Beyond the Farthest Handwavium

Thursday night is Relaxation Night due to a combination of things happening early in the evening, then Project Runway coming on and remaining on my television until nine-thirty PM.  There are only two or three more episodes of that show remaining, so I’ll soon be back to working on Thursday nights–and by working, I mean writing.

The way things work our, I’m looking at a lot of editing and formatting throughout April, with an occasional article here and there posted just to keep my hand in.  I’ve looked at my Idea File (I do have one), and I’ve not seen too much that is blowing a draft up my skirt, at least not yet.  Yes, they are my ideas, but what seemed like a good idea one moment doesn’t always translate into, “I gotta write this now!”  As I’ve found, you gotta let an idea stew a bit before you jump into it, otherwise it’s going to die stillborn.

But what do I want to write next?  I’ve been into the horror and the fantasy the last two novels, so I need something different.  But what?  Science Fiction?  Erotica?  Maybe Science Fiction Erotica, where In Space, No One Can Hear You Orgasm Unless You’re Really Loud.

I have been thinking of trying to write some science fiction that’s more in line with what’s considered “hard”, which means there’s no energy weapons that vaporize people, no gravity fields that make your space ship layout look more like the Queen Marry 2 than any tall skyscraper you can bring to mind, no super-duper space drive that will get you from Point A to Point B in a matter of hours.

There’s a term for that in the community:  Handwavium.  We’re talking a complete disregard for any of the laws of physics, where we can travel faster than the speed of light, or we can use an electromagnetic field to deflect light, or we don’t worry about heat when we’re using weapons that can take out stars.  Most of the science fiction from the Golden Age was like this, mostly because there were a lot of things we simply didn’t know at the time, but these days most writers have a better understanding of the universe, and they know what can and can’t be done . . .

Yeah, but we still like stories about getting from one star to another, and doing it in a way that doesn’t make us wait forever for our characters to make the trip.  Star Trek wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if it took an entire season of fifteen shows (actually twenty-two back in the day, but that was back in the day) to travel from Earth to Vulcan, which in terms of the scale of the galaxy is like me walking to the end of the driveway to get the mail.  The Dominion War becomes a lot less worrisome if it takes the Jem’Hadar six months to travel from the Bajor Wormhole to DS9–and Starfleet won’t show up for eight months after that.

There is something intriguing about staging a story in a world where most of what happens in a world is more or less real.  Sure, you can stretch science and engineering a bit to make the world a little move interesting:  you see that happen now and then where the space habitats are little too nice, the ships a little too fast, the terraforming a little too quick.  And yet, the reality is just enough that it feels like a world that isn’t too out there, that’s it’s just real enough to be a place that could happen.

Now all I have to do is come up with that world–

And write it out.

Novel On!

After the little down period I had the last few days, and the bit of affirmation I received yesterday morning, it was time to get to work.  I’m not ready to start on the novel I’ve written for NaNoWriMo, so what’s next?

Why, how about looking at my first novel?

When I first got into this writing thing I did a couple of short stories–which went nowhere, which happens–and then thought, “Hey, I’ve got something to say, why not do a novel?”  This was 1989 or so, and I had almost no idea what I was doing or what I was getting into.  But I went there anyway, because I had a lot more enthusiasm and grand ideas than I had knowledge about what was coming.

I’ve mentioned, in passing, my first novel a few times.  It’s one that is huge, and it’s gotten away from me more than once, but I’ve decided that I am going to rope this beast and bring it down.  And perhaps, in the process, get it published.

Now, in the beginning of this novel I wrote in Word Perfect, then moved to Word.  Now, I am using Scrivener to “reverse engineer” the story, and let me tell you–I’m loving every second of it.

A little quick background: my first published story, Kuntilanak (found on Smashwords and Barnes & Noble) was started in MS Word, but I started using the beta version of Scrivener for Windows to see how it worked.  I liked how quickly I was able to not only figure out how to use it, but how I could “see” the whole story laid out before me, as well as having access to notes while I was working away in a chapter or scene without having to start looking for other files.

I did another story, one of about 10,000 words, in Scrivener, and I loved how I was able to do most of the formatting in the Compile function before sending it off for (what I hope is) accepted.  I was using Scrivener, but I wasn’t using it the way I felt it should be used.

Now, with my NaNo Novel, everything was written in Scrivener (or should I say “wrote”, which I’m saying with a wink).  I used Scrivener to figure out each chapter, give a little note about what was going to happen, when that event happened in the time frame of the story.  I would write split screen and pull up notes and pictures and, for me, a listing of my word sprints.  And I used the Project Targets feature to set how many words the novel would require, how many words I had written, and how many I’d done while I’d had the program up.

The novel ended up with a final word count of 86688, and it took 25 days.  And Scrivener kept me going the whole time.  It helped me write in a way I’ve never written before, and I don’t believe I would have finished the novel without the program.

Right now, for my first novel, I’ve set up three parts corresponding to the three parts I have in my story.  Within each part I’m creating a “chapter folder”, and inside each of those chapters I’m setting up scenes.  On the note card that shows each chapter and scene I’m giving a little description of what is happening, and I’m also setting up the date and time when this all happens.  For me, knowing when is very important, as nearly the entire Part Three is predicated on something happening within a limited time frame, and knowing the dates is going to help me a lot in terms of keeping track of everything.  I’ve also indicated, through one of the characters, that everything takes place over a nearly two year period, so with the dates in place I can verify that as I go along.

It’s going to be a big project.  I’ve completed the first five chapters and I’m already at 38,600 words.  Like I’ve said before, I’m wordy.  The main reason for all this work is so I can look at what I have, see how the story flows, and decided if I need to cut something–or, add something into the mix.  I know I’ll have to end this thing–I’m maybe 3/4th of the way through it–and that will require a Part Four, but with the novel laid for like this, with everything at my virtual fingers, the writing and editing process will become much easier.

So there you having it.  My next WiP, which is really an old WiP.  Maybe by this time next year I’ll have this novel done, edited, and–fingers crossed–published.  Then you’ll be able to see if all this hard work was worth every second.

Oh, and one last thing: I might sounds like I’m shilling Scrivener, but it’s not my intention.  However, that said . . . if you write, and you’re serious about writing, buy it.  You won’t be disappointed.

Hail, Scrivener!

With the writing I’ve been doing the past week I’ve gotten curious if there are ways to make, you know, the job easier.  Word has been my tool of choice if for no other reason than it’s something I’ve used for 20 years.  The biggest issue I’ve been having with my latest story is the amount of research I’ve done.  Info on ghosts and other creatures in Indonesia, maps of Bali, keeping long character and village names straight in my head . . . it was a bit of work.

A few months back I found information linking me to a program known as Scrivener, a writing studio program originally developed for the Mac.  Not so great for me, however, is I have a Devil Dell and Windows is my platform.  But, what’s that you say?  There’s a beta for Windows?  Yeah, there is.  And so I downloaded it.

Now, I didn’t really know what the hell to do with it.  Write, yeah, but what else?  With my current project, and the notes I’ve created, the research I’ve developed, I thought, “Hey, lets see what I can do with this.”  So this morning I started loading everything over from my Word document to Scrivener–

Oh, man.  It’s like having a Companion Cube and knowing you never have to burninate it.

You have everything right there at your fingertips, in an online binder, and when you need something do you a quick click and there is information on a character, and there is information on town, or link to a map, or a wiki entry . . . it lets you have everything you want in one place so you don’t have to start looking for a bunch of files to help you bring your story together.

The one function I love is the ability to work on your story scene by scene, which is something I’m doing now.  You can develop and build each seen, put them in sections, and when you’re ready use the Compile tool to merge everything into a single document for submission or publication.  So you can break your story down to the easiest levels, get them nice and tight without needing to scroll all over the place, then put them together in the end the way you like–or your editor likes.

It’s not going to make you a better writer–I mean, if you suck you’ll just be a sucky writer who’s better organized.  But if you can walk the walk, then this is gonna help you enormously.

And if you find Scrivener isn’t your thing, The Lierature and Latte sites gives you a number of alternatives.