Bad Astronomy


When I was in high school, I wrote a lot of science fiction short stories. These were uniformly bad, mind you, bordering on unreadable. But it was good practice. It exercised my mind, I was always looking for ideas, and it helped me hone my writing skills. Well, maybe only a little, but I am technically a professional writer now, so it seems like maybe there’s something to be said about all that.

I’ve toyed with writing fiction over the years. I’ve got some novel ideas I may one day wrestle to the ground… but really, I need to cut my teeth first on some simpler writing first. I’m not really planning on using this blog for that, but then an interesting thing came my way.

A little while back, fellow professional writer Wil Wheaton posted a link on Twitter to a story he liked on a website called Ficly. It’s a free website where you can write and post stories, but the catch is they can only be 1024 characters long. Including spaces.

The story he linked to was fun. And Ficly allows you to write prequels and sequels. When I read it I was having a rough day, and was having a really hard time nailing down some writing I needed to do for work (yes, I work). So I thought, what the heck, and wrote a prequel. It’s not all that good, but it was fun to write. At first I felt guilty spending time on it when I had so much else to do, but what I found is that it shook loose some mental cobwebs, enabling me to finish the difficult writing job I had to do for work that day. Call it a palate cleanser.

… but then I remembered an idea I had for a story back in high school. It was a pretty good idea, but I couldn’t make it work. Now I realize the problem: I was putting in too much exposition, too much explaining. Ficly doesn’t allow you to do that. Hmmmm.

So I wrote the story, and it’s on Ficly now. Titled “Deep”, those of you who have read my latest book may recognize some of the science in it. But there’s a twist…

I suspect that in the coming months there will be opportunities to write more. I may have to dig through my old high school stuff. You never know where the 1024 characters will come from.