Tuesday, July 10, 2012

ePubs, Procrastination, and Metallic Ants

I have a confession to make.

Until yesterday, I had been procrastinating on editing my upcoming science fiction short story collection. In fact, I was hoping to have it done this month. It's strange, considering it is the most dynamic and diverse book I've written yet. There will be fourteen tales in all, including stories about metallic insects, attempts at transhumanism, an adventure on Mars, building cathedrals on the Moon, and a computer that writes novels.

So why did I not want to work on it anymore?

For the life of me, I could not figure it out. The manuscript sat on top of a filing cabinet for weeks, and every so often I would take it down, sit down at the living room table, and flip through its contents. I jotted a couple notes here and there, but that was it. They say procrastination can sometimes be a form of anger, but in this case it was more like a form of veiled frustration.

Yesterday, however, I realized I was looking at the book all wrong. Some of the stories have minor problems, while four or five of them have major plot issues. In the plot-problem cases, there was a great setting, decent characters, but no real story line. There was no emotional investment on the part of any of the characters and the stories essentially went nowhere fast. Meanwhile, some of the other stories are done or nearly done. There's even a story about metallic ants, who by themselves do little, but as a group organize and overcome multiple obstacles in a matter of hours.

Yet whenever I looked at the book as a whole, the negative aspects stuck with me, and not the positive ones. Instead of looking at it with a "glass half full" mentality, it looked like the glass was half-empty, and the remaining contents were evaporating by the hour!

It was then I realized I needed to focus my efforts on the main plot-problem stories first. Instead of fourteen problems to solve, I needed to look at is as four or five managable obstacles to overcome. Once those problems were solved, Only then could I look at the book as a whole set of small, but easy problems to solve. Inch by inch, and all that.

In instances like these it also helps to sometimes swap out elements of a story that may or may not be working in an effort to jump start the story. In the case of a short story titled "Corridors", it started as a cargo ship passing through the solar system, only to find a barren planet Earth and a giant, cubic ship attempting to land on it. That in of itself seemed to be a workable idea, but the story went nowhere.

So I started swapping out bits of the story for other ideas. I turned the cargo ship into a passenger spaceship. I turned the cargo ship crew into a bunch of traveling musicians who are blown away by the music eminating from the giant cubic ship (which is actually the New Jerusalem as found in Revelation 21) and ultimately inspired by it. Suddenly, the story sprang to life and well, you'll see the results in a few weeks.

One problem solved, three or four big ones to go. Suddenly, the urge to procrastinate has been replaced by the urge to write. Writer's block is something that can be overcome, but sometimes it's best to break the project into workable little pieces instead.

In other news...progress is being made on ePub versions of my books An Echo Through the Trees, Gathering the Wind, and Horizons. Theft at the Speed of Light is already available on iTunes and Barnes and Noble, however. Depending on how things go, I may also release some free "singles" in the form of short stories here and there over the coming months, too. As always, stay tuned.

No comments:

Post a Comment