I stumbled across the writing of Sheila Kelly (aka SL Viehl, Gena Gale, Jessica Hall, Rebecca Kelly and Lynn Viehl) about eleven years ago with the publication of her first novel, STARDOC. I was looking for a the work of a current writer to replace one of my favorite kind of science fiction – human doctors in a space hospital working on aliens. I discovered this genre as an adolescent in Alan E. Nourse’s STAR SURGEON, followed it into James White’s SECTOR GENERAL books and A.M. Lightner’s DOCTOR TO THE GALAXY. S.L. Viehl’s books satisfied that itch – but I learned about a year ago that she is so much more than just a “space hospital” writer! The bits of writing advice in this new ten part series are used with her permission. This one is from:
I’ve currently reached this point in the book I’m working on, OMNIVORE’S DEBT.
It’s been several weeks since I worked on it, but that was because of something an online writers group (which I belonged to until it ended a few days ago...) dubbed The Call Of OTOGU, or The Call Of Other Things Of Greater Urgency. I had a request for a story rewrite from an anthology editor and I needed to polish a few stories for submission.
At any rate, I think I may experiment with this. In fact, I’m GOING to try it.
I don’t have the trouble SL Viehl has with endings. They’ve always seemed to work themselves out. Though I have always worked from an outline and knew where I was going to end, that outline was NEVER set in stone. It was an organic thing that could change with a twist in the plot. Nevertheless, there came a point at which “what has gone on before” caused the initially fluid ending to freeze into a solid sculpture. I suppose that’s what SL Viehl means when she talks about organic writers.
In a completely different vein, I sent in an application to be a volunteer on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Andre Norton Award Committee. Whether you knew who Andre Norton was or whether you’ve ever read any of her work, know that she was with Robert A. Heinlein, John Christopher, Alan E. Nourse, Lester del Rey, Poul Anderson, Ben Bova, Donald A. Wollheim and others.
What I didn’t know until I was an adult, is that Andre Norton was a GIRL! Mary Alice Norton loved writing science fiction, but the market in those days was to boys. Her editor felt that he name needed to be more ambiguous, so she legally changed her name to Andre Alice Norton.
Why the history? I’m thinking of changing my nom de plume as well, though in the early years of the 21st Century, I’m thinking of changing it to something more feminine, like Bret James or Bret Stewart (one of my best friends in adolescence was Brett Sorensen); or possibly Greer Stewart; Kieran James; Taylor Stewart or Taylor James; Devon James or Devon Stewart – all in order to court the more lucrative market for young women.
Last of all, I’d like to offer this last bit of advice from SL Viehl: “The theory I've heard that makes the most sense to me about how we acquire these story instincts is saturation via constant exposure. Writers read and write so much that we could be imprinting ourselves with innumerable bits of data that go on to form and guide our choices.”
Choices – in writing as in life – is what it is ALL about. Making the wrong choice in a story can slam you up against a dead end wall or allow yourself to paint yourself into a corner.
So, with that bizarre mix of writing advice…good day.