I finally got back to some writing, and let me tell you, it feels good.
Today, I just hit roughly 5200 words on a total reworking of a very old, and many-times-reworked “trunk story” called “Realer”. (Seriously, very many times reworked. The current draft is the tenth, and I think, aside from minor tweaking, the last; if I don’t get it basically right this time, it’s going into the “abandoned” file on my hard drive.) The story was originally about 7500 words and I’m guessing the redraft will be about 6500 or 7000, but it’s in every sense possible a total redraft. The vast, vast majority of the story has changed, so that very little from the last draft (version 9.0) remains. If you’re planning on critiquing the story, you may not want to read past this point until after you’ve read it, as there are spoilers mentioned in the extended section of this story.
In its original form, it was a mess of themes, a kind of semi-autobiographical story about a guy dealing with a failed romance that meant altogether too much to him, and about the dangers of anything applying our understanding of evolution to a postbiological setting, but with a lot of stuff about anti-aging treatments in the interim… plus a lot of playing around with Utility Fog, a technology the description of which I’d just run across when I started working on the story, and one which I shoehorned into the piece for no good reason. (One friend who read it in the early stages, Charlie, very rightly complained that suddenly it had gone all “Bruce-Sterling-Holy-Fire” in one of the early redrafts, because of the massive amount of pre-migration anti-aging plotline that was added at some point after the first draft he’d read.)
There were, in even the most recent drafts before the present one:
- a lot of chatter about AI,
- some explicit discussion of the process of “migrating” into a VR world,
- a lot of theorizing about things like the notion of the extended phenotype,
- very little plot, character,
- almost no sense of wonder.
The original draft had lots of nice ideas, including applications of ideas to the notion of self-uploaded AI postbiology that I’d never heard anyone talk about in any form (including fiction) before, but what it didn’t have was what makes stories worth reading: a story. Also, I told the story from the POV of the wrong character, something that jumped out at me dramatically when I came back to the story a week or so ago.
- almost no direct mention of AI or VR (though I think most readers will get that’s where it’s set),
- very little discussion of evolution (though the implications, I think, are still present, and will be much more deeply mapped out by the end because the story is set very late in the life of our universe),
- a changed POV (the narrator is now character who was the object of the male character’s doomed love… which has become now a mutually failed relationship from long ago in their shared, pre-AI past, not a long-ago rejection).
I’m excited to see what happens, but also wonder whether this story has just be reworked to death. If it has, I’ll take a lesson from it and perhaps focus less on trunk stories and the like.