Planning what’s next

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000027_00005]In November 2015, I launched my second novel, Alien Hothouse. As a result, most of my time in December was taken up in marketing and administration. I still need to do a lot more on the marketing front, but for now I want to get back to writing. The New Year is an ideal time to start a new project. So what’s next?

Some time ago, I started planning my third novel. I thought I had a new idea, and I did. I would write a story from the viewpoint of an nanny android discovering its humanity after been given a new emotional chip designed by a child prodigy in its care. The storyline was very different from the movie Ex_Machina, but the the theme – what makes us human – was pretty much the same. So I decided that I needed to develop something different. Dropping a short outline of a few pages  is not a great loss. Dropping an 80,000 word draft is a different matter. Therein, in my view  lies the power of using an outline to explore an idea without a huge amount of time commitment.  Not all writers would necessarily agree. Some see any attempt at planning as stifling their creativity. Others may disagree about the extent of any planning. Writers come in all shapes and sizes.

Both of my novels, “Collision” and “Alien Hothouse”, were sci-fi/thriller/adventures set in the current day’s world. Both were about very ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances. Both had female leads. And both had a strong romantic theme between the lead characters. So I know the type of stories I like to write. In the words of one Hollywood producer, what I needed was something the same, but different — the same type of stories, but packaged in a uniquely different way.

Of course, Hollywood does this all the time. The movie, Alien was just another “Monster in the house” storyline, but set in space; Jaws was an old fashioned “slay the monster” storyline much the same as Beowulf and other mythic tales. And there are plenty more examples in Hollywood.

So have I gone for something similar, but different? Hmm… not really. My lead character this time is male. He’s dark and far from ordinary — more your Harrison-Ford type of character. And I’ve discovered my world setting for the book. It’s monster city in 2066 covered in skyscrapers linked by a nextwork of tubes. The rich inhabit the highest levels of the skyscrapers and the poor riot and demonstrate against the androids that are taking away their work. It’s a society where much of the political power is in the hands of massive cyber corporations, law and order is outsourced to private enforcement Marshalls, the rich clone their bodies for spare body parts, and scientists wrestle with ethics of cyber-human brain interfacing.

Is such a future world possible in fifty years time? Possibly. Bear in mind that the microchip was only developed about forty years ago. Look at how that one technology has revolutionised our wold.

So should I go with this new storyline? Maybe… As one famous general  once said, ‘no plan survives engagement with the enemy’. Plans change and evolve as stories develop and in my view planning  is part of the creative process. It doesn’t stop when you start to write.