I participated in a workshop for speculative fiction writers this week called “Getting the Science Right”. It was a very science-oriented talk (DNA, mutation, genetic drift, evolution, speciation, etc.) that expanded my horizons about what to consider when world-building in science fiction and fantasy, as well as how to set up new life forms in a believable way. I especially enjoyed the part of the discussion on the immune system, symbiosis, parasitism and fungi (parasites and fungi can be awesomely creepy). One of the workshop’s goals was to show how to “turn speculative ideas into metaphors that enrich stories”. After the workshop’s exercises and discussion, I left with no less than 14 new story ideas. I’m not sure if I can wrap my brain around any of them just yet but a few of the ideas will be very interesting to explore.
The Summer Project is progressing well, though not as fast as I would have hoped. One story – Still Daughter, I’m still tinkering with the name – will be submitted within the next few days to meet a market’s deadline. I’ve added several scenes to flesh out the plot and character motivation. I have to write out one more scene (the inciting incident) and tweak the rewritten ending before it’s good to go.
I have also been receiving critiques all week on Fossil Lake, an 8,500-word story. The feedback has been very positive overall and more than half of the readers have suggested that I expand it into a longer work or even a novel(!) While that’s not out of the realm of possibility, I won’t make it longer than it needs to be. I could easily see it double it in size but markets for close to 20k words are few. When I revise it, I intend to focus on develop it in a way that serves the story and not worry too much about the word count.
The third story seeing action this week is called Frozen in Time, which I’m revising based on feedback I received quite a while back. Since some of the changes are quite extensive, my plan is to submit it for online feedback before sending it out to a market. I’m not addicted to critiques but getting fresh eyes on a story is always good. The feedback I received on Fossil Lake this week was quite stellar, offering very detailed and pointed commentary that will help bring that story to the next level. You only get one shot when submitting a story to a market so it’s best to make sure it’s fully ready, even if it takes a little longer. I don’t have a deadline on this one so I will take advantage of another round of feedback, this time with online strangers who are blunter than any others.
With all that, I still managed to critique three stories this week (the stories totalled close to 20k words).
I also finished reading Ice Station Zebra by Alistair MacLean. I read just about anything I can get my hands on relating to the Arctic and Antarctic and this thriller is set in an atomic submarine under the North-polar ice cap so I could not pass it up. The book was first published in 1963 but its age did not prevent me from finding it wildly entertaining. I loved this Scottish writer’s laconic style and really appreciated wording like “He had the grace to colour slightly” instead of “He reddened in embarrassment”. Great stuff and look forward to reading more of his work.