe it to us generally, or at least for one project?

Hiromi: I’m afraid I’m from Team Panster…. I have a story idea, a premise, and I start writing from there toward the general direction of the ending. Sometimes I know where the ending is, other times I’m not certain, so the writing process is very much like a journey for me. I’m making connections and developing plot as I go along. My premise starts out with a character and a situation. A kind of mise en scene. Or, I may have an overarching question: why is there so much suffering in the world? This was the starting point of Half World. As I answer the broad question more questions pop up in quick succession. Answering the relevant questions becomes part of the framework of story.

Tamago: Which part of writing–drafting, revising, critique from others–do you enjoy the most? Why? The least? Why?

Hiromi: I enjoy the writing of the first draft the most because I get to discover and shape and form, use my imagination. Revisions are not my favourite because it’s a fussier work and it must be bound within a strong narrative logic. I find this frustrating because I have a love-hate relationship with causality. If I could, I’d abide inside the logic of dreams.

Tamago: What has been your favorite project to date, and why?

Hiromi: I hope this doesn’t sound like a cop-out, but my favourite project is the start of a new project. Each time. It’s because of that heady feeling of all the possibilities before you. A new adventure awaits and you don’t know what’s going to happen, how it’s all going to turn out! It’s the thrill of discovery.

Tamago: Your writing has a very poetic feel, and feels very gentle. Does your imagery and emotion enter into your draft at an early stage, or is this something that comes in revision?

Hiromi: I’m pleased that you can find gentleness in my writing—the last two novels, Half World, and Darkest Light, went to some bleak places. And some of my feminist short stories can have a sharp edge. My first writing instructor was a poet teaching a fiction class. I think his influence has remained with me although his poetry is not of the lyric tradition. When I write I’m aware of not just the meanings of words, but also the way they sound, appear, and the way they leap. Imagery and emotion are very much part of the first draft. I try to inhabit the world of my narrative, and the subjectivity of my characters—an extension of method acting, I think of what I do as method writing. So emotions and imagery are very much part of the process from the moment I begin.

Tamago: After the initial break-in moment (your first book, agent, or assignment), what are the moments/accomplishments that you feel define you as a writer?

Hiromi: It’s always a thrill and a privilege to receive prizes or accolades for one’s writing, but I think the moments that define me as a writer are when I’ve completed a project, and when I start another one. To be a writer, you must write…. That said, when I first learned that Candas Jane Dorsey, a Canadian science fiction writer had won the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award, in a moment of longing I told my then girlfriend, “One day I’m going to win the Tiptree.” She said, “I don’t doubt it.” When my novel, The Kappa Child, was awarded the Tiptree in 2001 it was a huge surprise and deep pleasure.

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