Homework

Yesterday, I found myself talking to a sort-of co-worker (someone who works at the place I volunteer) about “homework” to do because I’m writing a sci-fi novel. This was after gushing about the book I just read, and then we promptly went into other novels that I need to read.

Dune and Starship Troopers are at the top among a slew of books that deliver the sci-fi universe in a way that sticks with you. I have yet to read them, but they’re sitting on my kindle, waiting for me. I’m a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to reading, because I dive right into books and sometimes it hinders my daily writing. Still, these two, with Ender’s Game, are something I’m very excited to at least have access to now.

This kind of calls back to a recent post I made, about research and accuracy, but also goes into the huge post I made about reading and writing fueling each other.

In this case, I think reading novels in the genre you’re hoping to publish and keep writing in is a good place to start, to help you learn more about what’s possible and where to set the bar. It shows you what you can do in your universe and what others do in theirs, what’s basic for each sci-fi novel, and what isn’t. How are they dressed, how do they act, are there aliens? What kind of languages do they speak, or is it all human?

Though, I realize that at a certain degree, at least the last few ones, are what shapes the conflicts and plot of the novel, depending on what the focus is.

For writing sci-fi, I do feel like my resume of what I’ve read and watched is a little small. I haven’t seen the original Star Wars flicks since I was six, I never really watched Star Trek (not even the newer movies), Doctor Who is something I only recently got into because of my sister, and I haven’t seen all of it.

Yeah… “Oops” comes to mind, but I have seen and read enough at least to have an idea of where to go, and plenty can argue that you don’t need to devour book and movie and television show of the genre you’re writing in just to have an idea of how to go about it. In some cases, the vagueness can spawn a whole new level of ingenuity in the universe that you’re writing, and creativity in ways that haven’t been seen before.

Then there are others who dive into the genre because they’ve been in it for so long. IE, fantasy, after playing DnD for years. It’s just second nature, common to them and something that isn’t hard to tap into. It’s like it becomes your default, your go-to.

Fantasy had been my standard for so long that I was surprised that my new favorite place to write had no magic in it. But why would you need magic when you can just tell the ship to get you what you need?

Having shows and books and movies to get into, helps us achieve the kind of mindset that puts us directly in the place we want to be for writing. If it’s a new genre for you, find something to watch or read, but don’t just look at one, look at as many as you can, and sort of spread your cards out to see what they have in common with each other. Make it the home for your headspace, at least until you want to or can move on to a different project.

Nothing says you have to, of course. There’s plenty of other ways to find examples without giving hours of your days away to a show or a book. Then again, you don’t have to divulge into the whole thing, either. Just enough to get an idea, however you’re comfortable.

Ultimately, isn’t that the point? Being comfortable with where you’re writing can take you anywhere, whether it be a publishing house or the ends of the galaxy.

-The Novice Wordsmith

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