Thursday, September 02, 2010

My Novel's Journey: Rediscovering Discovery

Did I ever mention that this is the first time I've done reconstructive surgery on a manuscript?

With Mind Over Mind (coming September 2011 from Dragon Moon), I had started with a college manuscript that was, well, lame, and changed it so radically that I really just tossed it, kept a few characters and general plot progression and made it into a trilogy. It is simply NOT the same book except in the most superficial ways. In fact, Romeo and Juliet and Unseen Academicals (Discworld) have more in common. (Loved Pratchett's book!)

Discovery, however, has a lot to salvage--and a lot to chuck without a second thought. The more I dig, however, the more I need to chuck.

Take Chapter One. Please. But seriously, I loved Chapter One. It has action, drama and a lot of good introduction to the world. It's as close to hard SF as I've ever come. It had a lot of nice details that come back again in the book.

It was 6000 words long.
It was hard SF, while the rest is soft SF.
It takes place on an asteroid we never see or hear from again except in passing.
But the worst thing yet…

The emergency I postulated could not happen in space!

Oh, headdesk, headdesk, headdesk.

You see, when I wrote this in the heady month of NaNoWriMo, I was thinking that spacesuit air was like scuba air--an oxygen/nitrogen mix. So Sister Ann's suit malfunctions and she gets nitrogen narcosis, which allows her to talk pretty freely about stuff Sister Rita would just as soon not hear! Only problem: spacesuit air is pure pressurized oxygen. And oxygen deprivation or oxygen narcosis won't cause the same euphoria and delirium that nitrogen will.

I don't remember why exactly I wanted to revisit the first chapter--I think the length and explanations bothered me--but as I delved more into suits and air, I realized my fatal error. After I'd rewritten the entire chapter.

But you know me! I'm always glad to torture my characters for fun and plot-fit. So poor Sister Ann has basically the same situation but instead of whacking her pack against something and causing it to malfunction, she gets slammed into a broken piece of the station, a rebar that stabs her through the suit into the side. Sister Hard Core saves her own life by spraying around her suit and the bar with a plasticine glue I'd invented for the story, thus sealing the leak, then stays very still until someone can cut her free. The chapter actually starts as Basilica lands at St. Joseph de Cupertino Station, where she can get medical help.

Here's a before-and-after shot of the key lines I wanted:


Instead of answering, Ann said, "Faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love. Did you know Brother Jubal didn't like people very much? He had hoped to spend his life in solitude at the Oceanus hermitage. Know what else he wrote?

I came as a wanderer,
found You, Beloved, here
in a dead world poised
on the edge of eternity.

"Yet God called him to go minister to the Drake Lunar station. He left the life he loved and as a result, came to love life more. But could he have done it if he hadn't had that revelation of God's love? Then, there's St. Gillian: Nowhere do I feel closer to God than watching the sunrise across the mountains. God made this world to suit us; and us, uniquely suited for it. She rode animals."

"Horses. Lots of people ride horses."

"And shrews ride people."


Ann's voice deepened into a snarl. "'Research! Work! Give your pain to God!' Vaccing shrew rides me like one of her horses. R. Charles Hawkins was very cranky after his accident. He wanted to give up work on the gravity generator and die, and Gillian left earth to be with him full time at L5. I guess it's easier to ride someone in zero g."

Rita had long broken the habit of smacking her own forehead, but times like these brought back the urge. "I think he's speaking figuratively."

"I see. I think he was literal when he wrote There would be no gravity here were it not for my wife, my dear shrew. The first successful test of the Hawkins gravity generator. Gravity. A force of attraction. Love is a force of attraction. Gillian stayed with R. Charles on L5, even though the earth pulled at her heart. Human love is strong."

Suddenly Rita's heart thundered in her chest and her mouth went dry. "It wasn't human love that kept St. Gillian in space after her husband died. It was her love for God that called her to start our order," she snapped.

"That's true. Faith, hope and love." Ann mused, as if she hadn't noticed the anger in Rita's voice.


"Ann, are you okay?" It was a stupid question. The broken piece of strut protruded from her side like a Roman lance. A messy glob of plasticine glue pasted it to her spacesuit, holding it in place and sealing the tear that would have bled air from her suit. Ann was still in her suit, gloves and helmet off, snoopy cap still on at her insistence so she could hear the progress of the other sisters on the rescue.

"The St. Gillian caught Dome Six," she reported and smiled. "Claire is scolding it for wandering!"

Rita gave a distracted chuckle as she checked readings from Ann's skinsuit. Tommie reported the airlock mated and pressurizing. Hurry up!

"I came as a wanderer,/found You, Beloved, here/in a dead world poised/on the edge of eternity," Ann murmured. "Clair can scold you."

Rita glanced from the readouts to see Ann staring at her. "What?"

"You wandered so far, but he was always right there," she muttered. Then her eyes clouded and she turned to where eleven miners sat in jump seats along the wall of the shuttle's bay or in the microgravity rover now secured to the deck.

PROGRESS REPORT: About 5000 words cut. Finished rewrite of Chapter One, which is now Chapter Two. Made some slight changes to Chapter Two, which is now Chapter One. Trying to decide what to do for Chapters Three and Four. Overall goal: TIGHTEN THE FRONT HALF.

1 comment:

Walt said...

I like it.