Friday, March 24, 2017

Sailing Venus: Of writer groups and turning points

I've joined a writing group. The members invited me, out of the blue, a while back and I took them up on it, despite the fact (and this cuts both ways) none of them are of the SF tribe. No matter. I've been wrestling with Sailing Venus and the group offered me two things I desperately needed: 1) feedback on the prose itself, particularly whether the science-heavy world-building is integrated subtly an engagingly in the narrative, and 2) a regular deadline that forces me to regularly write. The feedback thus far has been interesting. Some of what I attempted in the story worked far better than I'd expected. Some trouble spots I'd not recognized were exposed. And some trouble spots I recognized early on have potential solutions. Already the feedback I've received has impacted the current pages, with new conversations and more fully-developed subplots than existed before. If I have one regret, it's my characterizing Sailing Venus as a YA book. None of the other writing group members have much familiarity with YA, but they do have pre-conceived notions that creep into the critique occasionally. As I've mentioned here before, my goal is to straddle that same line Steven Gould did so well with Jumper, namely, a story and characters equally accessible and appealing to adult as well as young adult readers. Don't worry about the intended audience, folks, just focus on the story and your reactions to it. Aside from that quibble, it's been a positive experience.

And the internal resistance I've fought on this one has started easing up. My word count is inching upwards, and those words (at the moment) are flowing more freely. I suspect this is because up until now, the story's been ill-defined in my mind. Oh, I knew what had to happen, but I didn't know how. Nor were the scenes clearly defined in my mind. That resulted in lots of restructuring and jettisoning some ideas whilst combining others. In essence, life is happening to the characters, but these seemingly mundane interactions are coming together in a way that will catalyze the harrowing adventure. I'm writing scenes now that I first visualized years ago, and while the details have changed, the core essence remains. Last night I wrote the third of three successive confrontations, each one quieter than the one before, but packing exponentially more emotional punch. After I wrote this passage, I had a throbbing stress headache. Talk about identifying with one's characters:

Erica recoiled, stumbling back. She had to get away. She couldn't let them find her here, watching this. Watching whatever came next. She fled.

What came next? She shoved it from her mind. She didn't want to know. She already knew. She should turn around. Confront them. Stop this... betrayal? Was this what betrayal felt like? Then why did she feel so guilty?

Erica stopped, blinking in confusion. Where was she? The hangar. How had she gotten here? She couldn't remember. Why couldn't she remember? The airlock leading to Wind Sprite lay open before her. Beckoning her. Only Wind Sprite guaranteed solitude. She was safe aboard Wind Sprite. Nobody could hurt her there.
Honestly, I feel sorry for Erica. She's about to make some very bad decisions, and suffer the consequences. Hopefully, once I'm finished, readers will feel that same empathy. After all, isn't that what writers strive for?

Now Playing: Dr. Jeffrey Thompson Voyager Space Sounds
Chicken Ranch Central

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