I just completed the next step in a journey that began something like twenty years ago, when I sat down to write my first queer sci fi story.
The story “Oberon” opened with a graphic (for me) sex scene, and involved a strange world called Oberon – commonly known as Split because it is literally half a world.
I didn’t finish it at the time – in fact, I sketched out just a few scenes, and then put it on the shelf with a bunch of my other unfinished works. But it was a milestone for me. I had recently come out, and it was the first time I had allowed myself to write a character who was like me.
Well, Xander’s more like Brian Kinney from Queer as Folk than he is like me. But you get what I mean.
I went down this road reluctantly. Like many just-out gay men, I didn’t want to “be defined” by my sexuality. I was a writer first and a gay man second. But as the years wore on and my writing career lay fallow, I became involved in the LGBT rights movement, and then in the marriage equality one, and I began to see my gay identity as a core part of who I was.
When I finally came back to writing for good in 2013, I decided it was time to write about people like me. There were enough straight writers out there writing straight characters. I would write what I wanted to see more of in the world.
I started by expanding and finishing a few previously started stories. My first sale, “The Bear at the Bar”, was one of these, as were my novellas “The Homecoming” and “The Autumn Lands.” Then I ran across “Oberon”.
I re-read it, and I was like “damn – this is pretty good” – with the pride that one can only have in one’s own writing after a sizeable period of time has passed. I decided that it was time to write this story. I think that was in late 2014. I made a go of it, and got a ways into it, and then got sidetracked by other projects.
Then mid-2015, I heard about NaNoWriMo – this intense 30 day writing thing – and I thought “this is perfect for Oberon.” So I scrapped the story, and on November 1st, I started out again from the beginning, with an outline and a daily minimum word count.
Writing 50,000 words in thirty days is hard enough, but I had to knock out Thanksgiving and every Tuesday. In the end, it worked out to just under 1,700 words a day. Somehow, I managed it, with great discipline, and great forbearance on the part of my husband.
Over the next couple months, I second-drafted it, and then sent it to my beta’s. One of them was particularly hard on me, pointing out a number of scientific flaws and plot holes in what I thought was a pretty strong manuscript. It was hard to accept those critiques, but in the end I think they greatly strengthened the story.
So I set it aside again and did some research on gravity and weather, completing a couple other projects in the meantime. When I felt like I had all my ducks in a row, I did a third draft, making a horrid mess of the manuscript while fixing all the leaks. Then the fourth draft smoothed things out again.
If you’re like me as a writer, you have a list of all the things editors ding you on, so I went through that and fixed a bunch of little issues. Then I did one last check for flagged spelling errors.
I also gave my subconscious a couple days to throw up any last minute thoughts and problems with the story – and it did. About ten of them in all.
Finally, I changed some names and came up with a final title for “Oberon” – it’s now titled “Skythane”.
No story is ever perfect. But this one’s in pretty damned good shape, thanks to a lot of work and some great advice from friends.
I wanted to personally thank Angel Martinez, Ben Brock, Dave Fragments, and Jamie Fessenden for their invaluable help with the ideas of the story and their encouragement; my neighbors and dear friends Kathy and Bill Cox for listening, bemused, while I used a cereal bowl to explain my ideas for a half world and its complex gravity and weather dynamics; to my Mom and Dad, who both believed I could do it, and most of all, my husband Mark, for encouraging me and putting up with me.
And thanks to William Smith for the great cover for NaNo
I put it all together with the required summary, blurb, and author info and sent it off last night at 10:01 PM. I should be jumping up and down. Mostly, I am just happily relieved.
Now, on to the next project!