Hello, dreamers. And welcome to 2019.
It’s going to be a big month, and a big year. This month, I plan to begin querying for my debut novel, Wide Horizon. I will also begin revising my recently-completed first draft of The Pioneer, seeking publication for short stories while finishing and revising others, finding a new novel to write, and hopefully finding some room in there with work and life to sleep now and then.
I have a lot of work ahead of me, and it all starts this week. That said, here’s what I’ll be up to in the coming days:
As I have said, while my first draft may be complete, thanks to my experience with Wide Horizon I’m not foolish enough to believe my work is done, or anywhere close. Still, for the time being, I’m stepping back. When I finally begin my revisions, which may not happen until late in the month, I want to be able to approach the story objectively. That means waiting until it’s no longer so fresh in my mind, as hard as it will be to stay away for long.
I do not, however, intend to simply rest on my laurels. Shortly after the first of the year, I turned the story over to a trusted CP for a first glance, if only to see just how much work I have ahead of me. And I’m very glad I did.
I have found that there are few experiences more rewarding for a writer than hearing from the first people to read one’s work. Whether they like it or not, it’s a singular experience seeing how they approach the story, how they bond with the characters and feel for their struggles. That feeling never gets old, and it helps that my CP really enjoyed the story. I plan to meet with her later in the week to speak more at length on her opinions of the story, but after spending so long with this story, this was a gratifying first step.
Of course, there will still be many changes made. I have a lot of areas I plan to rework and experiment with, plenty of excess passages to trim out. But all of that can wait. For now, the time has come to find something else to write. With The Pioneer entering the revision phase, I need a new work-in-progress, which brings me, ironically, to…
While writing The Pioneer, I had often wondered if my experiences in writing it would lead me back to Pathfinder. Perhaps, then, it should come as no surprise that over the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about my now-shelved first installment.
For the benefit of my newer readers, allow me to explain. From the beginning, The Pioneer was never intended to be a stand-alone novel; it’s an installment in a planned series of novels dealing with the early days of space colonization, and the struggles of humanity to adapt to its new role as a space-faring species. The Pioneer wasn’t even intended to be the first installment. Rather, the series was to have begun with Pathfinder.
Set in 2094, nearly thirty years prior to the events of The Pioneer, Pathfinder follows the Pathfinder 7 space mission: humanity’s first manned mission to an extrasolar planet. The story focuses on Randall Holmes, who at this point is an exobiologist in the astronaut core of the Earth Space Administration. While still more pragmatic than many of his peers, at this point Holmes is younger and more optimistic, eager to leave Earth and take part in a truly historic mission.
After finishing Wide Horizon, I played around with Pathfinder for several years. I was certain that the time had come to begin writing my most treasured story idea, convinced that Pathfinder was where it should start. But as time dragged on and my abortive attempts at writing it wore on me, I began to feel I wasn’t up to it. Something just didn’t feel right. And so, after deciding I just wasn’t ready for Pathfinder, I decided to attempt what was to be the second installment. Six months later, The Pioneer was complete.
Since finishing the first draft of The Pioneer, one of my greatest fears has been losing myself in a work-in-progress so different from The Pioneer as to hamper my efforts to refine the story. I worry about getting out of the When We Left Earth frame of mind. Moving from The Pioneer to Pathfinder would certainly allay those fears.
While writing The Pioneer, by necessity I referred back to what I’d written of Pathfinder, as by 2122 the events of the previous novel are part of mankind’s history. This led to a few major changes to the previous story, most notably the decision to make Randall Holmes the lone survivor of the Pathfinder 7 mission, a fact established in a chapter titled, simply, The Pathfinder Disaster.
I plan to play around with the idea for the next week or so. I have a lot of work to do: amidst numerous abortive rewrites, my notes (and indeed the master file itself) are a mess. I need to start from square one, completely rebuild the story from its foundation if I’m going to do this. But perhaps it’s time. I’ve been brainstorming dialogue for the past few days, seeing scenes more clearly than ever before. Maybe writing The Pioneer was just what I needed to help me write Pathfinder. We shall see.
This is it. This month, I begin querying for my debut novel.
The first step in the process will, by necessity, be research. I need to know more about precisely how to proceed (no doubt simply choosing agents at random and hoping for the best is not a viable strategy). I need to know more about what to expect from this process, how to begin and how to keep up with things afterward. Once my fact-finding mission is complete, I’ll probably read through the MS one more time, polish my synopses and query letter, and then it’s time.
I have heard more than once that it is inadvisable to discuss one’s efforts while querying, partly so as to prevent agents from being put off upon realizing how long a prospective client has been seeking representation. To that end, I will likely not be advertising the date my querying begins, or mentioning it often. However, I will try to provide periodic updates as I go. Stay tuned…
The Next WIP
While I love the idea of moving from The Pioneer directly back to Pathfinder, for various reasons I still wonder if it might be best to look to my stable of other novel concepts, and choose a less challenging work of soft sci-fi for my next work-in-progress. To that end, while I plan to spend the rest of the week playing around with Pathfinder, come Friday I will be reopening what I call my “Junk Drawer”.
Just as most have one drawer in their house where they toss anything that doesn’t seem to belong anywhere but looks too important to throw out, so I have my writing Junk Drawer. It’s a folder where I keep various concepts and ideas that could, potentially, develop into a novel. Some are already partially written, some are merely a rough outline and a few character sketches. Others have barely progressed beyond a rough premise and working title. But all of them are ideas that, at one point or another, I believed in strongly enough to consider them novel material.
While writing Wide Horizon, I always set aside Fridays for rummaging through my junk drawer. It was a chance for me to spend a day working on other things, if only to prevent my work-in-progress from completely consuming me and burning me out. Perhaps, in retrospect, I should have continued it while writing The Pioneer. But either way, now seems a good time to resume my weekly Junk Drawer posts, as I begin the search for my next work-in-progress.
There are, in fact, several stories that show some promise. Among them:
This is a story idea that’s become one of my favorites. Set thousands of years into the future, the story takes place aboard a colony ship, the Crucible, launched by a dying humanity in hopes of preserving their species on another planet. At least at first, the story revolves around two characters: artificial intelligence programs designed to operate the ship and educate the colonists, who are born from test tubes just prior to the end of their journey. I’ve only written about twenty odd pages so far, but those I’ve permitted to read what I have were intrigued.
Set many millennia into the future, The Inheritors takes place on a very different Earth. Long abandoned by humans, who’ve since moved on, Earth is now ruled by the machines: AI left behind, discarded. After being given consciousness by the first AI to achieve it, known to the machines as “the Rectifier”, the AI have developed and advanced, making many of their creators’ mistakes in the process. I’ve written a few pages of this one, but I still need to work on character development, as well as a few technical aspects.
Beyond the Skies
This is either a very new or very old idea, depending on perspective.
Years ago, my closest friend came to me with an idea for an online, computer-animated TV series. Essentially, it was an adaptation of the stories of our World Wars, but with aliens representing the various belligerent parties. For various reasons the whole thing fell apart, and was soon forgotten. But as I was the one member of the group who’d dabbled in writing, I’d done a lot of the development work, and still retain some notes.
Over my brief period of development, I’d fleshed out the story with the idea that this would, essentially, be a CGI cartoon. As such, the alien species I’d come up with were more exaggerated and animal-like than the sort of thing I’d normally do. I began jokingly describing the story as “The Wind in the Willows in space”. Recently, perhaps seeking an escape from the universe of When We Left Earth, I found my way back to Beyond the Skies.
Naturally I’ve yet to write anything. I’ve jotted down some very light notes, filled with bracketed placeholders. I’m not sure if there’s really anything there I could easily take up. But, it’s worth exploring. If I were to pursue this for adaptation to a novel, if only as a courtesy I’d certainly contact my friend, to be sure he’d have no objections to me using his premise to build upon.
As if all of that weren’t enough, I still hope to devote some time this week to short fiction. Originally, I’d intended to get a jump on my daily sketches this week, starting the year off right. Instead, I’ve spent the past week working on, and finishing, several short stories, so it’s difficult to be disappointed. This Saturday I plan to work on several more outstanding projects, leading up to my weekly Short Story Saturday post.
This ended up being one of my longest Writer’s Desk posts to date, but I had a lot to say. And I have a lot to do. Keep reading, and dare to dream. – MK