I was hoping to have my beta reading roundup finished in time for my regular Monday post, but it’s not quite there yet. Look for more details tomorrow, but for now I’ll just say that I got some really good feedback. The consensus was right where I wanted it to be: needs work, but it shows promise. I’m really hoping to have the novel substantially done within two months, but my previous schedules haven’t worked out all that well, so I’ll just say that my OryCon release date is looking good.
Oh, and thanks to any beta readers who may be reading this. Without you, I am nothing! Look for details tomorrow, as promised.
While you’re waiting: some good news, some bad news.
Finally, congratulations to fellow NIWAn Pam Bainbridge-Cowan AKA P.J. Cowan on the release of her new novel Something in the Dark. Looks like it’s been getting great reviews, and her experience getting the thing published in the first place will prove invaluable to yours truly. Naturally, I wish her the best of luck.
Today is day three of my editing binge, and things are going…okay. When I took a long, hard look at my completed beat sheet, I discovered that the last third or so of my novel really isn’t that great. In fact, it’s almost tangibly worse than the first two thirds, so bad that I don’t think there’s anything for it but to strip it entirely and write in new stuff from scratch.
So I’ve come to accept that. To make a novel, you’ve got to break a few paragraphs. Gamely, I laid into trying to figure out what I wanted to actually have as my ending – there’s no time for shortcuts, like in my first draft. I need to know exactly what to put in there if I don’t want to have to do this again, and I don’t want to have to do this again.
What I’ve been discovering is that I took a heck of a lot of shortcuts my first time through. The whole “no plot, no problem” philosophy of NaNoWriMo is great as far as it goes, but it has definite problems – even when I knew that things weren’t working out, I still plowed ahead just to get the words on the page. Well, I’m not a complete neophyte anymore. I should’ve taken the extra time to look things over and actually decide how I wanted to proceed, maybe even discuss them with some other folks.
Well, lessons learned from next time. I’m still confident that I can make Fugitives from Earth, if not great, at least satisfactory. It’s my first time, after all – better to make the mistakes now.
Ah, time for some links:
- Mars500 Mission Reaches the Red Planet
- The brave folks of the Mars500 mission have locked themselves in a completely isolated “spaceship” in Moscow, where they will remain for about 500 days before “returning to Earth.” This was in 2010; just today they reached Martian orbit, and the lander with half the crew aboard is headed toward the Martian surface. Fun stuff – for more info, check out @mars500 on Twitter
- Genetic Algorithm Car Evolution
- This is possibly the most awesome thing I’ve seen in awhile. Starting with a random polygon and some wheels, this Flash program learns how to make the optimum car for any of several tracks using an evolutionary process. The cars that make it the furthest the fastest will “interbreed,” and the ones that don’t make it so far will “die out.” Add in a dash of mutation, and you have a surprisingly engaging demonstration of evolutionary processes.
Happy Friday, everyone! Very much looking forward to the weekend? That makes two of us. I’m still tooling away on my most recent short story while finally getting around to editing Fugitives from Earth. That’s such a huge freaking project that I can barely wrap my head around it right now, but I’m hoping that I’m able to get over that a bit by the weekend.
Since there’s nothing exciting going on in my life, here’s some stuff from other people’s:
- Kepler Mission results – The Kepler observatory orbits the sun between Earth and Mars. A space telescope kind of like the Hubble, Kepler spends all of its time monitoring just a very small section of the sky with the specific goal of finding planets in other solar systems. To say the least, it’s been successful. Earth-like planets? Yes, please.
- Robert J. Sawyer on science fiction – Even though I love science fiction, and I’ll be the first to argue its literary qualities, it’s hard to avoid stereotype that it’s nerdy, Star Trekky wish fulfillment by people who can’t write real literature. Fortunately, even if people won’t listen to me when I argue that, they’ll have a harder time with this well written and well thought out article by one of the genre’s stalwarts.
- Gaming and changing the world – I love playing video games. Even when they involve hard work and deep thought, I go crazy for them. Jane McGonigal, video game designer and future PAX East keynote speaker, argues that there is something special about video games that makes hard work seem not so hard. If we can apply that certain je ne sais quoi to real life problems, what would be beyond our reach?
Fun note: McGonigal will be speaking at an OMSI Science Pub this Monday, which I fully plan on attending. I love listening to smart people talk.
So, good weekend, and good reading and writing.
I was reading an editorial by Robert Zubrin on the Mars Society website yesterday, and although he waxes extremely dramatic in the article, one of the things he said gave me pause. Referring to the Falcon 9/Dragon launch last week, he said:
The SpaceX team…accomplished a feat previously reserved for major governments. They did it on a budget one-tenth the size and a schedule one-quarter the length of that assumed as necessary by conventional bureaucratic planners in America.
I can’t verify those “numbers” such as they are, but it did lead me to do a little bit of research on my own.
Today at work I listened to an older episode of the excellent podcast Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour: “Marsifest Destiny.” I stole that title for this post, obviously, because it’s awesome. And the podcast was pretty awesome as well, featuring guest Dr. Robert Zubrin, author of The Case for Mars and founder of The Mars Society. In fact I had read parts of his book while doing research for Fugitives from Earth*, but I didn’t really know anything about him until I heard him speak.
Now he is my hero.
I’ve changed the title of my work-in-progress. It used to be The Atlas Question, which I liked because, um, it had the name of a spaceship that was notable in the story. Then I listened to an interesting podcast of the subject of so-called “mating plumage” (the title and cover art of a book), and realized that it wasn’t really that good of a title. Your title and your book’s cover are like little tiny posters for your story, and if you want people’s eyes to stop on your book, then both had better be good.
Of course, I can’t control my book’s cover art unless I self-publish, and I can’t afford to spend hours doodling about on the title yet, but for now I have decided on a replacement that I like better, if not completely: Fugitives from Earth. It kind of sounds like an episode of The Outer Limits or a short story from the mid-1950s, but it’s more descriptive and at least raises a small question – if someone was banished from Earth, where would they go?
I also have a catchy little banner ad for it, right after the jump.
Outlining is going apace. I’m really glad I’m doing it because it’s revealed a lot of weak points in my story that I would’ve steamrolled me over in the middle of the drafting process. It’s also revealed the tremendously detailed balancing act that writing a novel actually is – you need to balance characters, plot, and scenes, you need to have a developed backstory, and show that backstory to the reader (but not too directly!), you need to make sure that there is always conflict brewing, and you need to keep tabs on a thousand different things that all have to come together in the end.
It’s a wonder that I ever wrote anything before without planning it to this extent. Even if this experiment is a failure, it will at least be a useful one, and when it all comes down it, maybe that’s what matters.
So, as my last post suggested, I had a few unpleasant writing days at the end of last week, culminating in a low point on Saturday. I just felt worthless, unable to succeed, unable to even produce.
And then, yesterday (just after my last post, in fact) I had one of the most brilliant writing days in recent memory. Today, I had another one. I feel like I’m on a roller coaster and I’m my heart is plunging into my stomach as I rocket up a steep incline.* So, let me tell you exactly what has triggered this burst of production.
Well, most basically, it was just shutting up, sitting down, and writing. But that’ll always help so I’ll spare the lecture. What was really remarkable about the last couple of days was something entirely new to me in all of my experience in writing: figuring out the plot of my story all the way though by developing the characters.