I have in the past several months taken on a new writing project. It’s actually a new novel. I had decided I had become bored with the old mystery series I was working on and wanted to try something new. Working on a novel is hard enough and I had a brilliant new idea for a novel that I knew I was very passionate about. It’s been a bit of work to get going on it, but given the type of novel it is all I’ve been doing so far with it is doing research.
I have already elaborated on my novel idea (no pun intended) in an old blog post: Combining My Autistic Advocacy and Writing. Basically, I’m talking about setting a novel set in a world where the majority in that world is autistic, a world where people who would be characterised as being autistic in this world are in the vast majority and those who aren’t are the ones who are labeled as disabled. Such an idea draws from the social model of disability, that disability is defined in terms of society’s norms rather than something intrinsic to the individual. While it is a philosophical and psychological debate about how much this idea is true and may depend on what disabilities we’re talking about, I do believe it is largely true for autistics. And so I’m writing a novel about it.
The writing process for this book has been greatly different than the previous novels I have written. The previous novels were set on planet Earth in a very normal setting, given that they were purely mystery novels I had written for pleasure. All that was required was to come up with a plot, make a few characters, and then I sat down to write drafts after drafts (all this, of course, was hard work regardless). The autism novel I’m not writing, however, requires a completely different approach (or a different approach that works for me).
I can’t just make up a plot line and write it. That’s next to impossible in this scenario. The setting isn’t on Earth. It is in a completely different imaginative world. It not only requires me to make up characters, it also requires me to be even more imaginative and actually make up an entirely new world, details and all. Of course some writers can somehow write speculative fiction without knowing all of this beforehand and let the details fill themselves in as they write. I don’t think that’s me, however. For me, I have to come up with a lot of the details in such a world beforehand. I need the structure. I find it’ll give me confidence and it’ll be easier to write realistically about such a world once I actually get down to writing the novel itself. Given all this, I wouldn’t be surprised if it would be a year or two before I actually start to actually write the novel itself (especially given I’m doing all of this on the side as a graduate student in math). And given that I’m thinking of making this book the start of a series means that it may even be several years before anyone let alone a publisher takes a look at it. That doesn’t really bother me though. I plan to be a graduate student for several more years so I’m in no hurry to try to get published again.
I will admit I do miss the old method of just going right into the novel and writing scenes and all that though. But I’m also finding the new method rewarding in its own sense as well. It requires a lot of research up front, which so far is really intriguing me. So what kind of research have I been doing? Basically I’ve been doing two kinds of research. The first is actually research autism and making sure I have a clear understanding of as much as I can of what it entails. I am after all only one example of someone who is autistic and one at the higher end at that so I want to make sure my world is appreciative of as much of everyone on the autism spectrum as possible. The other kind of research I’m doing is philosophical research as I want to make sure my autism novels have a lot of deep philosophical ideas in them. I’m reading up on such topics as the philosophy of disability. I have gotten a few books out of the university library and am reading through them. So far I really like what I’m reading and there are even some books that concern themselves specifically with philosophy of autism specifically.
It’s a long hard process I will admit. Like with any serious writing project, there are parts that you enjoy and parts that you hate. But I’m sure if I persevere and go through with this new project it will be worth it and will bring its own rewards right through to the very end.