IWSG: When Science Gets in the Way…

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement.  Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

The month of May brought me one of the highest highs I’ve ever experienced: I finished a certain long anticipated manuscript.  May also brought me one of my lowest lows.  Two close friends agreed to look over the manuscript, and… well, let’s just say they didn’t think it was very good.

After a heartbreaking week and a half of going over my friends’ feedback, I’ve realized that I made two fundamental mistakes.

  • First off, I’d been playing with a new writing style. It was very flowery. Very fancy.  I thought it sounded awesome, until I tried to read it out loud.
  • And secondly, I tried to cram as much science into the story as I could. I thought I was making my Sci-Fi universe more believable, but all I was doing was adding info dumps.  Very flowery info dumps.

When I started this blog, part of my intention was to force myself to do the kind of research that I, as an aspiring science fiction author, thought I ought to be doing.  But in one of my earliest posts, or maybe it was an early tweet, I wrote that I’d never let a scientific fact get in the way of a good story.

This blog really has served its purpose.  I’ve done a lot of research over the last eight years.  Can you blame me for wanting to show off everything I’ve learned?  But, of course, I let all that science get in the way of good storytelling, and now I need to fix it.

For a start, I’m breaking up some of those long, flowery sentences.  And as for the science, I’m not going to remove it entirely, because I still believe good science is crucial for good science fiction.  But maybe I don’t need to spend so much time explaining everything.

So now, back to writing.  Or rather re-writing.

21 Responses to IWSG: When Science Gets in the Way…

  1. DRShoultz says:

    It’s good to try out new writing styles. Although, each time I try, I end up back to familiar territory. btw… I’m not a fan of flowery writing, either.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Erika Beebe says:

    I agree with Dr. Shoultz. Trying knew things helps our creative thinking. Sometimes it works and sometimes we can only use part of what we learn. Don’t give up. You are doing the right thing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. CareSA says:

    I for one am grateful for the science research you do and share with curious science ignoramuses – or is that ignorami (!?) like me. You explain it all so clearly. Your research is not in vain, and maybe you are hitting two stones with one in your blogging and your sci fi writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. CV Grehan says:

    Don’t despair! You’ve got a manuscript to work with. And you’ve learned that science should support the story, not vice versa. If you haven’t found him already, I think you’ll enjoy Winchell Chung’s excellent website, Atomic Rockets. Winchell assembled the site to support science fiction writers. http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good for you for putting your stuff out there for feedback! That’s crazy hard. As for rewriting … welcome to my world. I actually enjoy rewrites now but it took a while to realize.

    Like

  6. chemistken says:

    That’s why we all need feedback on our stories. We can’t see problems like this. Just write in your own natural style. If the story is good, nobody will even notice the words. And there’s nothing wrong with getting the science in there. The trick is to find ways of sliding it in without slowing the story. You’ll figure it out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      Thanks. I count myself truly blessed that my friends are willing to tell me what they really think. As hard as it was to get that kind of feedback, it’s far better to get it now when I can still fix it.

      Like

  7. Juneta says:

    Cheering for you. Congrats on complete an MS. I have to watch out for info dumping too. Happy IWSG.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s tough to get feedback like that, but at least you know what you need to do next! I did that for a novella I wrote for a small press (it was a novelization of a youtube episode produced by the same company, which sounds grander than it was, really) and the publisher wanted more facts and flowery prose, but my friends and family who read it wondered why I wrote like that. Yeah, lesson learned.
    Best wishes on all of your future writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      Wow, sounds like you were in a tight spot with that one, if your publisher wanted one thing but you were hearing readers didn’t like it. I’m not sure how I’d handle that.

      Like

  9. Friends willing to give honest feedback is a rarity. Hold on to them!

    How much science to leave in a science fiction story seems like it’s always a judgment call. A lot of writing advice says to ruthlessly excise anything not strictly required by the plot. But sci-fi readers generally like some gratuitous science in their stories. For many, it’s seasoning that enhances the experience. So you have to be careful with feedback from readers who aren’t sci-fi fans. Still, long info dumps are always risky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      One of my friends suggested writing an appendix, so that the readers who want the sciency stuff can still get it, and the readers who don’t don’t have to read it. I’m not sure if that’ll work in this particular case, but it’s an option I’m considering.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Appendices are a classic solution. Frank Herbert did it with Dune. (It wasn’t science but the appendices in Lord of the Rings were amazing for die-hard fans.) Although these days I see some authors put supplemental material on their web sites. Greg Egan does a lot of that. (Of course, Egan also puts a lot more science in his stories than most readers can tolerate, so take that for what’s it’s worth.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • J.S. Pailly says:

        That’s another option I’m thinking about. I mean, I was going to write blog posts about the research I did for my stories anyway. Maybe that’s enough to make me happy and satisfy readers who are in to that stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Remove the flowery and I bet most of the science will still stick. It depends on the audience. Hard core science fiction people will like it. Those who want lighter won’t care how or why it works, only that it does. So just decide which you are targeting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      I always appreciate hearing from you, Alex! That is an important consideration, which audience I’m going for. The things is one of my beta readers is more into light Sci-Fi and the other likes harder science. So the fact that neither one of them liked the way I handled the info dumps was a real wake-up call for me.

      Like

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