I have spent years trying to come up with the first sentence and following paragraphs for the novel. I have tried every voice, even an idea of letting a group of animals sit around a camp-fire and tell the story of my human protagonists.
This morning I deleted about 2,000 words of an introduction written six months ago in favour of rewriting the second chapter. This works and captures the narrative feel I want from the beginning.
The tools of writing are simple: time, space, concentration. The latter is always in short supply. Commercial articles are hard enough. Writing for myself … so I’m not surprised I only managed at 1,100 word count today. I spent most of the time revising and improving continuity.
I changed the gender of one character, because it worked better. And – after an evening spent studying battery technology (and, please, do look up metal-air batteries, you’ll be astonished) – realised that my village can have significantly better technology than I originally allowed.
I’m very pleased about this. Sure, it involved a fair amount of work fixing and changing the layout of the town and its economy, but energy economics are critical to certain choices made by characters. I had limited my village to very poor options purely for fear of giving myself too many problems to explain away. Those are now solved.
As for my office … well, that’s the view. I sit in the tiny restaurant at the Dacozy Resort where I’m staying, enjoying the solitude and watching the ocean. Writing involves a lot of fanciful staring at the ceiling. In this case, local snorkelers apparently catching tropical fish for the aquarium market.
In the image you can see boats tied up. They have dropped anchor directly on the edge of the reef, with the drop-off at that point. The heavy metal has simply smashed the hard corals where it has landed. The reef is in fair condition, but not great – I saw a few “Finding Nemos” as well as neon blue fish and a sea snake – however I’m sure it is significantly better than back at the village where most of the diving boats are tied up. That area sees a constant lugging of diving equipment onto the boats and the traffic of people and boats. A good reason to go out to the smaller atolls to view reefs in relative isolation.
The village is pleasant. The restaurants are good, although there are few tourists this out of season, and so the menus are limited to one or two items.
At least the monsoon is now moving away and the wind has dropped away.
Now to focus on ensuring I hit my 5,000 word target tomorrow.
Categories: Arts/Literature, Scroguely Works
What I learned from writing long projects — master’s thesis, doctoral dissertation, a very long boring consultancy report, a few novels — is that management of material trumps virtually every other aspect of the work. Yes, characters count; so does plot; so does intellectual creativity. But accumulating the material needed with which to construct the work requires astonishingly arduous management of that material.
That I’m realising. I have several large books from the early 1900s written by colonial officers posted to Nigeria on local culture, cookbooks, clothing. And then documents and images of indigenous trees, animals, plus my own notes on what I saw, tasted and smelled while there. I have albums full of music.
Then we get to the science. Everything must make sense. The book is only 150 years in the future. Everything then has to be stuff that is theoretically possible now. So I’m researching everything from battery technology to additive manufacturing. A recent work on DNA printing conversion to integrated circuit conversion has become important.
Minor plot points which helped explain my character’s motivation (a war he joined as a young idealist) has become critical to explaining why the world is the way it is.
So, yip, that material management 😉
You’re going at this from the same perspective favored by hard classical SF writers of the mid-century – scientific plausibility. Gibson and the cyberpunks turned that upside down. Not that didn’t care at all about scientific plausibility, but the genre (and most everything decent since) was driven instead by cultural plausibility.
Worry about the story first. If you gloss the tech and science, fine. Let the reader’s imagination do some work for you.
Actually, I’m doing it all. I’ve got two complete societies, and the rest of the world as well. Both culture and technology have to work. A few plot points hinge on technology choices, so they have to be plausible. After that its all about the culture clash.