Wednesday, March 2, 2011

another WIP

I mentioned that I’m working on a fantasy short story. One of the neat people on Critique Circle asked if anybody wanted to get involved in a shared writing project, based on a world we would create. We kicked around a bunch of worldbuilding ideas (are still kicking some around, in fact), came up with a rough timeline of geologic and political events, and began brainstorming short stories. The aim is to collect the tales into an anthology.

Our timeline starts with an “archaic” or medieval age, where magic is used, and progresses through an age of advanced technology. I won’t discuss further details because other people are involved and I don’t want to spill anybody’s beans. I think we’ve worked out enough possibilities for those of us wanting to write fantasy with magic and those wanting to write science fiction.

As we filled in certain worldbuilding details, I was reminded of a story idea I had in the 70s. Yeah, that’s kinda dating me, and I don’t care. Fantasy is my first love, followed by sci-fi. I don’t have a head for the science part of sci-fi, but I absolutely love to read it. Back in the 80s I was really into astronomy and planetary science, though some of it went over my head.

I watched Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” when it first aired, because I was already in love with the vast wonders of the universe. Kids, track that TV series down and watch the whole thing. I think Carl’s love of astronomy and of the details of the universe as a whole shine through. And, you’ll discover one of the first instances of the word “google”.

Anyway. So the more our group talked about working in magic use, the more I thought my ancient story idea could be resurrected and reworked. I found myself working up a serious lot of backstory and putting together an outline before I ever wrote a single scene. My first time as a “plotter”! I had to scale back my ideas as I started to have enough for a novel, and that’s not where this project is headed. I had so much backstory and so many possibilities that I needed an outline to keep me focused on what I needed for the short story.

I’m excited about the overall project. The other writers are coming up with story ideas that will showcase our world and tell captivating tales. One of my characters may be a major figure for stories set in future eras, and I am so honored to have contributed the idea. She’s a created being, connected to the planet in a very real way. She’ll have some control over magic, and becomes a serious threat to the planet. But she has limits and can be destroyed. I don’t know what all her flaws and vulnerabilities are yet, though I do know that she will not be all-powerful.

The biggest challenge for me right now is keeping to a short story length. No single story in the proposed anthology is supposed to be grander or longer than the others. I just love creating characters and watching them interact, so once I have core people in my head, it’s hard to rein in the action. I like working on two different types of writing projects. Isaac Asimov supposedly said that he liked having several projects going at the same time, because when he got bored with one, he’d just move to something else for a while. There’s wisdom for you.

Plus, since the fantasy is a short and my other project is a novel, I keep a whole range of writing muscles exercised. Writing . . . I love it. I seldom get tired of it. It can be hard, it can make me want to pull my hair out and run screaming from the room, and that’s not even as frustrated as I get trying to research stuff that happened just before the internet got big. I even like editing, because it makes stuff shiny and new again. I almost always have that sense of “wow, this is really cool stuff!” about my own writing, even when it really is, in fact, kinda awful. But I focus on making it better, not on its awfulness. I’ve decided that both projects have something unique, in a good way. If you guys take one thing from my blog, let it be: never give up. I mean it. Find whatever turns all your lights on, and stick with it as long as you can. You’ll know it when it grabs you.

“Shine on, bright like the sun / When even the sky turns gray”

(“Breathe”, Ryan Star)


  1. With your teaser on CC, I *HAD* to come check it out. Glad I did.

    I saw that thread start and some of the run. I was tempted, but had already invested quite a bit of time into my own story world building.

    I'm glad to know I am not the only one that falls in love with their own writing. :^) The funny part is I finished the first draft of my first novel. Going back to edit it now and all that wonderful prose and fascinating turns-of-phrase are now making me cringe and wonder why the critters on the story didn't walk away from that steaming pile way back in chapter 2. -ugh-



  2. I think a writer really has to love their work. If they don't, why should anybody else? The more you invest in it in the beginning, the more incentive you have to see it through to the end ... whether that's bitter or brilliant.

    Thanks for your comment J.