On Sunday, I wrote 3000 words. More than I’d written in the previous four months. Oh, I’d written a few thousand here and there, but nothing that still looked acceptable the next day. Certainly nothing I’d count as progress in any meaningful way. But then work quietened down a little (here on the farm, lambing is finally over) and I managed to sit down for a few hours and just write. So that was a good start. Yesterday I barely managed 200, but today was back to 1000. An admittedly shaky start, but with any luck I’ll be able to get into a more regular rhythm over the coming weeks and have something to show by the end of it.
Over those four months of not writing, I bounced between lots of ideas. I’m not too proud to admit my plans were largely influenced by whatever I was reading at the time, but few of those ideas stuck for more than a few days. The big problem I keep running into is that I don’t feel particularly qualified to write the sort of story I enjoy reading. Military SF is always better when the author has real military experience, which I have no intention of gaining. Although my research into rank structure has led to some targeted advertising that wants me marching off to the recruitment centre. I really do struggle to get into a military mindset, but I want to tell stories about interstellar wars because a) they’re very exciting, and b) The paradox of civilised war is something I am very interested in.
And then there’s my approach to the S in SF. I like my science fiction hard and crunchy, or at least chewy. I want realistic space combat. I want technological advances that seem possible. I abhor the very concept of Clarke’s Law. But I’m not a scientist. Quantum physics and relativity tie my brain in knots. Yes, I have a Master’s Degree, but it’s in Creative Writing. Impressive if you say it quickly and under your breath, but not all that helpful when it comes to imagining a plausible future. I do a lot of research on space travel, but it usually ends up with a setting that constrains the sort of story I can tell. Interstellar war is hard when you can’t leave the solar system. I try to find workarounds, but if I’m annoyed by my story, I dread to think what the average reader will think of it.
On the plus side, my character work has taken a big step in the right direction over the course of my last project. I still need to work on character voice, but the interactions are good. Even if I don’t get them myself, I can now successfully trick an emotional connection out of the reader. Go me. Something I’m going to experiment with in my current project is an introductory chapter for each character. Something that will never make it into any draft but the very first, but that will give me a chance to get their voice right. It’s a learning process, and one that will never end, but I’m enjoying doing it, and that surely has to count for something.
While I write these early chapters, i’m still not entirely sure what form the overall story will take. I have ideas, a lot of which I shan’t share here, but I’m intrigued by ship and crew dynamics. A mix of military and civilian outlooks. I’m building the world as I go along, and I’m liking the way it’s shaping up. I don’t know yet if this is going to be something I’m proud of, but at least I’m setting words to the page again. If nothing else, that has to count.
I’m hoping to do more of this sort of update, so stay tuned for the next one. If you need me, you can find me at the keyboard.