The Science in After Destiny: Birth Control

When you’re in a confined space with a lot of people and population has the potential to be a problem, there needs to be some way to maintain that population without having to worry too much about human error. There’s not only the issue of having an extra mouth to feed and extra body to put resources toward, but there’s also the loss of that worker that could be vital at that moment. Not to mention the general dangers of birth and the pains of abortion, it’s generally a good idea to have more than one way of keeping pregnancy limited to only when the mother actually wants a child.

In the Janus Complex, they use male birth control options. Rather than just a condom, males get a shot to ensure they cannot impregnate anyone unintentionally. I saw the article and I wanted to implement it in the story pretty much immediately, but it had to be cut because it didn’t actually fit into the narrative.

There is a small leftover in a section where Liah is talking to another worker, who mentions that three people are off on maternity leave at the same time. The way the system in the Janus Complex currently works is that if you want to have a child, you have to apply for it. They need to approve your leave and find someone to cover for you, then the male partner will have the shot reversed for a time. Once impregnation happens and the child is deemed viable, then the male is injected again.

And, of course, maternity leave. This differs between Upstairs and Downstairs, though both offers a full year off for both parents and options to go back part time.

I wish I could have made it fit, but I just couldn’t make it work. It sounded like a tangent and ultimately it had to be cut. It’s just one of those things that exists in the universe that never really came into play enough to be talked about in the narrative.

The Science in After Destiny: Underground Plants

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t use a lot of science in my stories. When I do use it, I tend to pick and choose between various elements and skim over the rest, usually to keep the text from dragging like crazy while I’m writing. I might have been great at math and science while I was in school, but even I found most of the classes pretty dull.1 That means After Destiny doesn’t have much in the way of long explanations for some of the elements in it.

It also means I definitely made some of the science up and based it off of old propaganda films I remembered from high school or that binge of them I watched a decade ago back when I first wrote the story.

It doesn’t, however, mean that some genuine science didn’t slip in there. I took them to a different place, but they do exist.

The first of these things is the farm downstairs that is entirely underground. While there is mention of these plants being engineered to have different nutrients and tastes to them,2 I added in an interesting bit of research. See, apparently you can grow plants under different coloured lights to create different effects.

It’s cool, right? You grow plants under a different colour and you get a different effect on the plant. Blue will allow plants to grow and red lets them flower, all based on the spectrum the chlorophyll can take in and process. Over the years, the plant leaves may change colour to adjust to their environment.3 Give science a few generations with this technology and who knows what it could eventually be used for.

Well, besides using various spectra to help create a genetically-enhanced, protein-rich apple that tastes like bacon.

Of course, this is not interesting to the people on the Janus Complex, so they don’t really mention it. Those who even understand how it works.4 It was an explanation I couldn’t work into the story and, in the end, it wasn’t that important to leave in. The food was strange colours and there were strange lights on the ceiling to help the genetically modified plants grow. Downstairs was more important as a setting and the food as a background element that the explanation for the lights and the science behind any of it seemed unnecessary.

One of the many darlings I ended up killing. And that’s not the only one.

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  1. Although that’s true of most of my classes back in high school. []
  2. And that would imply that, reasonably, they were also engineered to survive in the climate created in their underground farm []
  3. This was from another article on the process, but I can’t seem to find it now. []
  4. Admit it, you don’t really remember how plants feed themselves anymore. My mother plants a garden every year and she couldn’t tell you about the inner workings of her plants. She can tell you which ones are jerks, though. []

But Which Darlings? – World Building Edition

By this point, I think everyone’s familiar with the Quiller-Couch1 advice of “Kill your darlings.” It doesn’t matter how much you love that passage or that word, you need to get rid of it to make your story better. Unless you have a good reason to keep something, you should probably cut it.

I went through a very extensive high fantasy phase in my reading in high school,2 followed by a space-related science fiction one. If there’s one area where people like to throw this advice right out the window, it’s with world building in these two genres. In order to get their point across, these authors often feel the need to explain everything about their universe so that the reader can understand.

Now, there should be a lot more world building in these sorts of stories. You have to. There’s a whole world you’re plunging the reader into that they are going to need to understand in order to follow along with the story. There’s a lot they need to know, and there’s a lot you need to get across. I’m just suggesting that maybe it’s not all relevant information.

For example, I distinctly remember a fantasy story that explained that they had a system to empty chamber pots so that they weren’t dumped out the window and into the streets. At no point in the story did a character ever use a chamber pot. I don’t think they even had to urinate once in the entire narrative. They didn’t even spend much time in towns or cities where this would be relevant information and, say, they would want to stay in the middle of the road to avoid unfortunate accidents.

Universe elements are like everything else in the story. Feel free to include them all you want in the first draft, but when you’re editing, really think about whether or not that information is actually doing anything for the story. I know how tempting it is to include every single thing about the universe and how it all feels important so that the readers know exactly what they’re dealing with in terms of the universe, but it’s probably not all necessary.

When you’re looking over those parts of your story, keep the same thing in mind as you have with the rest of the story:3 Is this actually important to the narrative? Does it further the plot? Does it add to the characters? Does it help the ambiance? Does this element ever come back into play again later?4 If it doesn’t, make it do one of those things somehow. If not, consider cutting it to help keep the story moving at a good pace.

I know I’ve had to do a lot of it with After Destiny. I’ll tell you about some of the world building-related cuts from that later.

  1. Or Faulkner. Or Wilde. Or any number of other people this quote is attributed to. I really don’t know anymore. []
  2. And Game of Thrones recently []
  3. Or the thing I always think of when I’m rewriting/editing. []
  4. Yes, red herrings are a thing, but I don’t tend to use them as often as I should. []

First Draft vs Second Draft

There is a world of difference between the first and second draft in terms of the writing process. At least, there is for me.

A first draft is always so new. There’s excitement in it, as well as a sense of discovery as I’m going into the story for the first time. I’m meeting the characters and deciding what’s going to happen to them. I’m exploring the universe and figuring out what the rules of it are.  I’m pretty much free to do whatever stupid stuff I want for the first draft because, well, why not? No one has to see it and I can skip large chunks of scenes if I don’t feel like dealing with them right now.

It’s about creation at this point, but by the end I have a much better idea of the story than  did at the start. I know what the rules are and how the events should be playing out with these characters. What was once an idea turns into something a lot more concrete by the time the last words hit the page.

The second draft is an entirely different beast together. When I get to the second draft, it’s much less about creation and discovery and more about consistency. The second draft isn’t about writing and enjoying the process, but about making the story actually work. It’s a process of making sure everything actually makes sense and making the ending actually match the beginning in a lot of ways.

It’s also the time when I start trying to make the story good, which is exhausting. Between making the plot consistent throughout, leaving in the foreshadowing where it needs to be, trying to make certain elements subtle while other ones hit you hard enough to break something, and trying not to screw up the grammar, I end up cursing my slightly younger self for skipping over the important stuff and spending so much time on things that have to be cut. Sometimes it involves scrapping a whole chapter or two entirely and writing around it.

Where the first draft is a lot of fun, the second draft is where the work begins and the draft doesn’t end until I’m ready to send it to my editor. Because I don’t do it linearly,1 every rewrite between the first draft and going to my editor counts as my second draft. It is one of the longest stages of the writing process for me.

It’s also one of the best parts. For all the work that goes into it, it’s also when everything finally starts to come together. The story makes sense. The characters make sense. The universe makes sense. It’s exhausting and wonderful.

  1. I usually take it scene by random scene based on my notes, then do a final pass near the end to make sure it works all together []

Rewriting Very Old Stories

I mentioned last time that I just finished rewriting After Destiny. It was originally written during Nanowrimo in 20081 and I thought it would be easy. I’d already written it once. I knew the story pretty well. Sure, I couldn’t use any of the prose, but I knew the story. Sure, I needed to rewrite it, but it would be easy. Sure, it would be a lot of work, but I could do it.

I won’t be doing that again any time soon.

While I’m happy I did it and I am looking forward to editing until it’s solid, I don’t think I’m going to have the energy to do it again for a very long time. It was much more exhausting than I ever thought it would be, though I suspect that’s partially because I really did have to redo the whole thing from scratch and I tried to make it good while I was writing.2

There’s something weird about going back to these old works and trying to remember what you were thinking when you did some of the things that you did in the story. There’s a desire that makes me want to keep everything true to what was originally there. It doesn’t make any sense in the new context, but there’s still a desire to preserve the original.

Steve is now Kitty. Clyde is no longer trying to make a movie that is never brought up after the first couple chapters. Smartphones and smartwatches and tablets exist now. Iris exists now. It is a very different world than the one I made 8 years ago.

Prying myself away from the original draft to make this more modern derivative of it was probably the hardest part3 and I won’t be trying to do it with such old works again. Going through the old book while rewriting the new one, I realized what a different person I was back then and how little of the story I could really save.

I wanted to save more of it, but I really couldn’t.

Needless to say, this version of the story is much better. It’s still very different from anything else I’ve written, but I like it a lot more. I look forward to editing it and reading the completed version in full. And sometime in July,4 you’ll get to see it too.

  1. I think []
  2. I’ll discuss why this is awful another day. Always another day. []
  3. Besides trying to make it good. I kept thinking of it as a second draft and that was a horrible way to do a rewrite. []
  4. With any luck []

Not Quite From Scratch

So the rewrite has begun as far as I’m concerned. I’ve started going back through the initial story and I’m working through what can stay and what can go in the whole mess of it. Considering how long ago I wrote this story,1 I am not that surprised with what’s staying at what’s going.

What’s staying:

  • Basic plot
  • Most of the universe elements
  • Most of the characters in some way
  • A few of the scenes

What’s going:

  • All of the actual written text

This was written nearly 7 years ago. The ideas I still like, but the actual prose is… well, it’s like it was written by me 7 years ago. There are a lot of things in it I don’t like, such as the belief I used to have that a large vocabulary meant that I was awesome at this writing thing.2 There’s also the fact that everything is kind of traditional in that there’s a damn lot of dudes, all two of the women in the original cast fall into the traditional roles and there’s nothing societally that’s changed from what I thought things were like back in 2008.

Which is weird because I took a glimpse at the story I wrote the year before and none of these things were an issue.

I do, fortunately, have a bunch of notes of things to change and I’m working on writing up a new plot off the old one. I need to flesh out bits of the universe and get the setting down3 and make sure I have the appropriate back stories switched, but it’s definitely workable. I just need to write it again.

And edit.

And edit again.

And again.

You know how it goes. Wish me luck. This one’s going to be a bit of a rough one, I can feel it.

Also, I keep changing the cover around, so look forward to previews of the cover with every post.

  1. 2008, I think, for Nanowrimo []
  2. It doesn’t, 23 year old me. It really doesn’t. []
  3. Looking at Saskatchewan for this one, not that it actually matters []

Books as Babies

It’s something I have heard a lot of times before. “My book is my baby.” Some people disagree with this statement. I am one of them. Still, I am willing to figure out a way to make this analogy work.1

The initial idea for a book is like a baby. It’s new and just sprang out of nowhere2 into your lap. It has so much potential and you have no idea what it’s going to become, but it’s yours and you are going to try your hardest to do right by this little adorable thing that you have created. It will be fun to raise and to figure out how to make it into something you can be proud of. You know you can nurture it just right. You might even make a complicated plan to make sure of it.

Childhood is the first draft. You get to play and have fun with your little idea and watch it grow in unexpected ways. All those carefully laid plans you made during infancy are being put to the test as it takes on a life of its own. You talk about it with other parents3 and sometimes go on related blogs and forums when you’re having trouble, but all in all you are still happy with and proud of your little creation. And when it finally graduates elementary school, you take a look back and realize maybe you shouldn’t have had quite so much fun and let it go off wandering quite so often.

And then the teenage years hit with the rewrite.4 At first it seems fine. It’s not so bad. And then you realize that some of the things your poor little idea is doing makes no sense. It doesn’t realize what the implication of its actions are. You start arguing, trying to straighten out as many of these bad habits that it’s developed as you can. Your book resists, of course. But that shirt looks great on me, look how nicely it’s written! That character totally has a place – you always need a musician! You just don’t understand how to use a comma splice anymore, author.

Somehow, your book has graduated and gotten into a nice school where it will live on the campus. This is where your editor(s) come in. You get a break away from your demon creation while someone else helps smooth out the rough edges, you just having to deal with it on breaks, though it seems that the breaks are too long and the time away is too short. You still love the thing, but these new ideas it brings back can be hard to get your head around. You work with it as best you can and try to be supportive. You’re getting tired and really want to see it on its own two feet. You are enjoying the quiet that comes with it no longer being in your hands.

And then it comes back from college, diploma in hand, and you realize just how much you missed it. It’s all done, ready to go. Or so you think. It makes a home in the basement. It doesn’t want to go out and do something with that degree. Do you know how hard it is out there? It could just stay home and play video games and have you take care of it for the rest of its life. It never has to come out again.

That’s when you have to get tough. You pick up your book, you go over every possible thing it could still do and you force it to go out and get a job. You have taken care of it for long enough. You raised it from when it was a little idea and you are proud of it. You do love it. And you know it can do it. It just has to do it somewhere other than your house because it is time, dammit.

On a related note, I’m kicking White Noise out of the house on Saturday. He needs to get a damn job.

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  1. Mostly because I am in desperate need of a break from editing. []
  2. We’re going the immaculate conception route on this analogy []
  3. Writers []
  4. Skipping middle school because I have never been and cannot speak for what is surely an awful experience []

Editing Burnout

So after the last update, I do what I usually do when I try to promise a vlogging schedule. I dove head first into work and completely forgot that vlogging is a thing.

Since then, I’ve completely rewritten two books: The Jabberwocky’s Book1 and White Noise. Jabberwocky’s Book is now completely done and ready to go for Jukepop for December, with White Noise on the last couple edits before it will also be ready for whatever I plan to do with it.

And I am exhausted. As many of you know, rewriting is a lot harder than writing. Editing is harder than rewriting. Working on two books at the same time doing these things has been the opposite of a good idea, as it turns out. I thought I’d cut down on the time, since I could work on the rewrite or edit of one while my editor took a look at the draft and then it could just be swapped back and forth. There would always be something to do, which is great!

Except it really isn’t. Writing with the intent to be good at writing takes a lot more out of you than writing to tell a story. Add in the fact that there is no down time while you wait for the other person2 and the fact that White Noise is both heavier and in need of more work and it’s left both of us not wanting to look at anything after this is done for a while.

I thought I could do this. No problem. I’ve been doing so well this year getting things done and being generally far too productive for my own good in getting things written and done. I figured two more would be fine. I’ve been writing while my editor had my stuff. It was just editing two novels at once and it wouldn’t be that bad.

This is never happening again if I can help it because I am not going to be able to bring myself to edit anything for a few months after this. I don’t even want to think about thematic appropriateness and whether characters belong in this scene and whether this even follows character motivations or rules of the universe anymore. I need a break and some fun writing again. I think my editor just needs a break, period.

White Noise is almost done, and when it is I am going to sleep until November. Because in November, Nanowrimo happens and I’ll have new things to edit by the end of it.

  1. The next in the Looking Glass Saga []
  2. I know my editor’s a little burnt out from all this too, so it goes both ways []