Word count: 55141 | Since last entry: 1910 | This month: 4874 I tried, writing all morning, and came very close, but didn’t quite finish the chapter. I found myself still in my chair, typing furiously away, at 1:50 for a 2:00 group meeting, and with one scene still to go: the entrance to New York (which is under alien control). This is a big scene and deserved more than ten minutes’ work (it’s 10-15 minutes just to get to the place we meet, anyway) so I decided to give in and buy them a beer. But I arrived late, after everyone had already bought their own drinks, so I didn’t even do that. I should be able to finish the chapter tomorrow, and put it in the mail to the gang on Tuesday. Not Monday, that’s a holiday. I got chapter D critiqued today. Jason’s still a wimp and the aliens still aren’t alien enough. I honestly don’t know what I can do about the latter problem; how alien can I make them and still have them be sympathetic? For the former problem, I have some ideas but I don’t know if I’ll be able to overcome the forces (plot factors and aspects of my own personality) that made Jason who he is now. Changing his name and giving him a different backstory might help. A weaker strain of the same problem affects Clarity. Sigh. But despite these critiques, people still insist they are enjoying the book. Some of the folks in the group are speculating about what is happening behind the scenes, who is responsible, and where the plot is going to go from here. Some of the guesses are scarily accurate; some are completely off base (and I need to determine if this is due to bad writing or just a bad guess); some are not what I had thought, but they fit the evidence presented so far and are more interesting than what I had in mind. The scariest of all is one where the reader has guessed exactly what is happening, then rejected it because it seemed too obvious. That worries me. Now I have to decide whether I want to change my mind about what happens next. Some of the most interesting suggestions would, unfortunately, result in a substantial rewrite (e.g. the suggestion to add a third viewpoint character to show the interaction between humans and aliens, which Jason’s human-only environment and Clarity’s alien-only environment fail to) or would change the story into something completely different (e.g. the suggestion that the plague spread to the alien homeworld, which would require a faster-than-light drive, which would completely change the human/alien dynamic and require a different ending to boot), neither of which I am willing to do. But some of them are entirely plausible and better than what I had planned, so I’m likely to do them. I always feel strange about incorporating another writer’s suggestions, but a) that’s why we have critique groups, and b) what I do with the idea is almost always going to be different than what the suggester had in mind.
David D. Levine is the author of Andre Norton Nebula Award winning novel Arabella of Mars, sequels Arabella and the Battle of Venus and Arabella the Traitor of Mars, and over fifty SF and fantasy stories. His story “Tk’Tk’Tk” won the Hugo, and he has been shortlisted for awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, and Sturgeon. Stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld, F&SF, Tor.com, numerous Year’s Best anthologies, and his award-winning collection Space Magic.