A Novel Change in the Scafverse

The Scafverse is taking on a new artistic challenge: writing a full-length Science Fiction novel!

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Writing a novel sounds easy– come up with a good plot, set it in a visually striking landscape, involve some characters and witty dialog, and POOF! you have a best-seller on your hands.

Except that we all know that for some reason it is NOT that easy.  Sitting in the audience  for whatever critically acclaimed hit Show is on one’s screen, repeatedly and accurately predicting story arcs, plot twists, “revealing” scenes, and even the next snippet of dialog, should imply that one has the fundamental means to write scripts for said Show– so what’s the issue?  In my experience, it is the narrative, the prose, the way the story is told that cannot be replicated– the plot, while necessary, is secondary.  What??

I wasn’t always a good writer, but became so in Business School and my career in Asset Management– and therein lies the problem– I’m not a Teacher or Lawyer called upon to expound upon a lesson or legal theory– prose is a liability in financial situations.  Presenting the very basic plot (we called that the “Net-net”) in the most minimalist form, while still readable, was all that mattered.  Adverbs, adjectives, interjections, heck!– any descriptors at all should be stripped from this style of writing.  Proposals in the form of spreadsheets on Post-It notes would be best, except that they had a way of sticking to some other piece of research and getting filed incorrectly, leaving no legitimate way to CYA when the witch hunt of cost cutting invariably shows up at your door in a few years.  So we, the Financial world, use normal-paper-sized memos:

To: Boss
CC: Impartial Observer to CYA
Re: Solution to your problem
Executive Summary:  Here is the solution to your {problem} problem.
Issue: It is well known to even the lowliest idiot on your team, not to mention those go-getters from other teams that are eyeing your job, that {problem} costs us upwards of ${a lot} millions annually.
Solution:  Having scoured the Earth thrice, we identified a {suite of software} that if it performs as advertised, will cure the problem of {problem}, at a cost of {Full MSRP, which is something slightly less than “a lot”}.
In addition, while not a cure, this {suite of software} will be considered invaluable for Projects {L,M,&N}, which are high priorities on your deliverables list this fiscal year, which ends in only {a couple} of months.
Addendum:  Good news!  I talked to {the company} and was able to negotiate a much lower price of ${MSRP-Normal Corporate Discount to which we were already entitled}, which as you can see is a savings of {5%,10%,15%,20%} which can be plowed back into our bonus pool, preferably split between you and me.
Closing Salutation: Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter that is actually more important to you than me,
Your Senior Vice President, (who actually already has the financial authority to unilaterally make this decision, but who also doesn’t want to face the cost-cutting inquisition in a few years.)


As you can glean from that perfect example above– I was very good, some even said the greatest, at memo writing (feel free to use the template above to make your own requisition, whether it be a new set of colored pens or the latest ergonometric chair).

With such finely honed writing skills just oozing from my finger tips, I sat in front of my computer and hacked out a scene on the keyboard:

“Hey.”  He said it with such an air of manly mystery, pheromones escaping, practically leaping from his pores.
“Hi,” she replied huskily, with a certain feminism.
“How is it going?” he asked suddenly, a vague note of curiosity in his voice.
“Not bad, can’t complain.”  The syllables rolled off her tongue like a thick syrup.
“Yeah, and even if you did, nobody would even listen,” he wittily quipped, as she raised her eyebrows inquiringly.  
Clearly she wasn’t understanding the situation, so no one talked for quite a while. Finally, he got his courage up, and started trying to hit on her once again.


What??  Am I serious with this??!!

Ok, so I determined that the “good” business writing I had so finely honed definitely helps with story through line, character motivation and overall plotting but definitely not with prose and narrative.  As such, I am now embarking on a program of self-study of the fine craft of writing which will include a) an academic study of the art; b) an intense intellectual awareness of form, structure, and narrative (not just the story) in the books and shows I read and watch; and c) an exercise of writing various short stories each with a particular focus on some area of study.

If you are interested in my “academic course load”, feel free to check out my Goodreads page, and check the “Research” shelf.  If you have any good suggestions for additional books, please let me know.

Of the writing exercises, my first is a short story called, “Captain Oliver Has Lost His Drive,”  of which I’ve just completed the First Draft.  I’m going to change a bit of the narrative and many of the word choices for the second draft, but I should still be able to post it here in that (incomplete) form within the next few days.  Captain Oliver narrates the tale of an incident aboard a space merchant trading vessel.  While it will have some similar themes to the novel, it should fundamentally feel quite different:  Captain Oliver is written in the first person narrative versus the limited third person narrative of the novel, is a bit lighter in tone, far less scientifically accurate, set in the very distant future of a civilization like ours, and intentionally devoid of dialogue.


(Constructive criticism is appreciated and requested!)

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