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Hi, I’m Adam and I’m a writer. That makes me sound like an alcoholic. I’m not. In fact, I hardly drink at all. Don’t like the taste of most booze. Unlike Sunita Kumar, who is partial to a cherry vodka or three.
Anyway, I thought that I would share a little bit about my writing process that helped in the creation of my new novella Murder Planet, now on sale through Breaking Rules Publishing. Please buy it. You’ll enjoy it.
Having to juggle a full-time job and a social life alaong with my writing has resulted in me doing “little and often” writing. I try to do at least 10-15 minutes a day (except Sunday) of ‘writing’, which covers everything from plot development to research to the actual typing.
I use both a desktop PC and a tablet for my writing, with Microsoft’s OneDrive allowing me to access my writing from wherever I am in the world, along as I have a Wi-Fi connection.
However, for planning, as someone born in the relatively early days of home computing, I still use paper nearly exclusively for jotting down notes and making various rough drawings of things – I carry a notebook in my workbag so I can write down ideas when they occur to me, although I admittedly don’t always do so immediately. It’s hard to do that when standing in a crowded commuter train.
In fact, I am currently in the process of scanning my extensive collection of paper notes that go back over 20 years.
Notes for a character that ultimately did not make it into Murder Planet
One of the fundamentals of any fictional work is memorable characters. Sunita Kumar, my main protagonist, has evolved considerably over the years – she was originally a captain in her 40s and her daughter a stroppy teenager. Her general disregard for social conventions is based on some of my own favourite female characters in recent fiction; for example, I can spot elements of Sameen Shaw in Person of Interest, although Sunita lacks her combat skills.
Indeed, television shows have proved a major influence in my character creation. The whole concept of ‘Spacees’, basically Romani (albeit from all ethnicities – Sunita is of Tamil heritage) in space, originated from an episode of Call the Midwife featuring their waterborne cousins. In creating a new culture based on an existing one, I am trying to be culturally true to a group and avoid using negative stereotypes; Sunita’s wedding had a tacky carriage, but she was pleased when it got set on fire in a mass brawl.
In particular, the cult classic Blake’s 7, which I watched in re-runs when I was growing up, has had a major influence. Fans of it may be able to spot a reference or two in Murder Planet.
Another major influence was Alien – a classic space horror that has stood the test of time. The aesthetic of that movie has strongly influenced the story; the crew of Tulyar are basically truckers and wear jumpsuits like that worn by Sigourney Weaver in that movie. That whole aesthetic has a name – cassette futurism – something I learned the other day.
Any space drama needs a ‘hero’ ship, that looks cool even if it is a complete pile of junk. Tulyar is intended to be an ageing but still highly capable merchant ship. The vessel, down to its name, is inspired by the British Rail Class 55 locomotive, known universally to railway enthusiasts (like me) as the “Deltic” and much loved by them. 100 mile an hour capable in an era where that was uncommon, they accelerated services in Britain’s East Coast Main Line and remained in service until 1981. The blue and yellow paint job that they sported from the mid-1960s onwards is shared by Tulyar, one of the six survivors of the 22 built.
The good ship Tulyar. As you can see, I am no artist.
As for other influences, I would say that my writing style borrows from Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy and Terry Pratchett. Although I have yet to include any Persian cats, submarine commanders with Scottish accents or carnivorous luggage. Yes, I know two of those were from movies.
The process of science fiction writing, especially if you want to do anything on the ‘harder’ (i.e. more realistic) end of the scale, means doing some research. This especially applies in the field of space travel, where astronomers are discovering new planets outside our Solar System all the time. Recently, the International Astronomical Union (who famously decided that Pluto was not a planet anymore) have officially named many stars and exoplanets that previously lacked official names and I am using some of these in my stories.
Research can take you down interesting and unusual alleyways; my writing and online roleplaying over the years has included searches on the history of inhalers, historical railway sleeping cars and communist dogs. If you’re interested in the last one, please contact me.
You will almost certainly not use more than a mere fraction of your research in your actual writing, but the preparation will not be wasted and will often be fun.
Writing and Checking
While I will often have a broad plan when I am writing, my overall method is done somewhat organically and in no particular order. My drafts will be peppered with square brackets ([ and ]) that indicate where bits I have yet to write will go. This also makes it easy for me to find where they are by searching for the square brackets.
If I get writer’s block, I will usually go and do something else until it passes. Inspiration usually turns up completely unannounced.
While I am usually particularly good at spotting other people’s errors, it is not always as easy to spot my own errors. Spellchecking only covers so much and when you’ve spent hundreds of hours on a piece of writing, it is easy to become blind to any potential plot holes. I still do read-throughs, but I’ve often managed to publish blog pieces and then spot an error. At least I can edit a blog or social media post; in other cases, you just must live and learn.
This is where being in a writing circle help; I go along, read out an extract (which means you spot typos as you go along) and then get feedback on my writing. Even if the group isn’t a science fiction specific group (my one isn’t), you will get valuable help in your writing and be able to return the favour. Also, you might even get a few extra sales out of it!
So, there you have it. A brief guide to my writing process. I hope that it’s helpful to you and if not, I hope you’ve had fun reading it. I do try to write entertaining stuff.
Murder Planet is available to buy now via Breaking Rules Publishing.