You know how some books just grab you from the first page and don’t let go? That’s the way I felt when I read Generation 0, a post-apocalyptic novel about three young girls who band together to survive when all the adult in the world die at the same moment. I was lucky enough to edit an early version of Alex Vorkov’s book, and I’m thrilled that he agreed to share some behind-the-scenes secrets about his writing process with you. So without further ado, please join me in welcoming this multitalented writer.
I confess: I rarely read books in my genre.
That’s one of The Rules, isn’t it? You must read in your genre or else you’ll fail (in some manner that no expert can articulate or demonstrate with evidence). Here’s what I think about such writing rules: Feh!Here's what happens when you break one of The Rules of writing. #dystopian #sciencefiction @AlexVorkov Click To Tweet
I don’t go out of my way to avoid speculative fiction, but when my brain spit out the idea that became my post-apocalyptic novel, Generation 0, I didn’t put my creativity on hold so I could go out and read all the post-apocalyptic bestsellers. I started writing. Honestly, I don’t care what the other post-apocalyptic thrillers are like. I care what mine is like.
As writers, we all have different processes. Some writers are keen observers of social conditions and trends, politics, and human relationships, and they think, “I shall write a story around that theme!”
Exclamation point and all.
Other writers are like me. I envisioned a vignette—A teenage girl with only one eye is rummaging through a garbage dumpster. She pulls back a plastic tarp and uncovers two corpses. She doesn’t flinch. She’s seen a million corpses by now—and set to pushing words around on a fresh page. I figured the themes and motifs would emerge as I wrote.
Less celebrated than writers’ processes are readers’ processes. Most of my fiction reading involves British detective novels and 19th Century classics. That’s not particularly interesting information other than that such literature is far outside the realm of my own writing. I read fiction for pleasure rather than inspiration.
In fact, I read far more nonfiction. I don’t mean writing instruction/advice or story research. I’m talking about film and art analysis and criticism, anthropology and archaeology, space travel and colonization, genetics, artificial intelligence, architecture, biographies … you name it. These are the books I read concurrent with my fiction writing, and that is my wellspring.
It’s almost like magic. In Generation 0, civilization collapses when all the adults in the world die at the same moment. The story follows separate threads that eventually weave together: Josie, the aforementioned one-eyed girl, a social misfit who lives in a near feral state; Shawnika, a suppressed intellectual who survives by her fighting prowess; and Grace, a naïve tomboy who discovers her agency through talents uniquely valuable in a post-apocalyptic environment.What happens when every adult on Earth drops dead? Now, a misfit, a brawler, and a tomboy must band together to fight the rise of a new adolescent Hitler. Click To Tweet
By sheer coincidence (or not?), I happened to be reading some nonfiction books on music history at the time I undertook writing my novel. One was about the rise in popularity of “girl groups” in the 1960s (e.g., The Supremes, The Ronettes). That one took a strong bent toward sociology, discussing the tumult and unrest of the 1960s and positing that girl groups became popular because they helped comfort listeners who were otherwise anxious and fearful about the future. Girl groups, claimed the writer, represented the glue of sisterhood that has historically served to keep civilization from breaking down. Without it, society falls under the threat of unfettered war and hatred.
Bang. Theme. Can my three heroes unite and, through their bond of sisterhood, overcome challenges none could face alone? Or are classism, tribalism, and racism so ingrained in our culture that they even survive the end of the world?
There’s a psychopathic villain and his army of adolescent killers to contend with, too. The book is entertainment first and social commentary a distant second. But I think all of us, regardless of our genres, writing processes, and reading habits, want the same thing: to create a story of substance that people enjoy and remember. A good nonfiction book can provide an unexpected spark of inspiration to help us get there.
Where does your writing inspiration come from? Is reading part of your writing process?
Alex Vorkov is the author of Generation 0, a post-apocalyptic nightmare from Permuted Press. He is also a professional copywriter and editor.
Thank you, Alex, for giving us a peak behind the writing-process curtain. Readers, if you haven’t read Generation 0, I recommend you add it to your TBR pile; you’ll be glad you did!
Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, and writing coach for fiction and nonfiction. She works with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. Learn more at her website https://changeitupediting.com, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.