Posts Tagged science fiction novels
Those of you who read this blog on any regular basis (both of you) may remember that I’ve written several science fiction novels, and that I’ve been trying for a number of years to find an agent for the first (and ultimately, all three). As an update to that, I’ve almost completely given up finding an agent or publisher, and have decided to publish the trilogy myself. I’m looking at two self-publishing routes, KDP publishing and Ingram Spark. I like Ingram Spark because of the potential of getting my paper-based books in bookstores. (We’ll see.) KDP will get it on virtually all e-readers, and that covers the two basic routes of publishing.
In preparation for putting the finished product out there, I sent the manuscript to a professional editor and have gotten her critiques back. I’m now in the process of making some revisions which should be complete within the next few weeks. Then I have to go through the manuscript word by word, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, scene by scene, chapter by chapter, until I’m satisfied that it meets my own stringent qualifications. That will take time (but it’s time well spent).
One side effect of re-reading and re-editing one’s own literary works is that of discovering things you didn’t know were there. In one case, the editor made a suggestion about the ending which I proceeded to fix by adding a short but highly emotionally intense scene to help add danger and peril that the characters have to overcome before the conclusion. But that scene had one unintended consequence: it forced me to eliminate a scene I liked and wished I could keep.
Like “show, don’t tell,” and “write what you know,” a new writer is frequently admonished to “kill your darlings.” This advice is intended to tell the new writer not to put too much emphasis on hifalutin flowery prose that exists simply because it sounds good, or looks good on the page, or just because they like it. [The phrase has been attributed to William Faulkner and Stephen King among many others, but may have originated with Arthur Quiller-Couch in his “On The Art Of Writing” from 1914.] Each word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, scene, must contribute to the story in such a way as to keep it moving and not confuse the reader. You don’t want a reader asking, “Why the hell is this in here?” Or, “It’s nice, but I don’t understand what this contributes to the story.” I came up against this in my revisions, and had to eliminate that one scene. When I originally wrote that scene—and even up to today—I thought I’d done a good job with it, and I have always liked it. But—and I don’t say this lightly—it had to go. I cut it from the manuscript and put it in a separate file where I look at it from time to time to remind myself of its literary beauty. I wish I could find a place for it. But that is not to be. It remains out.
Just a few thoughts about incidents that have taken place over the past few weeks. I’ve completed a massive revision of the third novel in my Anthanian Imperative trilogy, and now the novel looks pretty good. I’ve been working on it for about five years now, and it’s in good enough shape I wouldn’t be ashamed for someone else to take a look at it. And that brings up an important point.
I’m looking for beta readers for all three of the novels which constitute the trilogy, especially the last two. The first one has been through five or six critique groups over its eighteen-year lifespan. (Yes, it’s true, if that novel were a person, it would be old enough to vote in the coming election.) But those groups were made up almost exclusively of amateur writers, people who had never published a novel before, and who, like me, were novices at writing. I admire and appreciate their comments. However, I need a professional to take a look at it. Someone who has actually published a novel. Someone who knows what the publishing world wants. Self-publishing doesn’t count. And this applies to the other two also. If you’re a professional writer with a history of getting publishers to take a look at a science-fiction novel, let me know.
You may say, why not use some of the literary critique websites, and I certainly could. Perhaps I could get one or more good reviews that way. But I’m not sure I want to give it to just anyone, sight unseen. I’d like to know a little about whoever it is I’m sending it to. A little familiarity perhaps, say from Facebook or from personal experience in the Albuquerque area.
Also, I’ve just finished querying eighteen agents with the first novel. I’ve completely revised my query letter along the lines of I-don’t-know-how-many authors, agents and editors who have all published helpful hints on writing a query letter. I’ve already gotten two rejections (some agents are really good at keeping up-to-date with their inbox submissions). But the other sixteen will, if experience is any guide, dribble in over the next several months. Some will not reply at all, and after about three months, that will constitute a rejection. I’m upbeat about the possibility of getting a request for more pages, even for a full manuscript, but my experience tells me not to be. I’ve had so little luck with either the novel or the query process, I tell myself to stay grounded and not let a good novel or query letter go to my head. I really like the first novel, though. I think it’s my best work. But nobody else does.
Other comments: If you are one of my “friends” on Facebook, you might have noticed that I criticized LitReactor for their use of profanity (i.e., four-letter words) in endorsing an author they like. Call me a prude if you want, but don’t call me a taxi. I happen to believe that the profession of writing is above all that. The use of profanity is disgusting and repulsive. It drags the user down into the gutter, and the book and author with it. It makes me wonder about the character of the people who run the website. What are they thinking? I sure hope that if in the (unlikely?) event that I get a few books published, LitReactor won’t call attention to mine in the same manner. I would rather have them keep quiet than submit to that form of support or approval.
The post I put up last week—just below this one—had to do with not describing everything in a piece of writing. I generally write fiction (novels and short stories) but that admonition applies to non-fiction as well. Keep description short, I said, just enough to allow the story line to flow from the page into the reader’s mind. Let the reader imagine everything else in his/her mind’s eye. Let the reader fill in the details. Keep it simple, stupid. (That’s the KISS philosophy.) In short, never tell the reader what to think. Now I want to take that concept in a slightly different direction.
It’s that word “details” that’s important in writing. Details get filled in by the reader. This has the effect of allowing the reader to stay focused on the action. I know I like to follow the action of a novel I’m reading if the writer hasn’t peppered it with too many details. I like to visualize it on my own. The more details I fill in by myself, the more I enjoy the book I’m reading. I have a difficult time with manuscripts that try to cram in too much detail in the narrative. I can get confused, wondering if the details of the action are those of the author or my own. I don’t want to be told everything, I want to imagine it.
That’s where, as the title of this post demonstrates, movies come in. Movies are great at showing action, but they show everything. Car chases, airplane dogfights, love scenes, you name it and its all there, put on the screen for the audience to see. Movies are a descendent of the stage play, of course. Plays existed for thousands of years before Edison invented the motion picture camera. Playing things out on the screen in all their glory is a time-honored way to provide an exciting and entertaining time for all of us. And motion pictures can do things that would be impossible in a stage play. Can you imagine the chariot race in Ben-Hur on the stage?
But isn’t that the problem with transferring novels to the screen? The novel is, if done correctly, a medium of minimalism. Minimal description that allows the reader the chance of experiencing the action in his mind. Taking a novel to the screen removes that chance. The movie does it all for you. It shows you everything—what the characters look like, what they’re wearing, their mannerisms—in short, everything. These are two different ways of doing the same thing.
I like movies that didn’t come from a book. Star Wars and Star Trek, for example. (Books have been written using the Star Wars and Star Trek characters, but they came after the movie.) When you watch a movie, everything is done for you. The plot may have twists and turns you couldn’t see coming, but the details are spelled out. A novel gives you more chance to immerse yourself into the action. You have to do more. You don’t have the advantage of someone else showing you. And that is why I have decided, provisionally, at least, not to allow my books (if they ever get published) to be optioned or purchased for the screen. Either the big or small screen. I want the reader to imagine what is going on. Not see it as imagined by some movie company. Never tell the reader what to think. And that’s just what a movie does.
Bubonicon 47 is over. Now for the post-mortem.
Bubonicon 47, that is the 47th running of the Albuquerque Science Fiction Convention, was held August 28-30, 2015. This was my seventh con to attend, and as usual it was filled with the interesting and interested, the timely and the timeless, the bizarre and a bazaar (I’m thinking of the dealer’s room here). As usual, I spent all day every day at the Con, attending the panels, browsing the dealer’s area (I didn’t buy anything this year), and browsing the art show (I did buy a computer designed work by Lance Beaton entitled “Phantom Flight.”)
The theme of the Con this year was “Women of Wonder,” celebrating the role of women in science fiction and fantasy, especially women who take the leading role. Wonder Woman, Princess Leia, Ridley from the “Alien” movies, and so forth. Since my (as yet unpublished) science fiction novels have women in leading roles in most cases, I took a special interest in this con, especially to see if I could glean some good details about how to write strong women characters. There were discussion panels on women in combat, strong females needing strong males, the romance subplot, the curse (?) of the strong female, and a few others. The panels were populated mostly by women writers (as you’d expect) and I took home several important tidbits about female characters. One of the most important was in a session entitled “Warrior Women In Combat: Fighting Females.” One member of the panel, Jeffe Kennedy, a Santa Fe author and resident, made the comment that using rape and sexual abuse just to “incentivize” a woman to fight is probably not a good idea. Why not? Because it demeans and diminishes the warrior woman, as though she needs some sort of “extra” incentive to fight for what she believes in, an incentive a male warrior doesn’t have or need. I took that to heart because I’m in the process of writing the third novel in my sci-fi trilogy, and one of the leading characters is a woman raped and abused. That was supposed to give her a reason to fight back against the forces abusing her. But she doesn’t need any special reason to fight so I took that out. She fights for what she believes in, the same as any male would in the same situation.
The recent announcement that two female army officers just completed Army Ranger training under the same circumstances as the men who’ve been going through that course for years, made just before the Con opened, cast an exciting tone through the conference this year. It fit exactly with the theme, and was mentioned a couple of times that I heard. Women have tried Ranger training before, but none of them has finished the course. (I’m not sure I could finish it, even in my prime. It’s a tough course.) But the two women who did certainly didn’t need any extra incentive to get through. They did it on their own, and your characters in your books can too.
Enough said. Looking forward to 48.