Prime Directive

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Like most of my book ideas, this one came at a most inopportune time. I was about halfway through the first draft of Deadlock, and was finding it hard going. I decided that I would take a few days off, and write a short story instead. Personally, when I’m working on a project that turns into a novel, the battle is to keep on going, ignoring the voice which is telling you that what you’re working on is crap, and you should bin it. To counter it, I try to write something different, mainly so I get that buzz of finishing something, which then carries me through the rest of the initial project.

I’ve always been fascinated with space since I was a kid, watching the shuttle launches, and the grainy images of the early Apollo and Soyuz missions. I came up with the initial idea of someone finding proof of life on Mars. This gave glimpses to our own past, but also to a deadly secret. Most of the time, I tend to have one line pop into my head, and that is the Genesis of a lot of my stories. Prime Directive was no different.

Originally called ‘The Entity’, there’s a line in an early exchange with ‘IT’, which I repeated to my wife so much, that she told me to shut up. There might have been a few more swear words in there somewhere. So I thought what the hey, instead of writing a short story, I’d write a novella instead. In the middle of writing a novel, about something completely different. Yeah…

I’m quite lucky that once I am in the zone, I can write pretty quickly. Typically, whilst I got off to a flyer, I got bogged down in the detail. As I don’t plan, any of it, I write in the evening, then spend the next day mulling over what happens next, and what I’ve written. The amount of times I realised that I’d done something which didn’t match a character’s motivations, or something which I’d already countered, was high. Such is the life of a pantser. It took me seventeen days to write it, and as soon as I was done, I put it aside, and finished up Deadlock.

I had a nagging doubt that something was wrong about it though, and the first read back proved it. When Dana makes her discovery, there was no real sense of adventure or intrigue. Plus, a little later on, when the tension is being ratcheted up, it just felt flat. Despite Debbie reading it, and enjoying it, I knew that there was still work to do. After some thought, I hit upon the setup which is in the book now. I feel that it bolsters the sense of history that is uncovered, and makes it a little more disturbing.

Anyway, whereas before, I was a bit unsure about putting it out before Hexagram, I am now more than happy with how it has turned out. Is it going to change the world of literature? No. It’s not supposed to. I’m a storyteller, not a literary titan. What Prime Directive is, is an improved version of the story that was in my mind first off, and that is something I’m proud of.

I hope you enjoy(ed) it, as always, let me know what you thought of it.

7 May 2016