Turning the PagePosted on June 09, 2020
So, my birthday was a couple days ago, and I just turned 31. I went for a bike ride and thought about what I'd actually like to do with my life. I'm thinking about this more and more these days; especially as my work situation has recently changed, leaving me free to think about where I might like to be in the next few years.
I talked a bit about this in my first post, and I really think the solution here is writing.
I've been working on my second book, after having finished my first earlier this year. I try to write 250 words every single day (not a lot; but by years' end, you have a full novel), and sometimes it can be a bit of a slog, even if you've got things outlined and planned out. Other days, you can just fly through, but it's hard to keep that kind of pace consistent. You get better with practice I suppose.
Anyway, I was in a bit of a slump, and I decided to read what I had written in my first book; just last chapter. Back when I had written it, I was pretty disappointed with myself in terms of how I'd structured the ending it, labelling it the "Shit Ending", and fully intending to go back and fix it eventually. I'd planned to the edit after my second book, in order to get some distance between myself and the text, but I thought I'd take a quick peek.
And to my surprise, I thought it was pretty good! Definitely in need of an edit, but a solid base to work from! Weird; considering that just six months earlier, I thought it was crap. I think distance really does help.
Anyway, all this brings me to my point.
I really think I will try and make a go of writing. Not as full-time or anything, but looking back on it, I'm super glad I wrote that first book; and despite feeling somewhat less enthusiastic about the second, I think I'm getting a handle on what I want to write, and how I want to write it. At the outset; I had a couple of ideas knocking around, but decided to go with a specific one after I spent a single night outlining the first half of the book, while I was away for a weekend with family in Ontario. It was a good idea, and definitely the most enthusiasm I'd shown for writing up to that point in years, so I just decided to go for it. And it worked out well.
This second book however, was a bit different. By the time I wrote the last chapter of the book in January(?), I had already kicked up a number of ideas, with some vague outlines attached to them, so I had to make a choice between the following:
- Far future sci-fi crusonade set in a ship graveyard amid the wreckage of a major battle between spacefaring powers.
- Near future sci-fi / Napoleonic era set in a secnodary world about the conflict between an human, and elf culture.
- Urban fantasy/Cosmic horror alternate history set in an anglophone quebec where the british commonwealth nor french monarchy ever fall.
- A prequel set in the world of book one, focusing on the rise and fall of one of the secondary characters.
I thought a bit about it, and number 2 on that list was really the one that had been knocking around in my head the longest, so I decided to go for that.
It's... okay. I decided to make it near sci-fi, rather than napoleonic; shifting the focus from "modern-era military tactics vs. fantasy-style elvish warfare" to "enlightened spacefaring humans that could quash the other side at any time, but doesn't because they're ethical vs. racist, xenophobic, narccisitic, egocentric, fanatically authoritarian elves". I have some good ideas, about various reveals and plot twists that only make sense in a sci-fi setting, which is good; but I think one of the problems I have with a lot of sci-fi (including a lot of what I'm trying to write), is that I find myself talking more about societies, rather than characters.
Maybe it's just me and my bad-writer phase, but I don't think so; a lot of sci-fi is like this. Take the Commonwealth Saga by Peter Hamilton. It's a fairly engrossing book; but the characters themselves (at least for me, are fairly flat; their plotlines weren't particularly interesting). What was interesting was the societies that they described. What would a far-flung futuristic humanity look like? How would having functional immortality change how people act? Things like that. That was what was cool about the book, more than anything else.
I feel sci-fi is more about that sort of thing. Even though, of course, it uses characters (usually) to drive narrative threads, the worldbuilding is what tends to take centre-stage; certainly for me, at least, it tends to be the most memorable aspect. And that definitely has its place, and certainly fantasy has some aspects of that too. But all in all, I find myself more drawn to the narrative threads of fantasy literature, rather than those of science fiction. I find that while fantasy can of course, scope out to a worldwide/universal extent, the stories it tends to tell are personal. They're about individuals, rather than societies. And of course, this is all super broad generalities, and there are huge exceptions on both sides, but that's been my personal experience reading the stuff for the past 20 or so years.
And I realized, I tend to like the close personal narratives, rather than the broader societal ones. So I think that's making this book harder.
Anyway, the good news is, that a few more ideas popped into my head while I've been writing this one for books 3 and 4 up above, and I'm pretty sure I'll tackle one of those two next. I kind of want to expand the story and world of my first novel, but I'm really interested to see how I like writing urban fatasy.
But first, I have to get through the sci-fi first. Only 60,000 words to go!