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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Keepsake 

For those of you who don’t know, Keepsake is the name I have chosen for the science fiction novel I have been writing on-and-off for the last two and a bit years. It does actually exist as a complete novel in that it tells a story that lasts for a little more than a hundred thousand words.
It needs work, however. The first three chapters were terrible. As hooks to lure a potential publisher into wanting to sell my novel, they were completely ineffectual and a potential reader would have returned the book to the shelf by the end of the first sentence.
So the last few months have seen me rewriting those three chapters again and again. It was tricky. A murder scene from chapter three had to open the novel. That wasn’t just a cut and paste job; moving that scene from its cosy location in chapter three to the spotlight showed up a lot of flaws. It had to be rewritten.
The new chapter two had to introduce my main character, Tace Holgate. In the old chapters, she wasn’t lively enough as a character. She lacked that little something that made the reader engage with her. She didn’t live.
I experimented with different versions of her. I made her lots more cynical which would have been fine except that she’s a detective and a cynical detective is a cliché.I made her psychic and able to feel the past spirits of people who had been reincarnated. That brought in a huge can of worms that I really didn’t want to deal with. She would be dealing with reincarnated people all the time and it would have been a hell of a lot of hassle making sure she reacted correctly in every scene. Also it would make her a lot like Anita Blake and I didn’t want her chasing long-haired men in different coloured Nike trainers.
Chapter three is also new. In the various chapter ones I experimented with, I realised that one of my minor characters needed to be part of the murder. So his part was beefed up. He ceased to be one of Tace’s colleagues and moved to a private police agency, for instance, and he has a back-story involving a very pushy trophy wife. Chapter three is his introduction.
I also addressed two other problems with the same stroke, I think. One of my friends pointed out (although I had spotted it myself) that although the novel was set in the future, it seemed very present-day. There is nothing wrong with that per se. It would be wrong of me to make my characters speak in some sort of futuristic patois. I’ve read novels like that and they are irritating.
The other problem is that I couldn’t ignore the ecological changes the world is going through at the moment. Two or three hundred years could make the world completely unrecognisable to us now. I would hate to have to guess as to what will happen and most of the current research seems little more than a guess. Also, I didn’t want to write an eco-thriller. If there was to a Message in my novel I didn’t want it to detract from the story.
So to avoid that and to provide enough of an SF backdrop, I took the radical step of setting the story in a universe where we have had to abandon Earth. This makes some things easier and other things a lot harder.
In fact all the changes I have made in those first three chapters will have major impacts on the remainder of the novel. However, I’m a lot happier with the chapters and will unleash them on my friends in the near future.
They have been warned.

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