Writer’s Desk

I have another busy week ahead of me.  While the work-in-progress continues to go smoothly, I have a lot to do.  The Pitch Wars deadline is coming at the end of the month, and I’m hoping to start shopping a short story around for publication.  It’s going to be a busy month, but I feel ready.

That said, here’s what I have coming this week:

The Pioneer

My work-in-progress continues to be my primary focus, and it just keeps getting better.

Just tonight, I finished revising the first chapter of phase two, and knocked out roughly half of the next chapter.  I’ll admit, I was a little worried about these chapters.  As I’ve said, phase two will provide readers with their first glimpse of Phecda IX: the planet upon which a new human colony will be formed.  By this point in the story, no doubt the readers will be as eager to read about this planet as I am to write about it.  However, the formative chapters are important, both for building the plot and character development.

Thankfully, I’ve found the going relatively easy at this juncture.  No doubt there will be extensive revising once phase two is complete, but for now I’m happy with the way things are going.  The roughly two and a half chapters prior to the much-anticipated planetfall are dialogue-heavy, but crucial to the story.  And I must admit I’m enjoying introducing some of the characters who will play a major role later in the story, and finally exploring my treasured protagonist, Randall Holmes.

With regards to the last part, I’ve found myself delving once more into both the notes from Pathfinder and the story itself, fleshing out the background of Randall Holmes.  The way things have developed, by this point Holmes is somewhat jaded, still haunted by his experiences in Pathfinder, and as I explore his character’s reasons for being on the Susan Constant, I find myself making frequent reference to the shelved previous novel.

As my longtime readers know, while I worked with Pathfinder for several years, I never progressed far enough into the story for the majority of the crew’s time on Vega VI to develop beyond notes and a handful of disembodied scenes.  As such, while I have a pretty good idea of what happened, the details remain hazy.  But, as luck would have it, by this point on my timeline Holmes’s exploits in Pathfinder have taken on an almost legendary status, and as such the details are frequently distorted or exaggerated.  For his part, Holmes remains somewhat traumatized by his experiences, and thus prefers not to discuss his time on Vega VI in great detail.  This has given me a lot of room to play around, and slowly a concise narrative has emerged: his backstory.

What I’ve done, quite accidentally, is introduce a sense of mystery about him.  Early on, the reader will know he has experience living on alien planets.  They will know he’s been through some manner of great personal trauma.  But the details trickle in slowly, and as the reader progresses through the story, they begin to learn of the harrowing experiences that made Randall Holmes the man he is in this story.

It has, however, been a balancing act.  As Pathfinder developed through writing, I sought to preserve a deep sense of optimism, hoping to allow the reader to appreciate the innate resilience of man through witnessing the struggles of the crew, and watching them survive on a hostile alien world.  Painting such an optimistic picture might have been somewhat self-indulgent, but it was also important to set the tone for subsequent stories.  As such, Pathfinder evolved into the sort of hopeful story that The Pioneer has now become, for the same reason.  However, by writing The Pioneer first, I’ve found myself in need of a jarring past experience to make Randall Holmes the sort of character he is at the start.  As such, I’ve found myself embracing the original concept of the story that became Pathfinder.

Originally, Pathfinder (then titled The Explorers) was, in fact, intended as an eventual prequel, as it will be now.  The original story had Randall Holmes serving aboard a survey ship, rather than a concise mission, which was forced to crash-land on a Class 5 (Earth-like) planet in the Vega system.  Ultimately, Holmes was rescued, but only after managing to survive alone on an alien planet for five years, during which time his entire crew perished.  To add drama to his backstory for The Pioneer, I’ve changed the story, making Randall Holmes once again the lone survivor of the Pathfinder 7 mission.

I should also not that it’s more than slightly ironic that if and when I do, in fact, write Pathfinder, I will likely find myself referencing its sequel.

Wide Horizon

Hard as it is to pry myself away from my work-in-progress, especially with things going so well right now, I do need to devote some time to my debut novel this week.

As I said in last week’s Week in Review, the time has come to make the final tweaks to Wide Horizon.  While Pitch Wars won’t open for submissions until the 27th, any major changes I make will need to be both written and revised (and possibly edited) before then.  All of that, on top of writing a synopsis and query letter, and continuing work on The Pioneer, gives me precious little time.  If I’m going to do anything extensive, it has to start this week.

This should be interesting.  Though it’s been less than a year since I finished editing, after a month spent writing my work-in-progress, Wide Horizon feels like a lifetime ago.  It also bears noting that the two stories couldn’t be much more different, science fiction constituting their sole commonality.  After spending the better part of the past year writing hard sci-fi almost exclusively, it will be quite the change to revisit the imaginative, dramatic world of my debut novel.  I worry that it will be hard to resist the urge to make massive changes, transforming the wording and themes to more closely resemble The Pioneer.  As such, I may need to set aside my beloved WIP for a few days, perhaps even a few weeks.  But if it does indeed come to that, I’m certain the end will more than justify the means.

It doesn’t help matters that I will be out of town when Pitch Wars opens to submissions.  I will be in Florida with my family at that time, and while past experience suggests I will at least find a little time to write while I’m there (I churned out several chapters of Wide Horizon while down there with them several years ago), I would feel much better traveling knowing that everything is already finalized and ready to go, so that if things get a bit hectic, all I’ll have to do is upload my files and hit “submit”.

Then, I wait, while a panel of literary agents, editors, and published authors review my work, and judge my worth.  As such, I couldn’t imagine a better time to be surrounded with the people I love, in a place that almost feels like home to me.

Wish me luck.

Short Fiction

My short fiction has languished over the past few weeks, as I’d expected it would once The Pioneer took off.  I have several unfinished project piled up from the past month or so, and the last short fiction piece I actually finished was Paradise, which was published here last week.

Well, with work and all the other writing I have on my plate, I’m not sure how I’m going to devote time to my short fiction.  But by God I intend to try.

If nothing else, this week I hope to at least take time out to go over Going Dark and find a submission target.  I’ve already heard good things about it from the editors of several magazines, so I plan to aim high, going for either Clarkesworld or Asimov (provided I haven’t already submitted to either).  I may not be able to do much beyond that in short fiction, but given everything else I have to do, that would be sufficient.


It’s going to be a busy month, dreamers, all of it leading to my first foray into publishing.  I have no idea how everything will turn out, but if nothing else it will feel good to put my work out there.  And even if Pitch Wars doesn’t end with me finding an agent (and it likely will not), I believe everything I will learn throughout the process will be well worth the effort. – MK


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