The Martian Symbiont series will have at least four titles. I hope by then there will be a large fan/reader base, eager to follow the adventures of the Martians and/or humans who have a symbiont swimming about inside them. Because, quite frankly, while I enjoy writing, it can be harder to write a series than a whole new story. And I have two more stories waiting in my brain, biding their time to be written. I don’t even consider them ‘new’ concepts at this point, just stories I haven’t had time to put into the computer. Oops, sorry, make that three.
It’s somewhat demanding, keeping some characters and staying within the parameters of what’s currently possible, as defined by previous plot lines. On the one hand, former readers know what a given character looks like, although I still have to describe him for the sake of new readers. He still has to look like himself, for the most part, perhaps older or younger, depending on the time frame. This isn’t a Doctor Who episode, where the viewer merely needs to know ‘which’ doctor or if he’s just changed his appearance again. And unless a character has just gone through a triumph or a tragedy, or something else that might change his character, he must act roughly the same. Small changes are expected, as most people alter their behavior to some degree over time–we mellow, get more stubborn, etc. Generally, a reader should be able to recognize a character by name or description if he shows up in another title of the series.
The difficulty with writing Martian Blues was in deciding where to go next. Actually, I deleted an entire plot line because it was making me miserable. The original plot line was too cumbersome, and it didn’t feel right. I wasn’t having fun with it. Once I realized that, I found the right ideas to work with. I think too many writers get hung up on keeping every word, and end up trying to fix what should simply be deleted. Good grief, if you’re that hung up on keeping it, make another file to cut and paste it to. The point is, delete or at least remove an unworkable piece of plot. I did, and it got me back on track.
(I write to have fun! If it’s not fun, I’m not writing it. That’s why I don’t write non-fiction, with the possible exception of this blog. Reality isn’t the way I want it, so I’m rewriting the world. I know I can’t live in what I’ve written, but it’s nice to dream. Fiction is, after all, a form of escapism. I’m just lucky enough to be good at it.)
I rely heavily on inspiration. There can be few worse torments for a writer than sitting, staring at a blank screen, hands suspended in mid-air, eyes glazed with soul-numbing emptiness. Fortunately, that never happens to me, I just thought it sounded good. On those rare occasions when I’m out of ideas, I go do something else. One exercise I heard of years ago still brings its own inspiration. Listen. That’s it, just listen. Identify all the louder sounds, then start to focus in on the quieter ones. You’ll be amazed at what you didn’t notice before. You were hearing all that, but you just weren’t paying attention. I also like to watch people as they go about their business in public. I once overheard a fascinating conversation that may yet make it into one of my novels.
Animals are an amazing source of inspiration. We think we know their behavior patterns so well, but once in a while they surprise us. Or quite often, if you own a Basset Hound. (If you think he’s stupid, he’s just outwitted you!) If you don’t own a pet, get to know some of the ones around your neighborhood or volunteer at the SPCA. Then again, if animals simply don’t interest you, and you can’t be bothered, make sure you never write them into your stories. Animal lovers can tell.
I write in whatever format happens to work at the time. If you’ve been keeping up, you know I don’t usually do an outline. I prefer to write whatever part of the story happens to be prancing about in my mind at the moment. I do try to assign it a rough section where it might belong (somewhere in the middle, perhaps closer to the start than the finish) but only after figuring out the main idea. I generally give the chapters numbers ending with zero or five to start with, such as 15, 20, 35, since this allows me to ‘insert’ the material needed for a smooth flow of ideas and plot line. It’s also easier to reassign chapter numbers. Of course, I do go through the whole manuscript once it’s finished to ensure each chapter has a normal numerical sequence, ie, 1, 2, 3, 4…; for the rough draft, this is what works for me.
With this third (unnamed title) in the Martian Symbiont series, the outline is coming together very quickly. It’s as if my brain is automatically putting down where I need to go with the plot line. Since this is what’s working at the moment, I’ll ‘go with it’ until it stops working. It’s almost like when I learned to play saxophone and discovered the brain automatically transposes the music I already knew on the flute. Hmmm, there’s a thought… (Easily inspired, easily distracted.)
Phyllis K Twombly