Writing Tools

One of the challenges I faced in writing Newton’s Ark was tracking several parallel story lines until such time as they all came together towards the end of the book. At the time the only tool I had at my disposal was Microsoft Word and its Outline view. It got the job done but it was a struggle, like driving a screw with pliers. You can do it, but why would you when there’s this thing called a screwdriver?

Soon after I began on the sequel, Faraday’s Mine, I realized I was going to have the same problem, only more so. Not only did I need to keep the story line straight, but it had to be consistent with what had already happened in the first book. And I wanted to raise the intrigue a level, making the web even more tangled.

Fortunately I discovered a wonderful program called Scrivener which allows me to organize the book into chapters and scenes using the metaphor of index cards on a cork board. Now I can easily create the structure of the story and then change it on the fly. I can attach notes to each scene to remind myself what I plan to write as well as attaching keywords for characters and locations to each of the scenes so I can see who is doing what to whom and where.

Here’s a look at one of the chapters. If you look real close you might just be able to figure out what is going to happen (warning spoilers – assuming I don’t change it or I’m not just playing with you).

It has turned out to be one of those tools I didn’t know I needed until I found it. Now I couldn’t imagine writing another novel without it.

This post brought to you by author, D.A.Hill.

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Fusion Reactors

As I have mentioned previously I was very conscious in writing Newton’s Ark to keep the science as real as possible. The most speculative technology I included was probably the micro fusion reactor – a small, highly portable fusion reactor that could power a satellite for decades.

This technology requires us to find a way to build a self-sustaining fusion reaction that produces positive net energy. And then you have to miniaturize it – I’m going to ignore that challenge assuming we can solve the main problem.

This technology has been a decade away for the past sixty years. Will we ever solve this problem? Who knows. It may really be a only decade away, it may be another sixty years away or it may never happen. It’s hard to extrapolate from the experience to date. There has been some progress but not enough to be completely confident that the fundamental challenge can be overcome.

It is still an active area of research though. In fact I recently received an assignment to design a biometric security system (iris recognition) for an experimental fusion reactor facility!

This post brought to you by author of Newton’s Ark, D.A. Hill.

More Sci Fi Keeping it Real

I posted recently on keeping the sci fi real in my first novel Newton’s Ark.

I just ran across this article about stopping an asteriod specifically debunking the scenario presented in the movie Armageddon of using a nuke to split it in half.

Here’s a relevant passage from my book:

“Despite all the holo-movies you might have seen where they destroy the asteroid before it hits the Earth and everyone lives happily ever after, it isn’t possible with the technology and time we have available. To nudge the asteroid off course we have to hit it far enough out that we would need to launch now. Problem is we don’t have anything with the range and payload required….”

“Can’t we just nuke the damn thing when it gets closer to Earth?”

“Yes sir we can, but we risk turning a single very large asteroid into multiple asteroids, each still plenty big enough to wipe out a large city. Better to have only one object to track and to limit the impact to a single location.”

I think this quote from the article nicely captures my philosophy:

…fiction is all about the make-believe. But good science can make for a more plausible narrative, making it easier to suspend disbelief.

This post brought to you by author D.A. Hill.