Wednesday, May 4, 2016

IWSG - A Novel by Any Othe Name

On the first Wednesday of every month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group encourages writers to talk about their insecurities. So here we go.

As I near the end of my sci-fi novel's first draft (on the fourth quarter now), which I started in December, I'm starting to wonder if it's any good.
I feel weird even calling it a "novel," even though it's a novel by all definitions. It's a work of fiction, expected to be around 80k words, and has a plot from beginning to end.

But it's science fiction.

Now, I am not knocking the genre. If a movie or book doesn't have a robot, time travel, or a spaceship in it, I'm probably not going to watch it and I almost definitely won't enjoy it (with a few very rare exceptions; I was surprised to actually enjoy The Hurt Locker despite still thinking it would have been better if it was set in space).

But there's a certain gravitas (at least to me, though it's probably all in my head) to saying "I'm writing a novel." I feel like when people ask "what's it about?" they expect something big, an important book that will change the world or shine a light on some issue. "I'm writing about the injustices of a disabled woman trying to make a life for herself without relying on the government" or "It's a story of love and prejudice set against the backdrop of the African slave trade." You know, a novel.

Maybe I'm imagining it, but unless they're a major nerd like me, I think they're always a little disappointed when I say, "The freaks in an intergalactic carnival get superpowers and have to save the universe." You know, a book. A really long story divided into chapters.

If my book were made into a movie, it would be the kind to have colorful merchandise and geeks dressing up as the characters for the premier. Not critical acclaim and awards. And that's the way I want it. I would be lined up for days, dressed as Lily the owl woman and carrying Lego replicas of their spaceships.

I love my book. I don't care much what other people say. But it doesn't feel like a novel.


  1. I am simply going to give you a list of novels that have changed many lives - science fiction, speculative fiction, etc...
    1984 - George Orwell
    The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood (and several others by her)
    Earthsea Trilogy - Ursula LeGuin
    The Left Hand of Darkness -U LG
    The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury
    Dune - Frank Hubert

    I could go on and on. These are novels and I read every kind of novel you can imagine. These are novels. Make your story the best it can be and don't worry about what folks call it as long as they read it. Your novel.

  2. Your book sounds fun! I think as long as you're enjoying yourself, that's all that matters.

  3. Yes, you are writing a novel!

    A novel is a story of a particular length and structure. What you describe as 'meaningful novels' is really a genre: the literary genre.

    But you prefer to write sci-fi novels. Heck, I write paranormal novels, and others write westerns or romance novels.

    All of those are novels. And yours sounds a lot more interesting than the average literary novel. But then I like nice spaceships and the odd time travel device, too. :)

  4. Funny how we associate certain meanings with words that really aren't there. Your novel sounds like a fun read. :)