Or: why a chaotic first draft is nothing to worry about.
I’ve been having an…interesting time with my WIP lately. Just as I was starting to get my head around the last big change I made to my plotline, a second has come along and reared its head. This change, if anything, will necessitate even more rewriting than the last one did, which is really saying something. Nonetheless, I’m already at the stage where I can’t really imagine my WIP without the change in question. It’s as though my story should have been this way all along and that I’ve only now started to realise it.
Much rewriting, then, is sure to follow.
If my current progress is any indication, more such retcons can be expected before my first draft is finally done with. Each and every one, of course, will make more work for me when I start on the subsequent drafts. At this point, I don’t expect this project to be completely finished until next winter at the very earliest – and that’s assuming that I have my first draft done before the end of this year, as I’m currently predicting. Given that I first started outlining the story almost a year ago, that is…rather slow.
However, I have every reason to believe that my future projects will be a lot faster. And if you’re finding yourself in a similar position, then so should you.
The fact of the matter is that I still don’t have much writing experience. I don’t yet have a feel for what works and what doesn’t where writing novels is concerned – I haven’t been doing this anywhere near long enough for that – and so a smooth first draft can hardly be expected. On the contrary, I think it entirely natural to want to make alterations and improvements as I become more engrossed in the world I’m writing in. I may be making more work for myself in the short term, but I’m sure that the final result will be more than worth it.
As I continue to write, learn and gain experience, my WIPs should start to progress in a much faster and hiccup-free way. In the meantime, I’m just going to embrace the chaos that is the writer’s learning process – and so should everyone else, if they haven’t already.
The title basically says it all. I want to take my massive amount of experience (note that I mean this incredibly sarcastically, I’ve published a single forty-three page short story) and advise you to slow down and take your time. One of the things most first time authors do when nearing the completion of their book, giddy with excitement that would rival a schoolgirl at a One Direction concert, is let that excitement get the best of them.
A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.
We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system – even secretes designer drugs. It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.
But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives…and will do anything to get them.
…I have absolutely nothing to add.
If you haven’t read this yet, you should.
Far in the future, the World Controllers have finally created the ideal society. In laboratories worldwide, genetic science has brought the human race to perfection. From the Alpha-Plus mandarin class to the Epsilon-Minus Semi-Morons, designed to perform menial tasks, man is bred and educated to be blissfully content with his pre-destined role.
But, in the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, Bernard Marx is unhappy. Harbouring an unnatural desire for solitude, feeling only distaste for the endless pleasures of compulsory promiscuity, Bernard has an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…
My rating: 10/10
I’ll keep this one short
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, is a work that has long been held to be a classic. Such a status is entirely deserved. The writing is consistently excellent and the characters are brilliantly complex; at numerous points they surprised me, but always in ways entirely consistent with what was shown about them. The ending is guaranteed to shock you and it really hammers home the horror of the envisioned world. Said world, by the way, is eerily accurate in a number of respects.
Particularly praiseworthy is a sequence towards the end, in which a World Controller is confronted over his society’s various apparent shortcomings. The resulting conversation is probably the finest piece of writing I have seen in my (admittedly, short) time as a reader: the Controller makes a scary amount of sense, at least within the context of the story, and you can honestly feel the emotion of the characters involved as they argue their respective cases. I actually found myself mouthing much of the dialogue here as I read it; let’s just say I’m glad I was alone at the time.
So…yeah. If you haven’t yet read this book, you ought to. Even if you do not and will never read modern science fiction, you should still read this. Seriously.
A tragic waste of its premise.
Far into the future, the Earth is ruled by the ShaZha, a hyper-intelligent race of alien beings who are plagued by the violence and volatility of the human race. Supposedly intending to repair the broken societies and polluted planet, they have found the Human problem to be much more complex than they ever imagined. Zarah is a Prodigy, an obedient human, with a caring ShaZha master. Zarah wants to prove all her master’s hopes that humans can be civilized and responsible. When she is lost by her master and exposed to the other side of humanity, she must confront the possibility she might be not a valued citizen, but a pet.
My rating: 2/10
Well, this was a disappointment.
I bought The Disenchanted Pet on the basis of its premise: namely, humans kept as intelligent pets by a race of hyper-advanced aliens. The concept fascinates me, for whatever reason, and I’ve read a number of books in the past which deal with it in various ways. I wasn’t sure about the blurb, particularly its first sentence, but I figured that the book was short and cheap enough to be worth a punt.
In terms of the above-mentioned niche, sadly, The Disenchanted Pet is easily the weakest book I have come across. For that matter, it’s a serious contender for the worst piece of SF I have ever read. It was easy enough to get through, being so short, and its not like I lost much cash over it, but…well, I seriously struggled to think of good things to say about this one, and that hardly ever happens when I write these reviews.
The characters, first of all, are almost all flat or unlikable (or both), with Zarah being one of the most passive leads I have ever come across. The plot, meanwhile, is so close to nonexistent you’d need a microscope to properly see it. Even the premise is difficult to praise, seeing as its been done so much better in the past. There were several interesting ideas here, more than enough to set The Disenchanted Pet apart from similar works, but ideas alone don’t make a story.
The book follows the early life of Zarah, a “Prodigy” living in the household of a caring alien master. Zarah, when we first see her, has just completed her education and longs to make herself useful; being the good Prodigy that she is, she settles on motherhood and then begins her search for a mate (book’s words, not mine). She quickly falls for a boy names Justus and eventually manages to speak to him alone, at which point…ah, see for yourself:
“What school did you go to?” I asked. Somehow, though, that lame question led to each of us telling the other everything about ourselves. If I had scripted a dream conversation…I couldn’t have achieved a better result than our conversation. We seemed to be the same in the right ways and different in the right ways.”
Just about every issue I had with this book can be seen in the above extract, most notably a truly excessive amoung of summarising in the narrative. Such summarising, I daresay, is largely why this book is so short; it is also the reason why I never felt any real chemistry between Zarah and Justus. Given that the first half of the book revolves around the pair, that is…not good.
The quoted sequence also exemplifies the book’s apparent reluctance to present Zarah with real obstacles. In nearly all cases, a hurdle cleared with little to no input from Zarah herself. Even when Zarah is separated from her owner, there is little sense of urgency or tension. She simply potters about in her new surroundings, learning various awful truths without really making any use of them – hardly riveting stuff.
The real tragedy here is that, as mentioned before, the ideas arn’t bad. The ShaZha made for an interesting alien race, and Zarah’s relationship with her beloved SaSa would have been fascinating had it merely been shown in more detail. As things are, though, this book is just not something I can recommend. A sequel is reportedly in the works and is sounding interesting, but after this book a really can’t see myself going for it. A pity, really.
Hi everyone! I just want to let you all know that Roy Huff's book, Everville: The City of Worms is now FREE on Amazon. It's the sequel to the bestselling Everville: The First Pillar, which I reviewed back in August of this year—and if anyone remembers, I compared an aspect of the book to prematurely ejaculating. :)