I have been working on a draft of a space- themed sci-fi story for a few years. Looking back, it has been closer to a decade. And in this process, I have written a lot, but not actually progressed anywhere.
Only a few days ago, a startling revelation occurred. (It happened while reading a book by another author, and I was confused by the physicality of the situation.). I realized that words alone are not enough to carry a story. Not shocking in and of itself, but it explains why I kept restarting the story.
Let me backtrack a bit. The book I was reading was Redshirts, by John Scalzi. What was confusing to me was not the language, nor the style of writing. Scalzi has been linked to the three act method of writing, which he stated on his blog (“Whatever” if you are interested) developed from his time spent reviewing movies.
Having taken a class in script writing (don’t judge; I was thinking it would add to a business degree arsenal), I understand the nature of the three act structure. For more on the structure itself, check out Save the Cat by Blake Shelton. What *specifically* confused me was that I was hitting what I would describe as the main lead to the break into the third act… and was only half way through the book. This was far too soon in the book to reach this point in the story.
I have read Scalzi before. In fact, I had been eagerly awaiting my chance to get this book from the library. But this physical moment made me pause. I thought I knew the writing style of this author, and yet the pages of the book made me pause. It shook me badly, and made me question a lot.
In the end, I enjoyed the book, and the way it and the pages turned out. The whole of it made sense, and left me feeling satisfied. Well, as a reader. But it was that feeling of unease and reader satisfaction that made me turn back to my original thought here: the decade- old sci-fi tale. I had a night of soul searching, word reading, and restless sleep.
In the end, I realized that words alone cannot sell a book. You cannot simply slap together 20, 40, or 80,000 words and expect to be paid. The words have to have meaning, convey a point, or tell a story. Preferably all three. This tale I have been languishing on does not. Not that it cannot be salvaged, but in its present form, it is merely words on a page.
While Nicolas Cage uttered the line with cinemagraphic gravitas, we can deliver it simpler and have just as much impact: This must not be.
I will be addressing this issue, as well as the lack of a functioning computer. (Fortunately, my writing does not depend on a computer. My organization of my writing, however, does.) Meanwhile, I’ve got life, homework, and wood work to accomplish. Stay tuned!