Jun 11, 2011

Writing about writing.

Yesterday, while tinkering with Mommune, I came to the frightening realization that the "introduction" part of the story I've been motoring through to get to the real guts of the story will need to be about half the book. Since I'm delving into science fiction, which is new territory for me, I need to create a believable new "world" so the rest of the story will make sense. My writing group has gently pointed out that I must establish the setting with more than vague references from each new character I introduce. So I've gone back, several times, and made the references less vague. But that's lazy writing, and it's not working. I need to research, outline, and add several chapters to bring the reader into my world, a world that is clear in my head but has yet to make it onto the page.

That, for me, is the difficult part about writing. Once I have a story in my head, I often forget to write the words that will bring the entire story out of my head and make it accessible to readers. People who remark on Soft Landing almost always say the same thing: great characters, great story, fast pace — but they wanted more. I usually ask, "More what?" and they tell me: more description, more back story, more of a certain character. They don't necessarily want a longer story; they want a more fully-realized story.

Mommune is a much more ambitious project than Soft Landing was. I'm including a much larger cast of characters. The premise of the story draws on social, political, medical, economic and environmental issues. And I'm taking all of that and distilling it to a very personal level for the main characters. So... not only do I need to write a larger story, I need to write each aspect of the larger story more completely, from future world events down to the most personal level.

Unlike a lot of writers, I do not write for the sheer joy it brings, uncaring of whether or not I get published. While I love it, writing is hard work. Perhaps because I have a business degree rather than a graduate degree in creative writing, I tend to be goal-oriented. I savor the rare uninterrupted stretch of time — and by stretch I mean days, not a few hours — I can focus on writing, but I still want to finish the damn book. I claim to strive for a "spare" style in my novels, but that may be my excuse for rushing through a story without doing the hard work that makes so many authors much better writers.

For me, writing is a perfect metaphor for life. I need to summon the patience to do it as thoughtfully as possible. I should focus more on creating and less on finishing. I want to build a world that is as fully-realized as possible. And most important, although writing will always be hard work, I don't ever want to consider it a hardship. It's a privilege, not a chore.

Here's the working cover for Mommune. (Yes, I see the irony of designing the cover before finishing the book, but I needed it for my new author website, which is under construction.)