Once again I find myself on the verge of a state of nearing done. The first four drafts of the big fantasy novel were somewhat there, near there, almost there, and just about there but they were never there. That’s why they became previous drafts. Draft number five is the final page-one rewrite. From here on out, it’s all about tweaking and punching and polishing. That is to say that this draft has all the major elements, plot and character and narrative, in place. All that remains is getting the language right and plugging any holes that crop up.
So what now? Well, we’ve talked about this before. Now I put it in a metaphorical drawer and ignore it for some months. Then, when it is new to me again, I’ll take it out and make a more objective decision on whether this is really the final draft.
In the meantime, I can bask in the glow of finishing. The prospect of writing a draft of a novel is so stupidly harrowing (especially the way I do it) that the mere fact of finishing, apart from any questions of quality, becomes a matter for celebration.
Since I don’t know how the novel is going to end when I start, I have no idea if I’m going to make to the end. I have a ton of unfinished novels sitting in my metaphorical drawers (wait, not in my pants, in file folders. You know what I mean) that will probably never reach completion, forever destined to claim they enjoy cuddling just as much.
But some of them have second and even third lives. Right now I’m going to work on the sequel to The Vengeance Season and I’m more than happy to do that because it’s shaping up to be an excellent follow up, but when I inevitably have to put that draft into a drawer, I know the next story I’m going to tell.
From previous posts, I’ve made it clear that one of my favorite writers is John Scalzi. This is because he writes the kind of unfettered science fiction that reminds me of the golden age. Back in the day (I really hate that I’m old enough to say that with conviction) SF fell into two categories: Asimov and Heinlein. It was easy to tell the difference. Asimovians spent pages and pages explaining the exact science behind their warp drives. A Heinleinian’s warp drive was a black box that powered adventure stories more concerned with giant bugs and anatomically correct cyborgs than how you got to a bug infested planet or who built the girl named Friday.
Scalzi is of the Heinlein school. Not that he’s a fascist or weirdly perverted, I don’t know him well enough to make that call, more that he uses interplanetary travel as a way to tell a story rather than a reason to lay out a nerdgasm’s worth of theoretical physics while describing how a spaceship travels the unthinkable distances between planets.
So, the thing is, one of those orphans moldering in a drawer is that kind of science fiction story. Very little science, lots of fiction, no fantasy. I put this story aside because I didn’t feel like there was a readership out there waiting for such tales. Then I stumbled onto Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi and it changed my mind.
The interesting aspect of this journey is that it came through audible books. As my eyesight and attention span fail, I find myself reading less and listening more. I’m lucky. My grandfather was forced into a life of endlessly flipping cassettes of Louis L’amour westerns. I get to go to Audible.com and download a professional, high quality production of practically any book I can imagine. The interesting aspect of this is that it adds a new element of choice to book buying. What if you don’t like the narrator? This turns out to be a big deal for me because two of the most popular science fiction narrators happen to be the ones I can’t stand to listen to. So I’m always on the hunt for good readers.
When Ready Player One came out, I leapt on it – I mean, let’s face it, this is the book I was born and raised to read – blindly jumping in without pausing to make sure I could stand to listen to the narrator. Lucky me, that narrator turned out to be Wil Wheaton. He was so good at reading this book that I did a search to find other books he had recorded. That led me to John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation. And that led me to every other thing Scalzi has written except for his most famous work, the Old Man’s War series, because the guy who reads that one is one of the readers I can’t stand to listen to.
But, audible books aside, the real point here is that reading Scalzi reminded me how much I loved science fiction during the second golden age. And that reminded me that I don’t need a degree in theoretical physics* to tell a story about interstellar travel and human colonization of other planets. And that led me back to a story I had once concocted about the technical difficulties of taming a wild planet. And that is the story I will work on next. I can’t wait.
* One of my favorite bits from the show Community is that Greendale offers a course in Theoretical Phys-Ed.