As I’m sure you’ve all seen in some form or fashion, I’ve been writing a new cyberpunk sci-fi series called Marlowe Kana. Fiction in general is a new genre for me, much less Science Fiction and Cyberpunk. It’s been a hell of a ride so far, and despite all the pain, fear, aggravation and suffering, I’ve loved every second of it.
So, for my first Book Report, I want to share some of what I’ve been going through, learning, and beating my head against.
Writing fiction is hard. Like, hard hard. Like, harder than anything I’ve ever written before, hard. Up until this book, I’d only ever written one other piece of fiction, and it was terrible. In fact, longtime readers will know that it was the very first written iteration of this novel, only with completely different characters and plot. Everything else I’ve ever written has been journalism, opinion pieces, blog posts, anecdotal stories from my youth, and silly things. A few trolling pieces here and there. Some loud and vitriolic stuff. Some really important stuff about social matters, and other really important stuff about divorce, depression, self respect and just about everything else.
Thousands of pieces over 16 years. It’s only now that I’m doing fiction, for many reasons that I’ll get into in another post sometime. And let me tell you, this shit is no joke. It’s work. Fun, joyous, amazing, hard, tiresome, sometimes-you-wanna-set-fire-to-literally-everything-you-have-written-and-give-up-for-the-rest-of-your-life-frustrating, hellish, heavenly work.
First, you’re responsible for the reality of your work. Not just the physical writing – which by itself is a feat. 25,000 words is a tiny novella, and it takes a month or two to write if you’re writing every single day – and I’m doing five of those, per book, for a total of 15 volumes and 300,000+ words. You also have to get it edited, re-edited, and copyedited. If you’re self-publishing, then you also have to get it typeset, printed/digitized, get a cover designed and made, published in whatever form and stores, and market the thing. But the writing itself, that’s hard hard work. The sheer sticktoitiveness it takes to just sit down and chop away at word craft is a lot.
But that’s not even one tenth of the actual work. That’s just the typing. the WRITING… that is the super hard part.
For every single writer, this holds true: you not only have to create characters, settings, technology, scenarios, plots, motivations, story arcs and events out of thin air, you have to make them all make sense. More than make sense – you have to raise these people like children and tend to their environment like a cautious parent, if that parent was Nicollo Machiavelli. If you’re giving even half a shit, you also have to make each character independent, such that you’re not FORCING them into things, you’re guiding them there and seeing what decision they make, and then acting accordingly. And if you’re giving a whole shit, you have to eloquently describe ALL of the above to the reader in a way that lets them know what’s going on, without being some voice in their head telling them what they already figured out minutes ago. And that’s just “Writing Fiction 101.”
If you’ve never written fiction before, the first time you let someone who is close enough to you to tell you the honest truth read your stuff, you’re in for one hell of a reality anvil to fall on your head. You will be called out for any number of things you had no idea was even part of the process. Things like the three-act rule. Plot cohesion. The story arc. Action elements and beats.
You may end up hating characters you thought were your favorite. You may end up loving characters that were tossed in on a whim. And speaking of whims, you will have more whims than you ever have plot points, and you have to beat yourself stupid to keep from including every single one of them – and the ones you DO include, you have to go back and research as thoroughly as you did all of your plot, characters, tech and settings. Then you have to make damn sure your whim didn’t just invalidate something you’ve already written. And INEVITABLY you will end up altering the course of your plot completely.
It’s a lot.
Some things that I’ve learned in the course of all of this have come from reading books on writing fiction. Others from great videos from other writers and directors and storytellers. Still others came from very honest people in my life with experience doing fiction work, who were honest enough and loved me enough to tell me the absolute truth about my writing.
And that’s what this series is going to be about: all the little things I’ve learned along the way that I wish I knew starting out. Now, I am only two volumes into a five-volume serialized novel, which is my first fiction novel. I am hardly any kind of expert. I don’t want anyone to think otherwise, or think that I think otherwise. But, something I’ve always known to be true: there’s no harm in sharing information. And doing something – pass or fail – qualifies anyone to share what they know of the experience, even if their perspective might differ from someone else’s.
It is in that spirit that I am going to write these Book Reports. They will detail lessons I’ve learned, videos I’ve found, books I’ve read, sources I’ve studied (and what I have learned from them), and tricks I’ve developed to get my ass in gear and get going even on the toughest days. I hope it helps, or at the very least, entertains. I’ll post #2 this weekend, and plan to cover basic action lessions I had to learn the very (VERY) hard way.