Well, this is it. As (semi-) promised, I’ve decided to do a series of posts on writing science fiction and my journey through it. For the record: I do not claim to know everything, nor will I. Ever. (Claim it or KNOW it!) Rather, this is a journal of my passage from science fiction reader to science fiction author. I intend to pass along some of my hints, tips and tricks, and I hope someone out there in blogland finds it helpful. I will also (probably) intersperse this with notes on the books I’ve written.
One of the biggest pitfalls of writing science fiction concerns DETAILS. As SF readers we are a picky group. I’ve read many a paperback with a believable premise, good tech concepts and well-developed characters only to choke on DETAILS. These wonderfully-developed characters in the disbelief-suspended universe are urgently pursuing (or fleeing) someone else. Hyperjumping from Planet Purple to Wampus World takes six suspenseful days. Once the Wampians are handled the ensuing jump back to Planet Purple only takes two days, because the characters MUST be there for something else. No explanation is given for WHY two jumps of the same ‘distance’ took two different times. The story is still enjoyable, the characters are still well-developed but the disbelief-suspender just took damage.
As an avid reader I can forgive small faux pas and even a few more serious ones but too many of them will drop me out of a story cold. As an author I try, hard, to keep my details consistent. My Dad suggested that I spend too much time doing so but, of course, I disagree (Politely!) with him.
This is especially true when writing a science fiction series. Not only is detail-consistency required within a single book, it is CRITICAL between stories. My solution for this is a separate document specifically used to track details. Mine is up to 31 pages so far but this is a false number. I also maintain a similar document for each story. (Starting with The Radical Factor where I really needed it!). Who knows? Some day in the future I may decide to publish a League Encyclopedia or Reference Guide. If I do, I’ll have plenty of material already available!
So. You think this is a good idea and decide to implement it. What should go there? What tidbits of information should you record, how should you format it and how should you organize it? The simplest answer is ‘Whatever fits your needs.’ Record anything that needs to be consistent throughout all the books: names of major planetary systems, governments, well-known hyperspace routes and other things like that. I also record slang and technical jargon, especially if it’s something REALLY cool-sounding. That includes profanity, since some of my characters have really foul mouths. Right, you ruddy stape?
Format and organize the detail-document(s) in such a manner that you can FIND things and ADD things easily. If you use a word processor that supports such things, put headings on all your major sections and create a table of contents for them. If you’re really feeling fancy then add hyperlinks. If that doesn’t appeal, check out the Internet for open-source idea organizers. There are plenty out there and bunches of them are FREE.
Well, that’s all I’m going to say for now. I’ll be back soon with something else. Dr. Kincaid is pestering me so you may be seeing a post from him soon. I’m also getting REAL CLOSE to finishing my Stone Blade #6 rewrite, working title Honeymoon Cruise, so expect to see it before too terribly long.
Oh yeah. For the curious amongst you, ‘stape’ means stupid ape and it’s mildly insulting. It’s slightly worse than ‘spiker,’ which can be used in a complimentary sense and not nearly as bad as ‘nubb,’ which may constitute sufficient cause for fisticuffs!
Ciao for now;