THIS is what Viable Paradise did for me: Or, how Steven Brust saved my novel

So I’ve been working on this damned book for a while.  And while I had the basics of a good story, there were issues.  Even before I went to Viable Paradise, I knew the story had a glaring plot hole.  I kept working, on the theory that I’d be able to plug the hole eventually, but even when I got back from VP, no solution had presented itself.

Back when I was at VP, a comment from Elizabeth Bear about my manuscript prompted a mindstorm of thought that eventually lead to a total revamp of the communications technology of my protagonist and his society.

A couple of days ago, ruminating on that particular rabbit hole experience opened up a new story element I think will improve the story.  But I still couldn’t  figure out my plot hole, which was big, as it spoke to the motivation behind the entire story.  In essence, and I’m being cagey because I don’t want to give stuff away here, the main antagonist’s actions didn’t make sense. Why do what they did to humanity when it would be far simpler to just destroy the planet from orbit and move on?

Anyway, I was noodling through the plot points as they will be rewritten.  And I ran into the plot hole again.  And there was great gnashing of teeth in the land.

And then LO! The voice of Steve “With a Hat” Brust–or, if you prefer, Steven frelling Brust–came to me, a remembered line from VP: “If you’re stuck on where the story goes next, get on at Need and go all the way to Can’t.”  I might not have that right; but the gist is correct.

And goddamn if that didn’t do the trick.  I know why they did it.  I know what that means for the characters.  I know what it means for the human race.  And I know what it means for the second book, if such a thing ever comes to pass.  And the third, for that matter.

And I cannot wait to get writing on that thing.  But first: my Thursday story needs to be revised.  See ya!


About Michael Johnston

Father of a fifth grader, high school English teacher, writer. Forty-six years old and feeling almost every bit of it on some days, and not a bit of it on others. Based in Sacramento, California, USA
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3 Responses to THIS is what Viable Paradise did for me: Or, how Steven Brust saved my novel

  1. Coral says:

    I love that advice from Steve! It’s helped me out of a jam already this week too. 🙂

    Glad you’re unstuck. Write lots of words.

  2. That’s awesome. I love the that, where the whole thing just snaps together at once like a tent pole. Sometimes I think my subconscious just watches in amusement as I flail my way through a draft before giving me the actual solution.

  3. Those are the magical, serendipitous moments that make this shit we do worth it.

    And Steve is a wise guy. In all senses of the word 😉

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