NaNoWriMo 2016 - Pre-Planning

6 minute read

Header image via Morguefile.

So here we are again.

May to September.

No point in dwelling on that, I suppose, though I did manage to finish the draft of The Witch and the Snake...back in July. Really should have made a post about that.


Like I said, I'm not worrying about it until 2017...maybe this coming December if I finish NaNoWriMo early. Which I doubt. But Airless only took until the middle of the month so I'll have time and be restless.

Then again, I really should stop planning for the future since it never seems to work out the way I like

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The business of the day is, well, up in the title. I haven't done a NaNoWriMo since 2012, and no one's more surprised than me that four freaking years have passed since then. I've changed so much since then, especially my writing. I have settings, characters, whole series that I didn't have back then.

All I had in those days were the image of an air vent belching oxygen into a dark, endless void. That birthed my first completed novel, and I can't say I'm not nostalgic for those days. I'm more set in my ways now, I have projects I want to do and am planning for, but I miss how small my imagination was back then. When I was hungry for any and every idea, and spent hundreds or thousands of words tying one down no matter how sparse it seemed. I just wanted something, some body of work, something to show off and prove I was a writer.

And, well, I've got it now.

Brief nostalgia trip aside, I've decided on what I want to write for NaNoWriMo. It was between this and another idea I had, a Gothic fantasy, but this idea's technically older and I want a little more time to flesh that setting out before I work on it. Which will probably be next year after I'm done editing The Witch and the Snake...or maybe my 2017 NaNo. Who knows.

Okay, so.

This project is a space opera. Probably my favorite genre alongside Gothic fantasy. It stars an AI, the sentient computer of a starship, who had been stranded in an uncharted star system for fifty years. She's rescued by and works with a disgraced pilot, living a life of squalor out on the frontier, and they work together to return to Earth, to reunite the AI with her 'mother,' the woman who programmed her.

And along the way the AI learns a little something about friendship, love, and the human condition.

Okay, she learns a lot about all that stuff.

The story is going to be a more philosophical story than I'm usually used to, but still stay well within the lighthearted/easy-read adventure that I like writing so much. Kind of like those old Han Solo novels written in the early 90s: a lot of space action, exploring strange frontier worlds, meeting fun, quirky people, making what I hope would be a fun read, not too full of itself. It'll also have a lot of quiet ruminating on the part of the AI about humanity and how she fits into it. How she wants to fit into it but doesn't know if she can, if she's too fundamentally different from human beings to be able to consider herself 'human.'

I don't like the tone of a lot of so-called 'philosophical' sci-fi, it tends to be entirely too full of itself, reading more like a regurgitation of the author's well-manicured ideals than any kind of story. Issac Asimov did this a lot, and it ruined Frank Herbert's Dune, when God-Emperor of Dune literally just became the main character spouting how his society was perfect and how he was the best ruler in human history because he was a 10,000 year old space slug.

Philosophical sci-fi doesn't do it for me. Generally speaking, I love to be proven wrong. It focuses on the ideas and skimps on the characters, the aforementioned God-Emperor was essentially a series of conversations in various rooms of Leto's palace, with very little if any action to tie them together. Which is fine, if all you want your book to do is introduce a philosophical idea and work with it for hundreds of pages.

But I don't.

I want to write about cool people having cool adventures in space, because that's what I grew up with. There's a lot of Star Trek showing through in this project, since it combines the adventure I want to write with some philosophical musing, but what I hope is more laid-back, more the musing of one character and her trying to reach out to the world around her, the people she meets and takes information from.

The other main character, the star-pilot, isn't very philosophically bent, which I hope will prevent the book from reading like an existentialism college course. He'll keep her grounded, and while he'll respect her and talk to her as an equal, he'll be upfront that he is not the person to talk about deep introspection with.

And I think that's cool. I've been thinking about these two characters since early 2013, thinking of the plot I want to make and the setting they're a part of, and I'm excited to finally start writing it in November. I think it's a good time to do so, and it'll be a nice breather after submerging myself in fantasy for the past year.

The problem is, of course, the setting.

I have no idea how to worldbuild a space setting.

But that's not the best way to describe it. I've already built a lot of the setting already. I have the FTL system pretty well plotted out, there's a lot of potential for conflict and adventure there. I have every populated world named and aligned to either a multi-system government or independent. I even have some of the classes of the various governmental navies in the setting.

Rather, I'm not sure where to go from here. Not sure how to move from these disparate ideas into a full-fledged place I can write stories in.

How do you create a world? How do you decide what worlds have access to tech-wise, what they look like, what kinds of people live there? Now, I'm talking about entire worlds, since I don't like how a lot of space settings treat planets as basically just glorified cities. If you're colonizing an entire planet, you're probably going to colonize as much of it as you can, not just a few plots of land. You're going to create entirely new cultures based around the planet, and definitely not just copy-pasting current Earth cultures. I don't like that, it feels lazy and kind of racist, assuming every current country is going to colonize an entire planet by themselves, without any kind of meaningful cross-pollination. If anything, that should be in the minority.

But now I'm rambling, and that should really be its own post.

I'm going to think about this, and share some of my thoughts in future posts. I just wanted to check in again and talk about where I'm going. I'll hopefully have a few posts worth about this setting, which I call Starline, after the name of the FTL drive. Plus, there's a few more posts I want to write about Salazarre, which I have in my drafts but haven't actually fleshed out.

Onward and upward, I suppose.