Even though my progress has been halting, slow, glacial, etc., I have actually been working on a new writing project. You may recall last year I was asked to submit a story to the sci-fi anthology Space Jockey. My contribution, a short story titled “Green Zulu Five One,” was well received by reviewers, including one who said it seemed like the start of a novel he’d like to read.
It took some time, but eventually that comment got me to thinking about how I could further explore the universe of my “GZ51” protagonist, a 16-year-old space fighter pilot named Tyko. There’s a war on between the alien Vyptellians and the humans who decades earlier pushed out into space to colonize new worlds — a war that’s lasted nearly as long as Tyko’s been alive.
Thinking about Tyko and what may happen to him, I saw the opportunity to explore a different approach to storytelling, what I’ve come to called connected vignettes where each chapter is more of a self-contained short story, set in the same universe. Full disclosure — I’m lifting this “connected vignette” approach from the works of two authors I admire: SC Harrison’s Planks and DES Richard’s 3024AD: Short Stories Series One. Ever since reading those great books I’ve had the notion of trying something similar, and this project seemed like a good bet.
Tyko will appear in about a third of the stories, as will a platoon sergeant involved in the ground war, and the balance will be one-offs or feature secondary characters. The (very) tentative title is Green Zulu Five One and other stories from the final year of the Vyptellian War. I enjoy writing Military/Sci-Fi (check out the short story “Re/Cycled”), a genre which my friend (and awesome editor and MSF author in her own right) Tammy Salyer suggested my previous novels could probably also squeeze into.
The vignette approach seems to work well with my writers block, too. There is no “central” plotline to write to — I have a general idea about what the end of the book will look like; there will be no sequel — as each chapter is its own thing. I come up with an idea for a story to tell in 3,000 words or less, and then just work on that until done. One chapter actually took a couple months to write because I stopped and started several times as the urge to write waxed and waned.
To date I’ve got seven chapters written, about 18,000 words, and have ideas for about that many more. The Post-It notes in the picture represent various chapter ideas or changes that I realized need to be made to already written chapters — this is my version of “outlining.” 🙂 I’m hoping to keep the final book fairly short, under 50,000 words. I’d like to have the first draft done by the end of this summer, but … Realistically, given how hard writing has been for me the past year-plus, I’ll be happy to just get it done sometime this year.
Or next. 🙂