Well, I finally heard from the editor who was looking over the manuscript of my first novel. Most of the regular readers of this blog are probably aware that I’ve been working on a science fiction novel for quite a while now and am approaching (I hope) the time when it will be ready for publication. So, I sent it to an editor known for his work in science fiction and finally got his comments back last week. Those comments represent a new milepost in the evolution of this book, which has been over ten years in the making.
As an unpublished author having to learn the rules as I go along, I’m not the best person to tell others how to write novels, but I’ve absorbed a lot about the craft of writing during those years, and some of what I’ve learned I’ve shared on this blog, as well as in critique groups and personal conversations. But I haven’t learned enough, and the editor opened my eyes to several important problems with my novel.
The most basic problem he had with the manuscript was that I hadn’t put in enough of what’s called “world building,” that is, showing the reader the alternative world of the characters of a book. The characters of my novel come from another planet, and though I thought I had explained enough about the planet, enough to give the reader a real taste of what life was like there, the editor said no, not enough. He wanted more. I now tend to agree.
As space travelers journey to another planet, their life experiences will most certainly shape and modify and define how they respond to another world. So far, we on Earth haven’t had much opportunity to visit another world. Only the astronauts of the Apollo program in the 1960s and 70s have had the great fortune to take that step, and that was on the airless, lifeless moon. Dullsville.
But if and when we ever get the opportunity to step onto the surface of another planet in some distant star system, (not in my lifetime and probably not in yours) we will be faced with a terrain, a landscape, an environment so immensely different from anything we’re familiar with here on Earth that each individual who views this new scene will react to it in starkly individual ways. And that’s the main emphasis in world building, bringing to the reader of a sci-fi novel a sufficient appreciation of the world of the characters that when they journey to another place, their reactions will be reasonable and appropriate based on what they are used to in their own home. Sounds relatively simple in description, somewhat more complicated in actual execution.
Another comment of my editor had to do with the length of the book. I’d asked him if he could suggest areas to cut. His comment was not that I should cut any specific area wholesale, but tighten the overall narrative by removing duplications, minutiae, repetitions, and the like. I have a tendency to write too much. (Those of you who know me personally also know I talk way too much.)
The editor also had issues with the pacing of the novel, which has a lot to do with its length, but which also involves how the scenes of the novel are put together and the segue between them. Some areas are dull, some exciting, some in-between, and I need to smooth them out. Easier said than done, but I’m working on it.
Taken altogether, this represents a large revision of the novel, a revision in size I haven’t undertaken in several years. But I’m looking forward to it, and I will probably have more updates as the time approaches to decide whether to self-publish or try publication the traditional way through a publisher. (See my blog on this topic several weeks ago.) I’m looking forward to working on the novel. Actually, I always have enjoyed working on it. How else do you think I would spend over ten years on the same project?