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A Quandary

A Quandary

The last time I mentioned my goals, I said I hoped to avoid rewriting my near-future science fiction novel The Century. Unfortunately, over the past few weeks, it’s become clear that’s exactly what it needs.

I first began the concept of The Century in 2003. (See my timeline on Facebook.) In 2009, I revisited it, rewrote parts, edited, and otherwise muddled with the story. But I didn’t revise the basic idea.

The Future: Are We There Yet?

Now it’s 2012. Science and technology have come a long way since 2003. Check out a few of my original notes about the setting of The Century, in “the future”:

  • Advanced computers have 3D interfaces … depending upon which way your hands move through
    the air (on controls you seem to feel though they aren’t there), the computer
    responds.
    • Now we have stuff like Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect.
  • Phones: no longer separated from computers. 
    • The BlackBerry was already around in 2003, but what I intended was the integration of at-home computers with phones. I certainly didn’t foresee how quickly smartphones would take off. 
  • Food: getting more synthetic all the time. Some people draw the line at cloned food. others draw the line at any genetic manipulation at all. The fad is natural foods, but this is expensive.
    • Organic food is all the rage and genetically modified food is much more prevalent. 
  • People refuse to give up their so-called freedom and privacy. So,
    although roads still exist in rural areas, in cities they are actually “tracks”
    that cars cannot drive off of. The cars auto-drive, needing only human
    supervision in regards to destination and choice of speeds—slow, regular, fast.
    Only police cars and other emergency vehicles can surpass the fast level…. Getting off the tracks is
    possible when the cars are manually overridden, but they refuse to hit any
    walls or people….
So basically, while I was hanging out, going to college, writing other stories, and slacking off for a few years, the future caught up to me. We’re living in the future already! Which means The Century needs to skip ahead some more. 

Fast-Forward to the Future

Over the past few weeks (see my writing record), I’ve been researching the future. This may seem like a crazy idea at first — how do you research the future? My source list is a mile long, but mainly I looked for predictions about “If technology X continues advancing at this pace, in Year YYYY, we’ll have Z.” 
Predictions vary of course, which is good, because that gives me a wider window of realism for the story. It’s also interesting to think about how different technologies might intersect, depending on how advanced each has become. Not to mention how technology shapes nations and cultures. We live among plenty of people who are in future-shock already. 
At this point, most of my research about Earth is ready, which leaves me to ponder about Salvation. No viewpoint characters go to colonize Salvation in Book One, but since I’ll need to make references to the planet in this book, I’m going to need to know more about it. 
All of these changes to the story’s universe will have major implications for the book and the way the characters relate to one another. For instance, in the first round of The Century, the fact that the characters age half as quickly as other people is a big deal. But far enough in the future, we may reduce the rate of aging, or even stop aging entirely, with something like nanotechnology. In which case, appearing to be 25 years old while actually being 50 won’t be much of a surprise to anyone. 

What Now?

My original plans were to finish writing The Ageless, then let it rest while I edited The Century, which I guessed might take four months or so. But now… Rewriting from scratch will probably take me about ten months, by which time The Ageless will have grown old and moldy. 
On the other hand, now that it’s been about a month since I finished writing The Ageless, I could start editing it now, get it all polished, and send it off to beta readers. Then work on rewriting The Century. 
Yesterday while pondering this quandary, I stumbled across a great article on The Fictorian Era called “Starting Over: A Most Exquisite Agony.” And that’s when I realized I should start rewriting The Century now. 
In the years between graduating college and getting serious about writing again, I wrote maybe 37,000 words, or just over 9,000 words a year. Pathetic. So by writing (a.k.a. practicing) more now, and then editing The Ageless later, I’ll be in a better position to judge The Ageless on its merits. 

Timeline

So the new goals go something like this:
  • August 2012: Begin rewriting The Century
  • June 2013: Set The Century aside; begin first round of revisions on The Ageless
  • September 2013: Commence insanity: getting married in October, so I can’t commit to anything, but I’ll probably send The Ageless out to betas around here
  • November 2013: Begin first round of revisions on The Century 
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Six-Month Checkup

Six-Month Checkup

So here we are, midway through 2012, and it’s time to look back and see how those 2012 writing goals are coming along. (Expect much back-pattery in this post.)

Progress on The Ageless

My intention was to write three times a week, every week, until my post-apocalyptic science fiction novel The Ageless was done. So the first question: Is The Ageless finished? As of July 7, I’ve finished the final scene of the book, but still have yet to write the epilogue. (Edit: As of July 10, the novel is complete, including the epilogue! I’m not completely satisfied with it, but that’s what the second draft is for.)

At some point between here and January, I got a feel for how many words I could produce in a week, so I revised that promise to myself to write three times a week OR 3,000 words. I’ve met that revised goal 17 out of 27 weeks.

I also wanted to finish The Ageless by June, and I almost had! You can see on my writing calendar that I was writing the climax of the Ageless during the last week of May. But the trouble actually started at the beginning of May, when I realized the ending as outlined was no longer valid. So I reoutlined, and then started writing toward that new ending.

Something still bothered me, though. There was just this little tickle in the back of my mind that something wasn’t quite right. I decided to continue writing until done, then try to sort out the problem. I knew that might mean discarding a lot of writing, but it was the only thing I knew would work, being unable put my finger on the problem.

Then I went to the scifi convention ConCarolinas (see two posts back for my recap) and attended several writing panels. During the Killing Friends and Enemies panel, I finally realized recognized the problems. Of course, I can’t tell you what they were, because that would ruin the ending, but it involves the characters’ roles in the final battle (and yes, who lives and who dies).

I also wrote a short story set after The Ageless (the novel would probably be done already if I hadn’t written the short story, but it came to me almost fully formed, so I put it down as fast as my fingers could type). Now I’m just trying to decide whether to release it into the wild yet or not. If I do, you’ll see it appear here and on the science fiction story area of Wattpad.

Word Counts

When I set my 2012 writing goals, they weren’t based on word count because I didn’t know what a realistic word count was. I eventually realized 3,000 a week was very achievable, and later began pushing myself to go beyond 4,000 (which I achieved for 10 out of 27 weeks, 5 of which were the last 5 weeks straight).

Writing Accomplishments

The Crossing – Accomplishments 2011 – Challenge #16 by Bob Long Jr | Flickr

From November (when I got serious) until now, I’ve averaged 3,378 words a week, even when you factor in the weeks where I was hunting down problems instead of writing (see February and the beginning of May on the calendar). If you just count the beginning of March (when I was about two-thirds of the way through) until now, the average was 3,988 words a week.

So for my next novel, I’ll might try for something closer to 5,000 words a week and boost that average (unless I’m also working on getting an MBA, in which case I’ll probably stick with 3 to 4k).

Since November, I’ve written 114,840ish words, which means I actually can write a novel in nine months, even with a few troublesome patches slowing me down. Of course, that doesn’t include revisions.

If you’ve been keeping up with me, you know that The Ageless was already partway done before November. That doesn’t mean the novel is super long though, because I ended up discarding about six scenes (almost 20,000 words) when I rewrote the climax.

The Ageless stands at 129,770 words (approx 360 paperback pages). But I’m sure the second draft will change all that.

Other 2012 Writing Goals

Besides finishing up my current post-apocalyptic novel, my other main goal for the second half of the year was to complete two drafts of my finished science fiction novel, The Century, before year’s end. Since I’ve never revised on a time table, I have no idea if that’s still feasible, but I’m going to find out!

I’ve been bookmarking agents who like futuristic science fiction, so I’d count that goal as “eh” sort of complete. I don’t want to get set on a couple agents, only to see they’re closed to submissions by the time I’m done with The Century. But as the year draws to a close, I’ll start looking more.

I did print some awesome business cards for conventions, but really only handed out a couple (mutually). The font is smaller than I’d like, but there’s always room for another draft of those as well.

As of today, I plan to attend MystiCon, ConCarolinas, ConTemporal, and DragonCon in 2013 (as well as DragonCon this year, I hope). I’d like to go to WorldCon next year, but getting married takes top of the priority list in the budget for 2013! Hoping WorldCon 2014 is also in the United States.

My entire collection of books is on Goodreads, so that goal is complete. Come be my friend! I also started a Facebook page, which wasn’t officially on my list of goals. I still need to get the icon up top of this page, though.

As for my last goal, yes, I’ve become “more” involved in online writing and scifi / fantasy discussions. I don’t really see the value of forums (yet?), but social media is engaging. I like seeing what everyone is discovering on Google+ and Twitter especially. Much less interested in Facebook and Pinterest, but I now have a presence on both. And I’m in the process of figuring out LibraryThing.

What’s Next

The Century is a science fiction story with fantasy elements, set in the not-too-distant future. Born with a strange disease that causes her to age half as quickly as normal people, Psyche Collins has spent her life pretending to be younger than she actually is. When she meets others who share the same problem, they learn it may not be a disease, but proof they’re members of a race of supernatural humans called the Century. The more of her kind Psyche meets, the more frequently she’s attacked by a mysterious Order — a group of equally supernatural humans who seem determined to prevent the Century from learning more, even if they have to exterminate them.

The story is only about 60,000 words and probably needs a great deal of work, because a lot has changed in the almost ten years since gathering ideas for it. In 2009, I reviewed the story without editing it, I think. I need to do more research into certain areas of probable technological growth to be sure the future shown in The Century still seems realistic. I’m going to try to avoid a complete rewrite, which is what I did with The Ageless, but I’ll find out in a few weeks.

But before beginning work on The Century, I want to leave myself some editing notes on The Ageless while it’s still fresh in my mind. I’ll also want to study up on editing techniques from scifi authors. My guess is that I’ll end up writing some new scenes for The Century, rewriting some others, and then I can start rereading, focusing on different aspects (character, pacing) for each read-through.

If you read all of this, congratulations. If TLDR: I met some goals, sort of met others, and failed on a few. The Century is next on my to-do list!

Obstacles in Writing

640px-Sulley-blue-monsterWriting a novel is a strange experience, start to finish. Moments of euphoria — a character does something unexpected, you attain extra depth in a scene with one well-placed word, or a scene is easier to write than you expected — intersperse with moments of disdain — a character’s dialogue falls flat, a scene refuses to come ‘alive’ with detail or action, and you lose motivation.

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