Sunday, May 16, 2010

Have you ever considered writing a book?

“So, you’re a writer,” says the brain surgeon, as the author is wheeled in for surgery. “you know, I’m thinking of writing a book when I retire.”

“That’s a coincidence,” replies the author, “when I retire, I’m thinking of taking up brain surgery.”

Confession. I have written a novel. The experience is interesting - you look at other people's work with a new eye, seeing the plot devices and the proximate reasons for introducing certain characters and events. You see the plumbing behind the literature. Everyone should try it and learn.

My novel is science-fiction - called "Exopsychology". The plot is that an asteroid has been set on a collision course with earth, and the hero, a psychologist, works on psychological warfare strategies against the hostile aliens. It got rejected by one agent, but that's not unusual. I didn't resubmit it because I was dissatisfied with it myself.

Writing is harder than it looks, as the joke at the beginning of this answer suggests. My problem was that I had lots of really interesting ideas I wanted to write about: alien motivation; the Fermi paradox; variant brain structures in aliens (alternatives to the triune brain); methods of psychological warfare; as well as the usual space-opera furniture of hi-tech warfare. These preoccupations sit uneasily with character-development and plot, unless handled with consummate skill. Plot is fundamental - without a good page-turning story the thing is doomed. Some authors' stories are woven from the magic of character alone: however, that's a stretch for the kind of people who write science-fiction. So in my own estimation, my story has poor characterisation and a plot which fails to smoothly build: too much interjection of 'really interesting ideas' which simply slow the pace down.

One day, when I have time, I will ruthlessly prune the ideas which don't support the plot, and then complete the plot development (which I was hoping to put into book two!) so that the story ends coherently.

My book "Business Strategies for the Next-Generation Network" was published in December 2006. I tried to ground the technical ideas in personal experiences, as amusing and interesting as possible, and to adopt an emotional tone: adjectives such as sardonic and scathing come to mind - there have been so many failures in telecoms. Please feel free to buy it!