A Book’s Journey

Going from an idea to a book, Stan Morris shares how Sarah’s Spaceship Adventure came to be.

A Book’s Journey
By Stan Morris

It is late at night, and I am not asleep.  This is not an uncommon occurrence, and neither is what happens next.  A vision forms.  In this instance, it is of a girl/woman, maybe twenty years old, maybe eighteen.  I hope she’s at least seventeen, because she’s not wearing any clothes, and her hands are tied behind her back.  She’s being paraded through a spaceship, but wait, the image was cloudy, and now I can see that she is wearing a jacket, and it covers her to just below her crotch.  Oh, I see.  It’s his jacket.  He was going to parade her through his ship as revenge for what she did to him, but at the last moment, for some reason, he whipped off his jacket and covered her. He’s rationalized this in his mind by thinking that she belongs to him, so no one but him should be allowed to see her naked.  He’s already thinking that he will intimidate her by threatening to sell her to Agsha, the slave world.  He’s conveniently forgetting that there is no way in hell, his Captain (Oh, I see.  He’s the First Lieutenant) would allow him to sell a person.  This is not a slave ship; the people on this ship hate slavers.  And he doesn’t know that Julee has no idea of the conditions on Agsha, and that she won’t be overly frightened by that threat.  She is more interested than scared, because she has never been off her asteroid world, Mackenzie’s Rock.  And to be on the safe side, she is not going to reveal the presence on the rock of her little sister and brother, Jara, and Davud, and she is not going to mention her sister, Wendra, who is away with the family spaceship.

And so begins the journey of Sarah’s Spaceship Adventure, but as yet it is only a tiny molecule in my brain.  From here, Mackenzie’s World will grow into a solar system with two planets, a zillion asteroids, many of them inhabited, and a dozen stories, all of which are presently unfinished, except for Sarah’s Spaceship Adventure.

This type of world building, in my expanding vision, is also not uncommon.  Sarah’s Spaceship Adventure began as an offshoot to the main storyline, but I became so enthralled by the story, that I left the mainline and went directly to this book.

You see, the problem with creating a mental world is that there are always other people inhabiting that world, and sometimes they show up and demand that you listen to their stories.  Take Sarah, for example.  The trilogy in the main line had been developed, and I was absently considering what it was like on the single inhabited planet, Marl.  Marl has two big continents surrounded by oceans.  There are no countries; instead there are large city-states similar to those in the Hanseatic League that was powerful on Earth in the late 1300’s.  Sarah was living in one of these cities, and she was not impressed by my main storyline.

“You call her story about a girl who falls in love with a man who is threatening to sell her to Agsha, interesting?  Julee Mackenzie was such a twitch.  My story is about a girl who snuck out of her house one night to go riding with her boyfriend.  Then, when he won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, she has to be rescued by a young space merchant.  And because of a misunderstanding, she can’t go home.  Instead, she’s taken to the Hoop [the asteroid belt] where she finds adventure, danger, and romance.”

“Okay, Sarah…”

“Talmaiz.  Sarah Talmaiz.  Like big corn.  That’s a clue, by the way.”

“Okay, Talmaiz, you’re rescued by…”

“Pall Swiftcar.”

“By Pall Swiftcar, and you are taken to the Hoop.  What’s the Hoop like?”

“You’re a fan of Charles Darwin, right?  Remember what he discovered in the Galapagos’ Islands?”

“Evolutionary drift?”

“Right.  Now imagine what happens to cultures on asteroids that are separated by millions of miles.

“I get it.  They become different.”

“Right.  Some might be more industrialized that others.  Some might have strange customs like nudity or nudity taboos.”

“This sounds more like a New Adult story than a Young Adult story.”

“Possibly.  After all, girls in the Hoop can get legally united, meaning married, when they are as young as fourteen on some rocks.”

“Definitely a New Adult story.”

“That doesn’t happen very often, and it’s usually the result of a business merger, like Jara Mackenzie’s.  But what about rock jumpers who try to steal metal ores, or slavers trying to enslave people, or space pirates?   Now those are good scenes.”

Once Sarah convinced me to write her story, I began to think of a title. I like titles to mean something.  In this case, Sarah’s Spaceship Adventure is a play on words, so I won’t tell just what that is.  Sometimes the title comes to me as the book begins, but in this case I was about one third of the way through, before it revealed itself to me.

Word count is approached in one of two ways.  I can continue writing until I feel like I’ve exhausted the story, or I can decided what kind of story I’m writing, for example a novel or a novella, and set my count that way.  In this case, I set one hundred thousand words as the goal.  I’ve noticed that several publishing firms set that amount as the word count they like when they publish a novel.  Of course, an internet published novel does not have to fit in a word count box, but I like thinking, that if it was ever published on paper, the word count would fit.

There was one huge difference between the process of writing this novel and my others, and the difference is that I choose that year, 2011, to attempt a new challenge.  It was to write two novels during the same period, alternating between the two.  I would write four thousand words in one novel and then switch to the other novel and write four thousand words.  I found that the word count was not always exact or even close.  In some sections, I wrote as much as six thousand words before switching.  In other cases, I wrote less than four thousand words before switching.  In attempting this switch, I discovered that my chapters were tighter with better writing if I kept the chapter lengths to less than six thousand words.  That may have been the most enlightening discovery of the challenge.  And up to now, I have named each chapter in each of my books, so that was true in these books, but I am considering abandoning that.

The two books had similarities and differences.  They both were about young couples traveling and engaging with cultures that were strange to their eyes and experiences.  Sarah’s story was science fiction.  Elly’s story was a light fantasy.  In both books, the girls eventually returned home, along with their new loves.  Elly was being pursued.  Sarah was traveling of her own accord.

Research while writing Sarah’s Spaceship Adventure was both easy and difficult depending on the subject.  The laws of physics are set, but it is not always easy to imagine the effects of those laws in space.  For example, if you have a large spinning solid globe, you can use gravity. If you have a large spinning hollow globe, you can use centrifugal force to create gravity.  But when you have a semi-solid globe, things get tricky, and the smaller the globe the more difficult it is to figure out the physics.  I usually cheat a bit.  Research on subjects like inert gasses was easier.  Anyone with access to Wikipedia should be able to do it.  I have followed space companies for a long time, so I know a bit about rocket engines.

I have one quirk that, as far as I know, is mine, and that is, I like to end the last sentence in my books with the title of the book.  That can make it difficult, because I have to devise a sentence that will end with the title and still fit the situation.

Once these aspects of the book were finished, it was on to formatting and publishing.  I use Word 10, and over time I have managed to format the manuscripts in a manner that Kindle Digital Publishing and Smashwords will accept with little difficulty.  The main things to remember are to use “no spacing” for the style, set the paragraph format so there is no trailing space, use “Special” for the first line indent, and set “indentation” and “spacing” to zeroes.  It is important to use the “Title” style for the title and “Heading 1” for the chapters, so a table of contents is automatically generated.  I have found that it is best to use Times New Roman for my font, 18 for my title font size, and 16 for my chapter font size.

Thank you Stan for your personal insight into your writing process.
You can follow Stanley @morriss003.


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