I was listening today to the Strange Horizon's Podcast Interview with Tim Pratt and he said something about his writing that was quite interesting to me.

He was talking about his novels and some the early stories and I think he called them "fiercely linear," that they took place over the course of a week or a couple of weeks, and that the path of the story was very straightforward, but that he was trying to go beyond his comfort zone and write stories that were less linear, that took longer in "story time."

While the whole interview was really nice, this line struck a particular chord in my mind. This is exactly the kind of thing that I've been trying to do for a long time, and something that I just have trouble groking.

Another Round, the story that is now Station Keeping, started out as a novel project built around a very non-linear story. Or, it was linear, but in a very stretched sort of way. Station Keeping (and AR) is all about this place--a sort of cultural battle ground--at a key moment in the development of human civilization. And the larger story takes several years to happen, because the conflict isn't between characters, but rather between big ideologies. [1]

Now there are a lot of reasons why I couldn't hold the plot Another Round together four years ago (it works better as a serial, the character's weren't developed enough, or central enough), but a big reason was that I think I'm fiercely linear or something. I did really well with Circle Games [2], which--not counting an epilogue--took like 3 weeks of story time, and the Mars story takes place over the course of about a year, if you account for travel time, but the narration covers maybe two weeks worth of story. It's less linear, but the scope is probably similar.

Breakout, kind of like Another Round, is a story on a much more cosmic scale. While it's not nearly as politically angst ridden, the story is still pretty layered, and thats really complicated. Some day I'll be up to the challenge of writing novels like that. Right now--particularly since I'm more interested in getting work out on the internet, I'm writing this hypertext, but some day, maybe, I'll write stories like these.

In the mean time, I think I'll work on devising stories with more concentrated plots, stretching the bounds of the "comfort zone of linearity" rather than attempting to break it without mercy at every opportunity.

One of these days I'll learn something. I swear.

Onward and Upward!

[1]I know that there aren't really good copies of station keeping around for you to find. Sorry about that, I'm going to be releasing a PDF of the story so far before we get started with season 2. I promise. And for the record, I wrote an episode this week, so it will happen.
[2]The first novel I wrote. Tragically crappy. But then at least it was good to get it out of the way earlier.