Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Category Archives: aya

Workshop Feedback

I workshopped “Other Side of the World” (formerly “Aya’s Journal”) Monday night in class. It was, as always, a rewarding experience. Everyone seemed to like it, even the people who avowed that they never/rarely read science fiction. There were some interesting reactions to the Roux/human marriage, with some people calling it “creepy” and others wanting more detail. I guess when you have equal numbers on both sides, you’ve struck the right balance. :)

Workshopping is always valuable because you get such different perspectives on your work. For example, everyone liked Aya’s character, but had difficulty with the combination of how uninterested everyone in that world seems to be with the Roux and how dispassionate she herself seems about them. That was intentional, but obviously I didn’t convey a justification for it well enough in the text. That’s okay, I have some ideas now for how to get it across. The second entry (also known as “the big lump of exposition”) can probably be modified to get that point across better.

I’ve never participated in an online workshop, but I can’t imagine the energy in the room Monday night being reproducible in an online situation. People feed off of each other and follow ideas around further than they normally would. Our workshop leader did a good job of making sure that it was a very positively focused session, too. All in all, I’m very jazzed, and actually anxious to go back and edit!

Finished! No, wait…

I’ve been working for a while on the poorly-titled “Aya’s Journal,” a pseudo-web-journal penned by a 23rd-century anthropologist embarking on the study of the first sapient aliens man has encountered. You may, if you’re so inclined, read the first few entries, which I’d put online in the initial hope of building a readership so that the subsequent stories would have an audience. I stalled on the online part, but started giving the chapters to my writing group, who helped with enthusiastic feedback that motivated me to write more (thanks, guys!).

And now the first part of Aya’s story is written, at least in first draft form. I think it stands reasonably well on its own (but we shall see in a few weeks what the group thinks of it). It ties up the character arc I started–one of them–but doesn’t resolve all the plot threads, nor the overall question of the story. That’s kind of a departure for me. I’ve written short stories, I’ve written novels, but I hadn’t before written something that ends without wrapping up the plot. There are more threads to write, but this is a good stopping point, from a story point as well as a benchmark of 60,000 words, and it sets up this book as the first of a trilogy.

Robert Silverberg once said, while expressing disdain for the “fantasy trilogy,” “Yes, I too have committed a trilogy.” In his case, it was more like two sequential novels with a bunch of mostly unrelated short stories in between. But still, it’s billed as the “Majipoor Trilogy,” and he seemed resigned to that designation. Aya’s Journal originally started as a two-book concept, where the first was going to be mostly setup for the second–hence the idea to put the first online. But the first got more complicated, and eventually burgeoned into two books all by itself.

One of the problems with that was that it became increasingly hard to keep track of what the overall theme of the book was. By the time I was halfway through this part, scrambling to get one “chapter” done every month, I was just pushing the story along without really thinking about theme. But it started to gel with this next to last part, and this last part (again, I hope) wraps things up nicely… while leaving me an opening to take Aya on a newish kind of story.

I imagine when I start the second book, I’ll have to figure out how to recap the first without it being too obvious, but right now I’m just kind of sitting back and enjoying the fact that it came to a satisfying conclusion. And not thinking about editing. No sirree.

I am curious whether anyone else has done anything episodic like this, and how you managed to keep the theme and arcs straight across episodes if so…