Writing Group

A friend and I have been talking about our respective writing journeys for some time. Tonight we had our first writer’s group. Perhaps it is better to refer to it as a meet up, since there was just the two of us, but calling it a writing group make it feel like more of a commitment, more official.

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He is currently plugging away at a webnovel (which you can find here), while I have been motoring along with my freelance work in the Role Playing Game world (which is mostly listed in my bibliography here). Both of us are wanting to write a novel manuscript.

We had previously talked about getting together and comparing notes, offering ideas and criticisms, sharing resources, and tonight was our first step in that direction. We spent the first portion of the night discussing our goals and what we wanted from our meetings, and then both read a little of each other’s work and made some comments. It was good, and while my work was woefully underdone, I walked away with a real drive to ensure that I’ll have something closer to ready for the next meeting. It was nice to be able to sit down and talk about our goals, about our writing habits, and about the things we needed to change in order to achieve our goals. The act of meeting up in order to compare notes places an onus on action, and this added incentive is something I am looking forward to especially!

 

Some links I found useful while we were planning out what our meetings could and should look like:

Writing Group Starter Kit

Jeff Goins, on Writing Groups

Inked Voices, Writing Groups 101

Joseph Massucci, 15 Tips on Writing Groups

Revenger, by Alastair Reynolds

Revenger, by Alastair Reynolds, is a story about sail ships and pirates, about gauging the wind and mutinous talk, about being stranded, and about islands full of buried treasure. What makes this tale of adventure and danger so interesting however, is that it is science fiction. The ships are space ships and the sails are light sails, capturing momentum from the solar winds. The treasure islands are baubles, habitations and space stations, small worlds built around tiny black-holes which provide them gravity, shielded and dangerous to enter, but holding the remnants of civilisations passed by.

 

Revenger

 

Everything in this book screams the piratical theme, the beats and tropes, the events and character, even the lilt and pattern of speech. There were times when I felt this would be a disharmonious partnership, a mismatch between the spirit and the reality of the book’s internal setting, a fractious pairing that didn’t quite work, but I was wrong. I’m sure that some people will read this book and feel the setting doesn’t quite manage to pull of what it sets out to, but I am not one of them. For me Reynolds leans into the setting’s nautical spirit with such gusto that everything just works.

 

In many ways Revenger reminded me of the Treasure Island movie that Disney released some years ago – a sort of steam-punk/sci-fi revision of Robert Louie Stevenson’s seminal work. I remember thinking at the time that the movie just didn’t manage to realise the setting, perhaps a product of the visual nature of the medium. Revenger, on the other hand, works.

 

The characters in Revenger are all larger than life and pulled straight from the pages or screen of every pirate book and movie you will have had chance to read or watch. Despite this they are likable and dislike-able in equal measure, heroes and heroines you care for, villains you despise, and fools you feel sorry for. The main character Fura Ness, and her sister Adrana are the main protagonists, and in full genre style it’s not long before you, as reader, are cheering on their successes and scowling at those who seek to bring them low.

 

This is the second ‘mash-up’ novel I have read by Alastair Reynolds, in both these novels the settings step beyond the traditional tropes of science-fiction, and mash together two or more sub-genres to create something curious and involving. The first I read was Terminal World, which I reviewed here, and Revenger feels very much in the same sort of vein. Taking the tropes and expectations of one sub-genre (pirate tales), and embedding it in another (science fiction). I’m confident that this is a risky endeavour for any author, assuming the risk that they will have to juggle the weights and expectations of two different audiences (or at least what an audience might expect of a specific genre), but Reynolds has managed magnificently.

 

Revenger is a story of sailing the high seas and looting treasure, it’s a story about rascals and devils, salt of the earth sailors and tough and ready brawlers, it’s a tale of gentlemen and nobles and a tale of a dread pirate. It is also a tale of science fiction, ancient and full of technological marvels, self-aware robots and the dangers of space-walking. Somehow, against all odds, like a ship hell bent on riding out a deadly storm in a race to claim buried treasure, Revenger manages to brave the choppy waters and triumph.

 

I enjoyed this book a lot, the setting is engaging and the genre mash-up is two worlds woven together in a way that is fascinating and thrilling. Revenger is engaging, full of adventure and a whole lot of fun.