On “Joyride”

by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

I did not expect to write “Joyride” [on sale in the November/December issue now]. I was working on a very long novel in my Diving universe. I couldn’t find a way into the novel. By that, I mean, I would start it, and I would write with a lot of enthusiasm, and then, slowly, the enthusiasm would drain. I would get to the point where I couldn’t write any further.

Each time, I would pick different characters and a different starting point in the story. It didn’t matter. As I wrote, the story would falter.

Then Nadim Crowe walked into the novel. In the book, he’s an adult. And in each draft, he would hint at this horrible thing that had happened to him in his youth. This thing had an impact on his entire life.

Finally, I got annoyed at him. (My characters are often more real to me than actual people.) I gave up and gave in, asking him to tell me what really happened when he was a kid.

He did. And that became “Joyride.”

When I sent Sheila Williams the novella, I didn’t think the novella would be part of the novel at all. I didn’t think it was related to the story of the novel. Turns out I was wrong. But I didn’t know that for months and months.

The novel, by the way, is very long. It’s called The Renegat—and some of you who have read Asimov’s regularly remember “The Rescue of the Renegat” from the January/February 2018 issue. That story is also part of the new book, but again, I didn’t know it at the time I wrote it.

As you can probably tell, I lie to myself a lot when I write. I tell myself things like: This is just for you; no one else will read it. Or, this is going to be easy. Or, this is a completely standalone story set in the far edge of the Diving universe.

Yeah, right. None of that is true.

For example, I’ve always known “The Spires of Denon,” which was in the April/May issue of Asimov’s in 2009 was part of the Diving universe. But I didn’t know how the novella actually connected to the universe until I wrote the “The Rescue of the Renegat.” At that point, though, Spires was just a piece of information for me, not a part of the story at all.

I just finished the story that connects those two novellas, and fortunately, Sheila picked that one up too. It’s called “Escaping Amnthra,” and will appear in a future issue of Asimov’s.

As you can probably tell by now, my mind is a hodgepodge of half-finished stories and little side trails that I want to follow. I don’t do traditional worldbuilding—at least as it’s taught in college MFA courses. I don’t write a bible. I don’t do a character list (until I need one; then I reverse engineer it). I don’t do an outline. I don’t make a timeline (until I need it; then I reverse engineer it).

Professors teach writers to do all of that ahead of time. I did, for some of the writing classes I took in college. I also tried various methods as I learned how to become a fiction writer.

I slowly realized that if I did all of that worldbuilding and character stuff before writing the story, I had no interest in writing the story. The great fun of writing, for me anyway, is the mystery of it all. Why did Crowe say that what happened in his past had an impact on his entire life? Why did the Spires of Denon exist? What really happened to the Renegat?

If I were a planner, I would know all of that before I started.

If I were a planner, I wouldn’t be a writer.

I go on journeys of discovery just like the readers do.

That’s what makes writing fun for me. And that’s why I have so many off-shoot novellas from my major series—and so many stories that could be novels someday. Because my brain is exploring, and I’m discovering, and I’m intrigued.

Just as I hope you will be.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch inadvertently took a few months off writing for a move from the Oregon Coast to Las Vegas. She always seems to pick extremes—from a rainy coastal environment to a sunny desert. Kris is enjoying the sunshine more than she expected. Her recent publications include Searching for the Fleet, a Diving novel, that appeared in September. “Joyride” is part of an as-yet-untitled side novel set in the Diving universe, but without the regular characters. Kris tells us she often writes stories to explain things to herself. This time, she had to explain an entire world. For updates on her work, and a free short story every Monday, go to kriswrites.com.

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