Friday, October 21, 2011

Donna’s Journal

Action! Actions we've taken as writers. Where are we? What are we doing?

I just have time for a quick note this week. (Thank goodness Laurie and Sharon are back full force.) Homework for my online course is still keeping me busy, I spent last weekend out of town and, oh, yeah, I’m still plugging away on the first draft of Fools Rush In.

The deadline for the RWA 2012 Golden Heart submissions is November 15, a mere three weeks away. Believe it or not, the decision to enter the contest is not a given for me this year. I’m thinking hard about it, seeing as how Unchained Memory has had two shots at it already and Trouble in Mind may have hidden problems that could keep it out of the running. Laurie is lobbying heavily for me to go for it (thanks for the vote of confidence, partner!), but we’ll see what she says after she reads the ms. for TIM, which is in her hands as we speak!

Ping Pong
We respond to our co-bloggers . . .

Laurie’s post about the superfast interstellar Internet came at a good time for me—just as I was trying to figure out how my Fools Rush In heroine, Rayna, could send a message from my hero’s ship in deep space to another Rescue agent on the planet she had hoped to reach. I really wanted to have them speak in real time—that would have made for the most dramatic impact—but “real” science wouldn’t let me do it. Oh, for the days of TREK fanfic, when I could have just relied on good ole subspace radio, whatever that was! Even with relays, you’d still be limited by the speed of light, so talking back and forth is pretty much out. I settled on sending message “packets” via photon burst, relayed in the same way the ships are by jumps through stable quantum nodes. You’d have to wait for the replies though. Snail mail for the stars.

This little problem is one of many that is making me realize I’m not quite cut out for space-faring SFR. I do much better when the aliens come to me—that is, when my humans control the field of battle here on Earth and the aliens are on hostile territory, have to bring their tech with them and so on. Life onboard the Shadowhawk is feeling very constrained right now, and I can’t wait to get my protagonists dirtside. They won’t be on Earth, but at least they’ll have a little more elbow room and the dramatic possibilities (aside from battles between ships, of course) will expand correspondingly.

Which brings me to the old question of what label to slap on what we write. That question is intimately tied to the question of who we think will want to read our stuff. And that is at the heart of our “problem” when it comes to selling ourselves to agents, editors and new readers alike. I decided a while back to make a concerted effort to sell to the romance audience, rather than the hardcore science fiction audience. Why? For one thing I, myself, had nearly stopped reading new SF because it lacked any appreciation for character development, never mind anything so Earth-bound as romance. And as soon as I picked up my first “time-travel” romance, I realized I’d been writing romance all along in my TREK fanfic—structurally, emotionally, and in every other way.

Romance is primarily character-driven. Science fiction is primarily idea-driven. As a writer you have to decide if your story is mostly driven by its characters or its ideas. If it’s the former, and those characters happen to be in love, then you’d do better to abide by the rules of the romance genre and work to sell your book to that audience, whether it has aliens in it or not.

I’m not convinced the hardcore SF audience wants character-driven stories at all, no matter what kind of sex those characters are having. The primarily male SF audience wants the technological world-building, the scientific details, the ideas that can make your brain hurt. They want writing that is evocative, but rarely emotional. Those guys would never in a million years agree that Anne McCaffery or Diane Gabaldon belong in a list of science fiction anything.

That said, I think there is an audience out there for character-driven stories—romances—that also have a science fiction element to them. I just think we have a better chance of opening minds among the romance readers—who have already embraced vampires, werewolves, demons, angels, cowboys, the entire male population of Regency England, the guys next door, cops, private eyes, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs (well, maybe not lawyers)—as heroes. Why not aliens, starship captains, space pirates, alien hunters and so on? Fanfic readers have certainly embraced them for years and remain, I believe, an untapped resource for SFR writers.

At least, I have to believe it’s possible. I’m just not right-brained enough to compete with Vernor Vinge and the boys.

Cheers, Donna


  1. If I recall, Donna, your GH scores were very close to the finalist cutoff. I'd call that reason enough to enter again!

  2. I second that, Donna. Definitely go for it!

    And this was an awesome post. The Galaxy Express posted a quote. :)

  3. Thanks as always for your support, y'all.

  4. Fun post about SFR. I like the relationships, too. I feel your "constrained by reality" pain. When I was writing my WWII time travel, I ran smack into blackout in England when trying to write scenes, etc. I felt I was fumbling around in the dark as much as my characters! LOL! Thankfully I had some "been there" resources I could ask about it. Good luck with your decision, whatever it turns out to be. :-)


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