The Novella Project
Let me start with a confession. I am here because I am procrastinating. This is the time I had set aside to work on my current creative work in progress, my science fiction novella. I have terrible concentration because I am often thinking about everything and instead of focusing on the task at hand, spend my energy chasing the thoughts around the way a cat chases flies. Sometimes I find it is best to write down some of my thoughts to ‘empty out’ my mind so I can get on with the big task.
Let me tell you about my project.
I don’t have a name for it. It has a working title of Avocado Dreams which is an in-joke with my husband since we discovered that whenever we have avocado for dinner we both have crazy, surreal dreams. And I discovered they were dreams awesome enough to inspire my science fiction stories. My project actually has nothing to do with avocados (although there may be a dream in it) so I don’t think that will be the final title. Just for the record though, I’m claiming it for any future works I might deem it suitable (patent pending, etc).
My story has been living in my head for a few years now, a scientific concept with future applications learned and tucked away in my memory banks suddenly sparked with news of a new discovery and my story world was ignited. I was desperate to get this incredible place that lived in my imagination onto the page but the problem was, I could only see it. I couldn’t describe it. I didn’t know how it worked. I didn’t know how the people lived, what they looked like, how they fed themselves, what their reason was for being.
It took me a while but I scraped together some main characters and some kind of a storyline for them. It sucked. It was a short story at best, and not a very good one. I took a course and improved the scenes I had and made it a passable short story. But it still wasn’t the amazing place I had seen in my head.
I was really disappointed. I left it for a while.
Last year I discovered what I had been doing wrong. I had been trying to do everything right. I’d been going to all the high-brow literary sources, trying to do it to their standards. I’d been trying to write literary science fiction which frankly, doesn’t work. It’s boring for both parties.
At the Brisbane Writers Festival in 2015 I went to two eye-opening workshops by genre writers Lenny Bartulin who writes crime-noir and Mike Jones who writes horror and is a transmedia editor and producer of many genres including science fiction. I learned a few key things:
1. Genre is not a dirty word.
2. Entertainment is not a dirty word.
3. Genre writing doesn’t mean bad writing. Remember how excited you were about reading as a kid? I’ll bet you weren’t reading literature then, you were reading mysteries and science fiction and fantasy and romance. If it excites you, if you connect with it then it’s good writing.
4. Our world affects our lives, just as it does in fiction. Developing the story’s world is as important — if not moreso — as building the characters.
Armed with a plan for how to better structure my concept, I have spent the last six months refining and re-developing my concept. Over Christmas I hit a creative bubble and have accelerated my planning and it is really finding momentum.
It’s working: I will actually do this idea justice.
Now I mentioned Mike Jones was a transmedia producer. He creates a concept and then produces it for the best medium it is suited to: book, comic, TV show, movie, webisode, game, whatever. Sometimes a concept has multiple applications. Sometimes it starts with one and is adapted into others (perhaps taking a different character arc or timeline). They all branch from the same storyworld.
When he explained this concept I realised why I was having such difficulty writing my story. It’s because I could see many different stories within the world. As I have worked on my concept development I have been able to identify two mediums: a novella and a graphic novel.
Why a novella? Firstly because I love the concept of the novella which is simply put, longer than a short story and shorter than a novel. But also because I want to explore just one strand of the story while hinting at others.
And the graphic novel? Because of the visual richness of the world, the action that will be involved, yes I am a graphic novel fan and because I have access to an enthusiastic artist: my husband.
My aim is to start with my novella in order to develop the world, story and characters and then work on the graphic novel process once that is complete. I can see other digital applications — a game or similar but I will just take this one step at a time for now.