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The process

Michael Ranson, when asked to describe himself usually dodges the question and tells a story, instead. He is, after all, a fiction writer and it can be a hard habit to break! On his new website, Ranson writes, he indulges in his life-long love of word craft and has a lot to say about how to get published and plans to follow his own advice later this year with the release of his first fantasy novel. In the meantime he writes reviews, publishing editorials and shares his views on everything from natural history to space travel. He has also kindly passed this blog-tour over to me.

 What am I working on?

Final edits of the first book of my space-opera trilogy (the Abendau trilogy), before publication in the autumn by Tickety-boo press. I have a few other irons in the pan which are based in Ulster, so when I jump between wips I have to take care not to bring the accents with me! And I've just started a fun new YA sci-fi project.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

For science fiction, it's very character focused. It also focuses on the fall-out of a horrific ordeal on all the characters involved rather than glossing over the events and trivialising them. I like to think there's a warmth to the characters and the world that's a little different from some sci-fi. It's unashamedly soft and fast-paced - I leave the science stuff to those who like that sort of thing! It's also dark in places and that juxtaposes against the humanity of the characters.

Why do I write what I do?

Partly for escapism - Abendau is my world and I'm proud of creating it.

On a more serious note, I wanted to present an existentialist hero, guided by morals and beliefs which are strong enough to be challenged. I wanted my hero to be quite different - non-macho, whilst very much a leader, and driven by his principles - the Steve Covey of the sci-fi world.

I also wanted real relationships, not people thrown together for the plot. None of my characters don't have flaws, few have no redeeming features (well, maybe one.) As the trilogy grows, they grow too, and I feel that's important, that things don't stay static from book to book.

How does my writing process work?

I write best in the afternoon and, like most new writers, have a day job which pays the bills. I try to work in the morning and write in the afternoon up to about five. I then edit and crit in the evenings. As writing becomes more dominant I'm using more of my mornings for non-writing activities to support that - research, blogging, social media - to leave the creative part of my day free. As I have a young family, it's all a bit of a juggling act.

I start with a character and germ of an idea and splurge out a horrid first draft. My strength is dialogue and characterisation and even in this terrible draft the dialogue will form and, often, rarely change.

I then start to inflict it on beta partners who give me feedback to sulk and mull over until I'm ready with the new shape in my mind, which I start to fill out.

I'm a better rewriter than writer, so by draft three things are coming together and then it's about expanding the sparse first draft and tidying up the point of views. I'll happily change point of views, because I'm dialogue-rich I don't find this too onerous, and when it's tidy my agent will see it, at which point her feedback will guide me to the changes and a butterfly emerges that stuns me a little.

I have two fabulous writers who are going to take the baton from me:

Emma Tett, a fabulous writer who, as well as her sff writing, has two novels coming out in 2014: Otherworld (co-authored with Liz Powell) from Torquere Press (November), and Shuttered from Dreamspinner Press (December).

She has also published many, many, many short stories — here’s a link to her blog, which contains a full bibliography.

Anna Dickinson, one of my fabulous writing group, who writes amazing, heart-in-your-mouth YA fantasy. She's repped by the amazing Jessica Negron from Talcott-Notch agency, and her blog can be found here: