My novel. Not procrastinating. Just thinking.

My novel. Not procrastinating. Just thinking.

If you have been with me on my blogging journey from the very beginning you will know that my focus back then was the novel that I was writing called “Tempting in Shade”. But over the past year I have written progressively less. Why is that?

No, I have not abandoned this project. It actually occupies a large proportion of my thinking. It’s just that I am trying to make it “right”.

What does that mean?

I guess I mean that I am trying to write something that I myself would enjoy to read and that I would not sit there criticising. That may seem fairly simple, but I am an appalling critic of books. This goes back to my educational background.

My first degree was in History and English. I won honours. But since then I deconstruct every society in every fantasy and science fiction novel and ask “could this society really exist?”. This means I look at whether the social structures are realistic. Whether the economy would work. Whether the levels of technology are consistent. Stuff like that. I mean, how often have you read a fantasy novel where there is no local industry of any variety? Or where one town has occupants who use, say, 17th century period armour and weaponry and a few hours down the road is a totally medieval town, or even worse a village of stone age primitives. I got more pedantic about this when I later completed a business related degree.

My second degree was in computer science, where a lot of my electives were in artificial intelligence and cognitive modelling. So when reading science fiction novels I tend to notice technological inconsistences and when I read fantasy novels I find myself deconstructing the story’s own laws of magic. I am also one of those people who gets annoyed when, say, I person turns into a mouse. What’s happened to physical laws such as conservation of matter?

Anyway, the result is that I am a real pedantic git when reading novels. It’s also the reason I stopped writing Amazon reviews (I think I insulted far too many authors) and it is also the reason that I rarely write book reviews here. It’s even worse that some of the authors I’ve read are actually blog pals here on WordPress. I really don’t want to inflict myself upon you, because I will take a perfectly fine novel and pick on minor stuff.

Anyway, the result is, I am trying to write something that would pass my own fussy criteria. Hence I find myself thinking “well how does that work? It doesn’t!!!” and then starting to jot down huge amounts of notes. I am a really painful person to myself! LOL.

Here’s an example:

Initially I imagined a society of “wizards” who lived in a mountainous crag overlooking a city. I called them Gnossians (using the Greek word gnosis meaning knowledge). My heroines were going to be part of this society and when they hit 16 had to undertake a rite of passage where they lived among the city people for 40 days. The Gnossians were pretty much wizard like, except that all their magic was the result of bioengineering with nanotechnology at some point in their long distant evolutionary past. This meant that I could impose some reasonable and consistent magical laws.

A few months go by in my writing. Then…But how do they function as a society? Okay, how about making them a religious bunch of wizards? In fact, let’s call them Magi. Hey, didn’t the Biblical Magi supposedly come from around ancient Persia? Let’s give them names vaguely based on Persian. And then use some sort of religious social structure. A Council of Elders?

Tick, tick, tick…

No. I really don’t like the idea of the Gnossians earning money by simply selling their services tot eh city below. I want something more interesting. How about the city existing in a valley and above the valley is a wasteland – a planet full of the remains of crashed spaceships and ruined cities. Not Earth. That whole dystopian post-apocalyptic Earth thing has been done to death. Some other place. I know! A planet destroyed in a space war. The Gnossians hire out their services to help expeditions travel the dangers of “out beyond” and then to loot the ancient wrecks. Cool!

More time goes by…

How do they feed and cloth themselves? Do enough expeditions go “out beyond” to support an entire economy? No! Arrrggghhhhh! Let’s rethink this.

Caverns! Huge caverns left over the civilisation that was destroyed millennia ago. Repurposed to grow food. Somehow they still have energy sources. Better figure that one out. But does that mean that perhaps other “things” are lurking around from the past? And how did the people get to this planet if it was desolated in a space battle?

Hmmmmmm. Different means. At one point the ancestors of the people in the city below restarted an ancient transmat device that is still going. Let’s send a canal through it. LOL.  And have it maintained by a different group of wizards who hoard the knowledge and power of these devices. Let’s call them Pilots. But what about the Gnossians? No. They are descended from  reanimated sleepers whose spacecraft orbited the planet following a disaster of some variety and who then came down to escape.

Wow – this is all becoming complex!

And so on.

So yes, a lot of thought is going on in the saga of my novel writing. On the bright side I recently found this TED talk and it gives me reassurance. :)







  1. The thing about fantasy is, it does call for some form of suspension of belief. Magic (and some would argue, the supernatural as well) doesn’t exist in reality, however it is a common tool in many fantasy stories. In fact, it wouldn’t be a fantasy novel without such tools, it would be a fictional historical piece, I think. There’s a real art to finding the right balance of suspension of belief within a fantasy story while adding real world facts and events. Not everyone can do this easily, but for those who do manage to pull if off (example: JRR Tolkien), this is how timeless masterpieces are born! I wish you lots of luck with your novel. ^_^


  2. I’m holding back on a lot of projects so that I can combine them all or at least find the common threads to exploit. Keep at it Greg, you are my path finder.


  3. Ooh, I can relate to over-analysing, especially when it comes to how societies work!
    In all fairness, though, you can have 17th century and stone age next to each other. I mean, there are _still_ so-called primitive societies around, and if you went back a few centuries, there’d be a lot more. It’s just the matter of figuring out how they came to be next to each other and why the more “advanced” one hasn’t yet subjugated the more “primitive” one. Maybe it’s not worth the trouble. Or they have some incredibly high moral standards they actually stick to. Or maybe they have – and we’re now talking colonization. *Forcibly silences the inner history buff*
    Anyway. That was a very thought-provoking post. Thank you for sharing your process, and good luck with the novel!


    1. Thanks for reading and replying :)

      The thing about having societies with extremely different levels of technology close to each other is, as you say, there has to be a valid reason. All through history we see technology and culture exchanges. To have two societies at vastly different levels close to each other and not even hint at a valid explanation is disrespectful of the reader. So if there is a moral or religious reason, then the author should show it somehow. Anyway, that’s what I feel as I read :) I’m a bit of a pedant.


      1. Definitely agree about the reason having to be there :)


  4. It all just means you are a good writer and not one of those shameless exploiters of popular topics, like those stamping out endless “magician schools” and “fantasy romance” novels.

    I don’t know what it’s like in the other parts of the world, but in Russia the disparities happened historically. Peter the First “europe-ised” the higher strata, and the peasants kept the “Slavic” traditions. These groups even looked incredibly different. The rift hasn’t ever gone away. In fact, it has been reinforced in certain ways during the Soviet times. You will run into very “medieval-like” communities a few hundred miles away from Moscow. And the disparity in income is creating even new rifts inside any given big city here, where a given immigrant will dress in rags, sleep on floors in crammed cellars and pray to their god, and two steps away a glamorous hipster atheist will leisurely be typing away on their $1000 iPhone.

    Given that fiction – especially genre fiction – is something like a magnifier lens, there is inherently nothing wrong with the “mix” of technology levels, religious beliefs and even political systems (Sweden is a socialist monarchy; a novelist can take it further to create God knows what).

    I’m not saying that randomised placement of those “islands” is “the” way to write stuff. The author does have to give it some thought (the more the better, including the metaphorical meaning). But!

    The explanation as found in the text itself should be emergent, not didactic. Like what you have been doing a lot regarding other aspects of your worldbuilding in the draft pieces you have shown. Those “hints” should never look like hints.

    This method implies that the author thinks the reader has brains and will be able to figure stuff out.

    It’s the didactic way that is disrespectful, IMO. And it’s also boring.

    Now, how do we intelligently break the law of conservation of mass? It’s actually not that difficult: remember that mass is the same as energy. By turning a person into a mouse, you need to dispel that energy (if it’s an irreversible curse) or somehow anchor it to the mouse (if you want to keep the possibility of going back).
    Then we can have a number of possible consequences, depending on the assumptions we have about the general structure of the world: for example, if we maintain that consciousness is strictly a function of the biochemistry of the brain, the mouse curse means the resulting mouse cannot be intelligent. But if we allow some dualism (souls etc), the mouse can keep the personality of the original human. Then, for the reversible version, we need to decide how the anchoring works. Will the extra mass influence the mouse in “our” reality (it will be as heavy as a human, ouch), or will it be hidden in some pocket universe / fifth dimension / etc? Will this mass (or the spacetime anomaly connecting the mouse body to the pocked universe etc) dissipate in time, gradually making the process irreversible?

    “Complex”? Yes, but this is what “author bibles” are for =)

    I believe that it’s also one of the reasons why there are so many novel series (and I mean good series): the authors have spent a lot of effort figuring out their “complex” worlds, and they find these worlds offer unlimited possibilities for storytelling.

    Of course, Sturgeon’s Law still holds and will likely hold forever. But it also means that those 10% of non-[SEHT] will always exist.


    1. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      What an incredible reply! :)

      Yes – I agree with you in everything that you say and also envy the way you express it. Even as you say with the mouse example, there has to be a logical rationale for dispersal of energy. So it is not as easy as some wizard waving a wand and whammy – a person becomes a mouse. :)

      Some series do manage to get past me being pedantic. I absolutely love the Malazan series, for example. But generally too many authors create something in a lazy manner.

      Thanks so much for you response :)



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