I’m going through the final push on the first draft of my new novel, a science fiction work that has gone under the working title of Matter/Energy, and later under the tentative title of Nothing Exists Alone.
It’s a big, sprawling hard SF story, which touches upon politics, and environmental sciences, while telling basically a (hopefully!) thrilling adventure yarn. It connects closely with my passion for oceanography, and takes place almost entirely beneath the sea.
And during the weekend I went back to Frank Herbert’s Dune, because I needed to fine tune my writing1 – and Herbert’s novel is a prime example of what I’d like to do, in terms of economy of writing.
Even though I’ll never be as good as Frank Herbert, of course.
What I was particularly interested in getting was how Herbert succeeded in describing in such depth his world without staggering the reader under huge amounts of exposition, and keeping his word-count down to a manageable figure.
And basically, the answer to my question was both simple and devastating – Herbert did not eschew exposition at all.
He simply made it so stylish, so classy and so tightly woven in the narrative of his story, that it’s there, and it does not stagger the reader at all.
My novel does not come near Dune, of course, not in a long shot.
It remains an action adventure with a strong hard science fiction background – and the point is making that background work together with the plot without getting in the way of the story.
And yet, re-reading some passages of Frank Herbert’s novel helped me focus on what was missing from my story.
It will be hard work getting the first draft in line with my expectations, but I have an outline, a structure and a plan.
It will be hard, twelve-hours-a-day work, but good.
Then, mister editor will have to go through it, and we’ll see how to make the story perfect.
Not as good as Dune, but what the heck, there’s precious few novels as good as Dune.
But there are a few!
And therefore, another book I’m going back to, because again it’s very much a model and an inspiration, is C.J. Cherryh‘s the Faded Sun trilogy.
Again, deserts and politics.
Indeed, if there’s a single author I’m channeling as I write my story, is C.J. Cherryh.
It has not been a conscious choice, but re-reading the first 15.000 words of my novel, it became painfully clear that I had slipped in a Cherryh-esque style of storytelling.
And once again, much as I loved the novels, and much as I am enjoying this re-read, this time what’s interesting me is the way in which Cherryh manages to provide a very compact, high-content form of writing while still keeping the action flowing.
And no, I’ll never be at the same level as C.J. Cherryh, not in one million years – and yet it’s good to have strong models when we write.
All things considered, I find it interesting that, for all their differences, both Dune and Faded Sun are clearly political works at their core.
Matter/Energy, or whatever we’ll decide to call it, is turning into a very political – but not partisan – kind of story. And this is one of the features that make this book, that is being written in English, thinking about the international market, a very Italian, and European work.
I’m having a blast, writing this novel.
Which, after all, is the reason why we write, right?
- I call fine tuning that phase in writing when it becomes clear that the story is flowing, and yet the voice is not yet perfectly pitched. I find it useful, in these cases, to stop writing and go back to good authors, to try and absorb somehow their rhythms and patterns. ↩