2023 Know the Novel: Part 1 – Introduction

Hello, and welcome to my first writing update sort of post in a very long time, lol. Some of you may know, if you follow me on social media or are subscribed to my mailing list, that I’ve been working on a couple of book projects this year. One is a non-fiction project that I’m not saying much about yet; the other is a sci-fi novel called Lightning, which I’m working on finishing up during Christine Smith’s Fall FicFrenzy event. I’m also planning to dive into drafting a sequel, but I’ll be primarily focusing on Lightning in this post so as to avoid spoilers, lol.

If you’ve been curious to learn more about Lightning (or if this is your first introduction), hopefully this post gives you a bit of a taste!

Note: I have done this link-up for Lightning before, but a lot can happen to a project in a year, lol, so there’s some repeat content and some new info here!

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

I don’t remember, lol. Way back in… 2017, I think, I wrote a couple snippets of interaction between two characters–Rhys and Alaric–who shared an apartment without knowing it because Grantech kept their hours carefully opposite of one another, until they decided that they wanted the two to meet. Said snippets were really cringey, the concept was also cringey, and the only things that survived out of that concept were the characters and the fact that they work for Grantech.

Meanwhile, I guess around the same time I had an idea involving Erika, Nyla, and Ash, and I decided to combine the two into one story before I even started writing it. That may have been about the time I was doing the alphabet blogging challenge and I wrote up an introductory scene for Lightning (then just creatively titled “Grantech,” lol).

I don’t ultimately remember where either piece originated, inspiration-wise, but the concept of this story has been around for six years and the world has been around a lot longer than that.

As for what sparked me to pick it back up this time around… I don’t remember that, exactly, either, lol. I wanted a new novel to focus on, nothing else was really sticking, and I think re-reading that introductory scene was what caught my attention on Lightning. That was back in the spring of 2022, and I’ve been plugging away at it ever since!

Originally, Lightning was going to be a standalone, but as I was outlining it I realized that it needed to be a duology, so that’s where the general idea for the sequel came from.

2. Share a blurb (or just an overall summary)!

What would you do to feel whole?

The scientific mega-corporation Grantech is developing a line of super-soldiers—known to the public as GenDevs—in an attempt to “perfect” the human race. But their work doesn’t always go as planned.

Nyla is left wrestling with chronic pain and fickle abilities after her alterations failed to integrate properly, her body and family both broken by the company’s meddling.

The powers Erika expected never seemed to manifest, sentencing her to “elimination” from the program unless she breaks out of their custody first.

Alaric uses his powers at Grantech’s behest to bring more kids into the GenDev program, exchanging years of debt for years of guilt.

When their fragile stability is challenged, these GenDevs must face the decision between freedom and the familiar. If they make it outside of Grantech’s walls, will it be enough to shake their grip or is the corporation’s manipulation inevitable?

Then, logically, the sequel covers the fall-out of everything that happens in Lightning. ;)

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects of the setting?

If you want a more succinct answer to this question, refer to the previous edition of this link-up, lol.

So, I have a confession to make. I didn’t do a great job of worldbuilding for Lightning before I dove into it.

This world has existed in my head for at least seven years, and I have a pretty decent understanding of its basic tone and structure, the most crucial figures, how the magic system works, the kinds of technology I want to explore…

But I didn’t really dig out the details before I started writing Lightning. So this first draft has a lot of oversights, a lot of inconsistencies, and I recently changed things about the single building that most of the story takes place in (it’s not going to be a single building after I’ve done rewrites, but three neighboring buildings).

I love worldbuilding for fantasy and I often have very well-composed worlds before I even start thinking about writing the stories set within those worlds; this sci-fi world is one that I’ve more taken for granted and haven’t poked at between projects, so it’s ended up less fleshed out than I realized, and thus my first step after finishing these drafts is going to be to take some time just worldbuilding and making sure I have a solid framework before I rewrite the duology.

But I digress, lol. The story takes place in the nation of Concordia (the same setting as the two sci-fi short stories in Short Story Collection vol. 1), in the city of Newbridge (once upon a time known as New York city), and largely within Grantech’s primary Newbridge campus.

Honestly, I really like the vibes. XD It’s intended to be a very flashy city, a pretty stereotypical futuristic city, and yet there’s still very much a grounded element to it where it’s still just a big city where people live and all of the tech that’s so crazy and flashy to us is just a part of their everyday lives. So it’s a fun blend–and hopefully it will be more so after I’ve fleshed out more of the details and rewritten the book to reflect more of that sci-fi foundation.

I also really like the sciantasy mix, where these scientists have learned to harness the “magic” that has been released back into the world but it doesn’t always go according to their plan. You can’t just take the power you want; there are rules to be followed. And I just really like that genre blending, the thematic implications there, and how I get to show the outcomes of those efforts in the ways they affect relatively normal people. They’re not superheroes in any classic sense, they didn’t ask to be given these abilities, their abilities are flawed, and they have to deal with that because of Grantech’s meddling. It’s just a neat dynamic to play with, I think.

4. Tell us about your protagonist(s).

There are five of them, so this answer might also get a little long. (At this point, I think it’s safe to assume that this whole post is going to run long. XD)

Erika is the first POV character the reader meets. She’s sarcastic, doesn’t take (or dish) any nonsense, and likes to think she’s invincible. She’s often abrasive and thoughtless, but she pushes everyone else to face the truth they don’t want to see and to do what needs to be done… and she does have a heart under there somewhere. Some of her behavior is outright morally questionable, and this causes a fair bit of conflict with Nyla.

Nyla is the next POV character, and I think she has the most POV chapters (though I haven’t counted, and there is a fair bit of back-and-forth since there are… possibly too many POV characters). She’s kind and selfless but tends to assume that anyone who tries to get close to her must want something. Ever since Grantech’s experiments on her, she’s dealt with chronic pain and malfunctioning powers that she generally tries to ignore.

Alaric is a GenDev within Grantech’s Sentinel program, entrusted with tasks like containing rogue GenDevs and bringing in new subjects for enhancement. Alaric’s tasks normally fall into the latter category, and he hates it, but he’s been trapped in the job so long that he feels there’s no escaping it–or the stains on his soul–despite his efforts to hold onto some last shred of integrity.

Rhys is Alaric’s next-door neighbor–and comes to be his anchor. She’s an accountant who works for Grantech more for the resources they can provide her family than because she believes in their cause. She’s a skilled analyst, good with computers, and optimistic to a fault. She sees the best in everyone and does what she can to bring out that quality when it’s been buried.

Ash is the only main character who doesn’t have any scenes or chapters from his POV, though he shows up frequently in chapters with Erika, Nyla, and later Alaric. Ash is the guard that Grantech has assigned to Erika to ensure she doesn’t endanger herself–or Grantech. He’s a firm believer in the idea that Grantech is a bastion of order and the GenDevs wreak havoc and destruction everywhere they go–unless they remain under Grantech’s benevolent authority. But he’s also a man of reason and enjoys a fair number of respectful debates with Nyla over Grantech’s character and methods. (He’s also a bit of a problem child as far as working out his arc goes, but that’ll get ironed out.)

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

Grantech has two primary faces: Erdiana Class and Tamerin Lance.

Erdiana is head of the scientific division. She’s elegant, precise, and has a superiority complex. Yet despite said complex, she believes that mankind isn’t good enough and ought to be pushed into the next state of evolution. She’s seeking to create the perfect race, with the power to access their full mental and genetic potential. She also knows how to break people (she’d say “like a glow stick,” but… well, let’s just say her perspective is a bit skewed).

Tamerin is head of the security division, and he simply likes the flavor of power. He likes toying with people to see how they react and shaping the world to his own whims–at least insofar as Erdiana and their superior allow. He’s actually quite personable with most people, but there’s always some ulterior motive under the surface and he’s not above threatening people if they threaten his plans.

6. What excites you the most about this novel?

Finishing! That might make it sound like I’m not enjoying the writing process or I can’t wait to be done, which isn’t the case. But I haven’t finished a first draft for a novel in four years now, and it’s so exciting to be so close to adding a new full draft to my roster! (And hopefully the sequel won’t be too far behind, either.)

7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

A duology! Initially I imagined it would be a standalone, but there was too much story. I tend to prefer trilogies (if you look at my project list, there are a lot of trilogies), duologies tend to seem not quite long enough to me, but I think the length of this story suits a duology well and it does allow me to split it up neatly at the midpoint (which is great from a writing perspective and hopefully not too messy from a reader perspective!). Basically, I’m really hoping I can keep this series from tripping into the pitfalls I tend to see with duologies as a reader, lol, but I’m excited to try the new-to-me series length.

8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

Plotting. Well, mostly. Each book (and the duology as a whole) has been/will be plotted according to the 3-act structure with much assistance from K.M. Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel (which worked wonders for my Lightning outline and I’m hoping will work just as well for the second book and the latter half of the overarching plot). So all of the main plot points have been/will be planned.

On the other hand, I tend to need basic chapter outlines, as well, and I tend to get bored with those partway through and get an itch to write. So my outlining process tends to look like this:

  • Outline the main plot points
  • Outline half to 2/3rds of the book on a chapter-by-chapter basis
  • Decided I can outline the rest later; dive into writing
  • Hit the end of my outlined chapters, realize “later” has arrived, outline half to all of the remaining chapters
  • Continue writing
  • Repeat the previous three steps as many times as necessary until the book is complete

So as far as that’s concerned… I suppose I’m a little bit of a plantser in that I rarely start with a complete outline, lol. But it worked for Calligraphy Guild and it’s worked for Lightning so far, so there’s no pressing need to change the process.

9. Name a few unique elements in this story.

  • Chronically ill “superheroes”
  • “Superheroes” with mental health issues
  • A mix of 3rd-person and 1st-person perspectives
  • Low-action sci-fi (at least in the first book; things start to pick up going into the sequel)

10. Share some fun “extras” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

I have a playlist and overarching Pinterest board on the book page for Lightning, so you can check those out over there. I also wrote a post recently that explored the anatomy of a story playlist and I used Lightning‘s playlist as an example.

As far as new content goes… Since I’m starting on the sequel soon I guess it’s safe to announce that the title is *drumroll please* Thunder! (Probably not all that surprising, since it’s the sequel to Lightning, but it works so well!)

And with that announced, I can also share the playlist for Thunder:

There you have a little more insight into Lightning and Thunder! Let me know what you think, what aspects of the story intrigue you most. And if you’re working on a project this fall, whether as part of an event or not, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

If you’d like to get further updates on Lightning and Thunder as they come available, sign up to my newsletter:

4 thoughts on “2023 Know the Novel: Part 1 – Introduction

  1. THIS. SOUNDS. SO. FUN!!! I love when stories blend genres, it adds such a unique and intriguing take to a story. And I am HERE for tech and magic! That combination is one of my FAVES.

    Also, these characters sound so dynamic. I love that you’re representing chronic illness in a superhero story. It really is such a rare thing to see in spec-fic! That is wonderful you’re adding that.

    This just sounds incredible all the way around. Thank you so much for joining the linkup and sharing with us. Cheering you on as you work toward the finish line! :D

    1. I agree! Sciantasy is such a fun mix.

      Thank you! Chronic illness is something that’s started to crop up in a lot of my work ever since Calligraphy Guild, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to encourage readers with that. <3

      Thank you for hosting, once again! It's always a lot of fun!

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