Tag Archives: science fiction trilogy

Shoot for the Moon 2015 Challenge – January Roundup

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Last year, egged on by fellow writer and partner in crime, Mhairi Simpson, I set some crazy writing-related goals, which I revisited every month to see how I was doing. It worked so well, that this year I decided to continue with yet another set of over-ambitious targets. So what are these goals?

• Publish the Sunblinded trilogy

Running Out of Space and Dying for Space had already been written, when last year I decided this would be my firstmoon foray into self publishing my work. So I needed to complete Jezell’s story arc in the last book, Breathing Space. I’d initially hoped to complete the manuscript by the end of 2014, but it kept running off and generally behaving badly. One of the reasons prompting me to publish this series is that I’ve wanted to write a science fiction crime series featuring a female PI – and using Jezell as that character is an obvious choice. I know all her gnarly secrets, and how she got them; and given that I’ve also written two other books in the same world, I’m also on more than nodding terms with how it works. So now comes the stupidly ambitious part – I intend to publish the Sunblinded trilogy in time for Fantasycon in the autumn, so with a following wind and the gods of editing being very obliging, the three books will probably appear during mid-August. My marvellous writing group have agreed to beta-read and nitpick the manuscripts for me – though if anyone else is interested in doing so, I’d – of course – be delighted to hear from you.
Managed to complete the first draft of Breathing Space in the last week of January. Just as well – I was considering battering my head against a brick wall to see if I could shake the dratted story free, as it took 25,500 words – and less than half of that wordcount made the manuscript…

• Write Miranda’s Tempest

I started this last year and got nearly three-quarters of the way through before hitting a wall. I knew I’d gone badly wrong, but was too close to figure out what it was. So plonked the manuscript into the Pending box, and sure enough, I now know where and how it went off the rails… As a fair amount of what I originally wrote can be recycled, it shouldn’t take too long, once I get going.
Just to see if I could – I sat down and rewrote the first chapter in present tense, first person pov and it was so much punchier, while still keeping the slightly formal feel I wanted. But won’t be tackling this in earnest until the Sunblinded trilogy is done and dusted…

• Complete Chaos in New Cluster

This is the novel my writing pal, Michael Griffiths, and I started last year, writing alternating chapters between us. It has been pushed onto the back burner rather a lot, but is in the closing stages, so it would be great to get the first draft done and dusted. And start on the editing runs…
Haven’t had a chance to get to grips with this one, yet.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog

I pulled this number out of thin air last year – and nailed it. In fact, I wrote 126 reviews last year, as I increasingly find writing about books I enjoy helps complete the reading experience for me. I did debate whether to extend the challenge to make it more… challenging. But just because last year I happened to hit this target doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be able to do so with such ease this year – and as I find it really useful and fun to do, I don’t see the need to spoil it by placing undue pressure on a process that seems to work anyway.
I wrote 10 reviews during January, which came to just over 6,700 words. Half the books I completed in were by authors I hadn’t previously read – a promising beginning for my target to include more writers new to me in my reading pile.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2015/16

I have already been thinking about next year’s courses. I really would like to have the course notes and plans written by the end of the summer holidays, but given I will be probably working flatout on getting three manuscripts ready to go at that stage, I’ll settle for having the Autumn term course good to go in plenty of time.

• Submit Mantivore Eyes and Netted

I attended a wonderful talk last year at Bristolcon by Jacey Bedford, who was very generous in telling us about her efforts to obtain an agent. She took us step by step through her approach and totally inspired me. As I want to be a hybrid author, with a traditional publishing deal in addition to my self publishing career, I’d like an agent. Up to now I’ve been rubbish at submitting my work – but this year, I’ve determined I will NAIL this target!
Nope. But then I spent January grappling with Breathing Space – and in order for a submission to be any good, I have to pay attention. I’m liable to make stupid mistakes, otherwise… Watch this space, though!

Overall last month, I wrote just over 37,400 words.

On Birthing Books: Breathing Space

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A bit of context – I am an avid reader, I teach Creative Writing at Northbrook College in Worthing, West Sussex and I write. I’ve been writing for what seems like forever and while I have written the occasional short story and poem, I write mostly science fiction novels.

Breathing Space is the third book in a trilogy I started with Running Out of Space about 19-year-old Jezell Campo, the daughter of an Sarah writingIberian merchanter who yearns to serve on her father’s ship. I wrote RooS, followed fairly quickly by the second book, Dying for Space, as at that point I had a publishing contract for the first book and the publisher was also interested in other books – subject to sales. However things didn’t work out, the publisher and I parted company and the copyright reverted to me before the book got to see the light of day. Instead of going on to write Breathing Space, I started Netted, a post-apocalyptic story set in Maine, as the whole experience with RooS left me feeling a tad raw and disinclined to continue in Jezell’s world.

But after completing Netted and working on an extensive rewrite of another novel, Jezell wouldn’t leave me alone. I liked the idea of writing a science fiction crime series and Jezell seemed the ideal protagonist all set to solve my murders – I even have the plot of the first murder mystery sketched out, along with the working title of the book, Murder in Space… But, of course, Breathing Space needed to be written to complete her story arc up to the point where Jezell starts sleuthing.  I’ve always written organically – but back when I was writing Dying For Space, I had a forest of ideas about how the story arc for Breathing Space should progress. So when I finally started writing the book in mid-May, I had a fairly good idea where the story was going – all I had to do was to get it down.

But it wouldn’t. I restarted Chapter 1 three times – it didn’t help that I was also grappling with Scrivener and it managed to tuck away the first couple of chapters in a dusty corner of my hard drive. I’d read that Dropbox and Scrivener didn’t play nicely together, but hadn’t realised the implications of what that entailed… I stayed up all night looking for the missing work – somehow the backup on my memory stick hadn’t stuck, either – and the missing files popped up suddenly when I’d all but given up searching and was in the process of shutting the computer down in exhausted despair.

I’ve sorted that out now, but still wasn’t happy with the beginning of Chapter 1 and didn’t want to move on, because I’ve learnt from experience that as I always write chronologically, if the start isn’t right, then the wrongness will eventually catch up with me and I’ll hit a brick wall further along the way. There seemed to be an awful lot of narration in Jezell’s voice, telling the reader about slices of her life in the interim – Breathing Space starts three years after Dying for Space ends – and scene setting. I didn’t like it. The other two books were fairly light on looong passages of description and explanation, relying on taking the reader into the scenes as they happened. In comparison, this book seemed a lot flatter and less vivid – even though the opening scenario had plenty of drama.

I read what I’d written, then discussed the problem with my writing group – Sarah Palmer, Geoff Alnutt, Debbie Watkins and Katie Glover – who were all really helpful. They agreed that I needed to cut down on all the explanation, and Sarah suggested I start the story earlier before the first crisis hits Jezell, so we get a sense of her in happier times and I’m not constantly having to refer back to the moment when it actually goes wrong, because the reader shares it… Debbie pointed out that her relationship with her second in command didn’t ring true – there needed to be more of an edge to it. Which made perfect sense – focusing on all the other plotpoints, that was an aspect I’d overlooked. At last, I could rewrite Chapter 1 and make it work.

I’ve still had to curb my tendency to write too much tell instead of show – I’ve currently cut 10,000 words from the manuscript and I’m only on Chapter 13, but I am finally comfortable back in Jezell’s skin.

This has been the hardest novel to start by far – I normally start books very quickly and slow down during the boggy, mid-book bit, accelerating again once I get to Chapters 21/22 when the ending feels within touching distance. So I’m wondering if my normal writing pattern will surface as I continue working.

Has anyone else found it a terrific struggle to start a writing project they thought would be very straightforward? I’d be interested to hear about it, if you have…