Monday, July 28, 2014

Bark: 100,636

According to Christopher Hitchens, “Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that's where it should stay.” Unfortunately, after nearly two years of battle between my psyche and my keyboard, mine has escaped, at least into Word and PDF document form. It's not quite out into the wild yet, as it's still being contained using the technical wizardry of USB sticks, but surely it's only a matter of time. That is, if anybody might possibly give the tiniest of shits about reading it.

I actually finished the first draft (about 92,000 words) back around Christmas time, and have been tweaking and expanding it over the last couple of months, to a point where I'm happy that it's in a state where it can be read by People Who Are Not Me. It's now closer to the "standard" novel length of 100,000 word (100,636 to be precise, though I'm sure you figured that one out already), which translates to 256 A4 pages of text (including formatting) of 10 point Times New Roman in MS Word. All in all, I'd estimate that it's taken somewhere between 2000 and 3000 hours to write, which is a considerable time investment, and also would go a long way to explaining why I haven't exactly been prolific in terms of posting blogs over the last couple of years.

In common with all the other creative projects I've indulged in over the last seven or eight years, such as sketching and drawing, games journalism, script writing and ceramics, I set out to write the novel purely for my own edification, rather than out of some grand design that I might try to make some money out it. For a scientist (and science teacher) I'm remarkably willing to be able to devote time to pursuits that yield only intangible, existential rewards. Instead my main motivations were simply to have fun doing it and see if I could even do it in first place. I'm rather pleased to find that the outcome to both objectives has been success, because I have written a bona fide novel with a beginning, middle and an end, and I had an absolute ball writing it, creating a universe, plotting a story, creating characters and twisting the plot in ways that even surprised me at times.

This does, of course, raise further questions like: "Is it any good?"

I have no idea, in all honesty - at least from a totally objective point of view. I'm obviously way too close to the whole project to be anything other than utterly biased as to how good it is, but in my defence, I have binned previous creative writing projects I didn't think were going anywhere, or I was otherwise unhappy with, so it must have something going for it. I can't claim that the story is massively original, as I have referenced elements from a lot of my favourite sci-fi novels, games and films, especially those in the space opera genre, which is my personal favourite. So the story does owe quite a lot to the work of another Scottish "Iain M.", though I'd hope that I've been able to put enough of my own spin on the genre to make sure that it's not utterly derivative - after all, my own background as a Physicist and Science Teacher gave me an imperative to make as much of the science in the book as real-world as possible, without totally dumping the speculative element of science fiction in describing the possibilities and implications of future technologies.

Like the Daddy of all space operas, Star Wars, I've also tried to make the story a very personal and human one, mainly focussing on themes of the nature of love, friendship, duty and family. I had a lot of fun with developing the personalities of the characters. Anyone who reads the finished text will probably learn a lot more about me than they ever wanted to know, as in some respect, all the characters embody some aspect of my personality - not just the main character who (in the spirit of my dearly departed writing hero, Iain Banks) is reassuringly Scottish.

Over the summer I will email the story out to a few trusted friends, who should be able to give me a fair dinkum assessment of whether it's worth developing more, or whether it should be buried under a pyrochastic flow somewhere remote, where no-one will ever find it. Time, no doubt, will tell. Now all I've got to do is decide what my next novel will be about...
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