What a difference a year can make

A little over a year ago, I put aside a sci-fi novel I was working on to turn to other projects. I’d completed the first draft of the novel (over five years ago, actually), and it had gone through a reading — chapter by painful chapter — by my writing circle (York Novelists Society) and I was a third the way through revising it. But it wasn’t working. Oh, I’d improved the character relationships and filled out the setting, but I wasn’t any closer to building on the theme that I was with the original draft. Even worse, some of the cool things I’d thought to add were unnecessarily complicating the story. So I set it aside to develop other projects.

Fast forward one year. I’ve spent the time developing other stories, I’ve taken a YA writing course at York University (where my chapter for the final project achieved a ‘publication quality’ grade), and I’ve completed ten Coursera courses in subjects as diverse as creativity and innovation, city design, and introductory philosophy. Finally, I decided that it was time to revisit that original novel.

What a difference the break has made. Now, to be fair, I’ve been thinking on this story for the last several months. Some of the new insights I’ve had have come just from spending time thinking and crystallizing my own ideas on topics of the novel. But the real exciting advances in both the novel and my approach to writing have come as a result of applying ideas from the Coursera courses.

I’ve written briefly on the application of the innovation courses on my strategy. Basically, to spend more time creating and revising and outline, so the writing can go quickly and smoothly. Experimentation has suggested that this is likely to be the approach that will work best for me, as my relatively short attention span means the organic approach just has me changing projects every few months without completing them. But I’m most excited about some of the philosphical and theological insights I’ve acquired and integrated into the novel. Without going into details (because then you wouldn’t have to buy the book!), they provide the foundation — the structure — for the story and theme that I’ve been missing until this point. They should allow me to return to the story and flesh out areas that were weak, while reinforcing and accentuating those strong areas as I move toward the new target. With some hard work, I could have it ready in a few months.

And since I’ve teased you without giving you any meaningful information on the story, I’ll leave you with the rough draft of a description I’m using for an upcoming contest entry:

[The story is] an existentialist discussion wrapped in a fun and irreverant romp through a distant galaxy. Where did we come from? What’s the meaning of life? Is there a God? Corbain Lathimar doesn’t think much about such questions. He’s too busy dodging the authorities and combatting other corporate mercenaries with his partner Snarque, a two-foot long red ant… And wondering why his ex-girlfriend doesn’t return his calls — surely she’s forgiven him by now, after all, it’s been eight years since she died.

Insight and longevity.



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