Looking Back

I’ve been thinking about how I wrote this last novel, and what I might need to change about my writing process.

It felt a lot harder to write this one than the last one, and took longer, too. Maybe there are sone things I need to beware of, danger signs I should watch out for, when starting my third?

I think my first mistake was not writing a short story set in the world of the novel. I did this – accidentally – for my first book. Didn’t know it was an actual technique until I saw an interview with N K Jemisin (an amazing writer whose most recent book is up for a Hugo!)  where she mentioned that she always – deliberately – writes a short story in a new world before starting a novel set there. Her reasons lined up exactly with my experience: writing the story gave her a sense of the world and the kinds of characters and conflicts that might happen there. Even if she doesn’t use the characters from the short story in the novel, all the world-building she’s done helps.

My second problem was trying my hand at science fiction. My degree is in physics, so my Inner Editor gets all fired up when I’m writing something set in “the real world,” rejecting ideas left and right because “it doesn’t work that way.” It’s something I’m working on, because it blocks my writing flow, constricting my choices and making me doubt that I can write anything that maintains consistency.

Third mistake: writing through trauma. I mentioned this at the time, but trying to write through the events of the latter half of last year was almost impossible. I was distracted, I was angry and frustrated and scared, I was in no way ready to push through a novel like this. I’m glad I did, in the end, but without my wife and my friends to lean on, I don’t think I would have.

So, lessons learned:

  • Write a short story version first.
  • Don't worry about matching current scientific understanding in the first draft. Save consistency for the edits.
  • Don't force myself to write through a traumatic event. No extra pressure needed.
Ron Toland @mindbat