Sunday, June 5, 2011

Back in the Saddle

It's been sitting on my hard drive for the past six months, gathering digital dust. I'm talking about my homoerotic scifi novel Quarantine. I wrote about a third of Dylan's and Rafe's story, and then, I lost confidence in my ability to create a plausible future society. The book takes place in the near future, after a sexually-transmitted plague has decimated the U.S. Homosexuality isn't just frowned upon, it leads to lifetime imprisonment in a quarantine camp. The book describes the struggle of two very different men for freedom to be themselves and love one another.

As I've written before, I think science fiction is one of the most challenging genres (although easier than historical). It simultaneously requires great imagination, in order to envision an involving and surprising other world, and the ability to make these imagined details plausible and internally consistent. When writing a contemporary story, one can let loose and focus mainly on the characters and their interactions. Writing scifi, in contrast, demands that the author devote constant attention to the premise, background and setting, as well as the emotional content. It's a far more cerebral process.

Anyway, yesterday I pulled the manuscript out of the digital drawer and started to work on it once again. When I froze half a year ago, I went to one of my favorite crit partners, who writes amazing speculative fiction, and asked for his help. He read what I had so far and asked a lot of excellent questions: why is this so? what is the underlying motive for this behavior? where did this detail come from? He also made lots of far out suggestions for where I might take the book - he's far more original than I am - but really, his questions were what helped me to figure out more of what the book needed.

I wrote a chapter yesterday, and I'm hoping to do at least two chapters a week from here on in. I've got a scene list/rough outline, although there are still some holes in my plot. I'm trying to trust that I'll figure out how to fill them when the time comes, and meanwhile, to move forward.

Yet happy as I was at my progress yesterday, I started to squirm with recurrent self-doubt. Would people really like this? Is it too obvious? Too shallow?

I'm not going to listen to those questioning voices. I'm going to push them aside and forge ahead toward my goal - a finished novel of 60-70K words. I haven't written anything long in nearly three years, and I'm eager to have the space for a more complex plot and more nuanced relationships than you can create in a short story or novella.

Yes, I'm back in the saddle again, and I'm not getting down until I get where I want to go!


Adriana said...

Good for you, Lisabet! I completely agree about sci-fi being one of the most difficult genres out there. I know that I, for one, would not be able to create an entirely new universe. I think it's also a matter of patience - I am not focused enough to plot out all it would take to get it right. I suffer from major creative ADD.

I'm glad you're not listening to those annoying, sanctimonious inner voices. We all have those, don't we? Somehow we need to grapple with the beast, hold it under our feet as we sit at our desks, and just keep writing until it falls asleep. :)

Great post.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Thanks for the vote of support, Adriana!

I can tune the voices out sometimes. At other times, like all authors, I'm vulnerable to self doubt. The only remedy is simply to write through it all!

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