The school year is finally over.
I hadn’t written a word of real prose in months. Though I’ve had time to write in the literal sense, it feels as though I can never find time to write. Maybe that’s an excuse. But sometimes I think that teaching strongly forces a mindset antithetical to writing. On average, I work ten to twelve hours per day during the school year. Most of these hours I need to be in a mental space that demands constant attention to a thousand competing concrete tasks. Even in the evenings and on the weekends, I struggle to get back into a mindset of out-of-the-box thinking, imagining the fantastic, and unstructured creativity.
But now that changes! Over the last few days I’ve been trying to emerge from writer hibernation, get my bearings, and choose a project for the summer.
Red Soil Through Our Fingers, released last January, is doing better than I hoped for a first novel. I’m far from breaking even on it financially, but profit certainly isn’t the only metric for a book. I was able to get through the whole writing, revision, and publication process successfully, and get my work out there. About two hundred copies are out in the world by my count, and the few reviews that have come in so far are almost all positive.
I’ve attempted the sequel to Red Soil Through Our Fingers a few times, but it has been difficult to gain traction on it. To be honest, I feel overly constrained by the pre-existing narrative and characters, as well as the very Hard-SF tack of the first novel. I’ve been itching to do something a little more imaginative, with new characters to explore. So I’m tabling Red Soil for now.
I broke ground this week on a new novel, which takes place in a fictional star cluster somewhere in our galaxy. The book is as-yet untitled, of course, but I can say that I want to explore how conflicts between strong, wealthy nations can steamroll over the less-powerful caught in between. I’m also directly facing an element I avoided in Red Soil: religion and its interplay with science and society. I’ll post updates later in the process when I have something concrete to share.
I’m back from a very refreshing week in Vermont and Maine, the latter with other writers (and a lot of fried clams and beer on the beach). Compared to the day to day survival stance that first-year teaching forces on the mind, how I feel now is nothing short of fantastic.
I’m ready for a summer of writing.
I had a chance to parse through and reflect on the year or so of work I’ve put into Vihara, the novel I had in progress. I realized that I’m trying to say too much with it. I had at least three major premises: 1) the sociopolitical consequences of corporate control of space, 2) the idea of what Buddhism looks like in a spacefaring society, and 3) an exploration of quantum graphity as a cosmological theory.
In other words, there isn’t really any one particular thing that Vihara was about, just an overlay of ideas that I find interesting. That doesn’t mean that the work was wasted — it helped me think through these ideas and the characters.
So a few things are happening. I pulled out the first layer and refined it: What happens to ordinary people if a weak public space policy allows corporations to run the show in space colonization? Then I “zoomed in” within the Vihara worldspace and fleshed out one particular location: a Mars colony situated near the Hellas Planitia. I defined three new main characters (using a cool new method I’ll talk about in a later post), and feel like I am in a good position to make a character-driven (as opposed to world-driven) story.
Finally, to give myself some fun motivation, I’ve signed up for the Camp Nanowrimo summer writing challenge with my writer friend Brian. We’re both aiming for a 50,000-word rough draft by the end of July. Working title: Red Soil Through His Fingers.
An interplanetary homesteader accepts a deal with a Mars colonization company to start a new life on humanity’s bold new frontier in the solar system. But staunch idealism turns to unease when the fine print becomes more than it seems. To what lengths will a private corporation go in the balance between human lives and profit? An exploration of the consequences of weak public space policy during this, our dawn of the private space age.
(And if you’ve seen George Lucas in Love, yes, this is actually an agricultural space tragedy.)
I’ll put up a widget or something to help track progress.