It has come to my attention that many people in the various steampunk communities turn their hands towards writing in the genre. Not an easy task, I assure you, but quite rewarding when one can make it work. I started this discussion in hope of hearing from fellow scribes, of both the professional and amateur varieties. Please feel free to expound upon your trials and tribulations of the author's art.
What sort of research do you do? How do you go about making up characters, plot, imaginary history, world-building, and so forth? What is your favorite part of writing? What is your least favorite part of writing? What do you find easy? What gives you the most trouble?
As a seed, so to speak, I'll relate a bit about myself;
I'm an amateur writer of some 15 years standing. Until I discovered Steampunk, I wrote mainly Science-Fiction, Fantasy, poetry, and sometimes even within the Horror genre. I've had stuff published in half a dozen e-zines over the years since '95 or '96- Whenever it was that I first went online. That said, honesty requires me to point out that I've yet to make a professional sale, so don't be too impressed by what could laughingly be called my "publishing credits." Most of my work is character-driven, but with a generous dash of world-building used as set dressing.
Now that I have gotten into steampunk I've found that my prefered writing sub-genre of Alternate Universe stories dovetails easily with steampunk. The world-building process is almost the same, but a bit more tightly focused. The same sort of historical research applies. As does the process of picking a point or series of points where real history and the alternate history diverge. For me, world-building is half the fun. Once I have a believable backdrop and history to use as a playground, I can turn the characters loose and let them roam as they will. That's what works best for me. I do write outlines, but I've learned to treat them as suggestions rather than strict limitations. Once I've established a character, or set of characters, they continually amaze me with what they say and do. They'll veer wildly away from my outline, weave back and forth across it from time to time, then intersect the outline again somewhere towards the end of my proposed plot. That can be fun, or it can be a hair-pulling, vexing annoyance. It all depends on whether the story suffers, or becomes more interesting than I'd planned.
All right, that's enough of a seed for now. Let's see what sprouts from this oh so fertile soil...