Ministry of Prose: making words work for your business

One in a semi-regular series of ponderings, musings and contemplations on the interaction of words and psychology in business.

Words of a different kind

March 2018

It's rewarding to be able to write for a living. It's the closest one can get, outside of academia and some corporate R&D departments, to being paid for the contents of one's mind. I don't always enjoy writing about technology, because some of the sub-topics aren't hugely interesting to me, but I never lose sight of the fact that I'm lucky to be able to make a living this way. It gives me the freedom to work just about anywhere in the world, on a schedule that suits me.

But I have a guilty secret. I'd rather be writing about spaceships.

Not just spaceships, though: science fiction and fantasy in general. It's a genre that's hooked me ever since I was old enough to read, after which I spent the majority of my free time with my nose firmly ensconced in books about other worlds.

A few years ago I wrote some short stories for, and with, my daughters. Some of them were pretty good. Last year I wrote the first few chapters of a space-based science fiction novel and showed it to friends, family members and acquaintances. Their feedback was positive, but I had to take a break from writing it due to the move to Berlin.

For reasons of insane German bureaucracy (don't ask; Kafkaesque doesn't even begin to cover it) I have to take an enforced sabbatical from paid work for a month or two. Since I can't just twiddle my thumbs during that time, I've decided to publish my science fiction novel online.

I'm self-publishing it on my own website. I write the chapters using some of my vintage writing tools (see other blog posts here), in fact the majority of the book so far has been written on a Psion 5mx. I then transfer the text to my Linux PC, import it into NoteCase, export as HTML, run a script that tweaks a few things to my satisfaction, and publish it via rsync over ssh. I've already been called an 'adorable retro-dork' for this somewhat archaic workflow, but it works for me.

I don't want to be distracted by any thought of revenue from this project. It may or may not make money one day but that's really not the point. My goal is simply to write a good piece of science fiction, one that I enjoy writing and would, if I were someone else like me, enjoy reading. I can't do that if I'm busy worrying about clicks, marketing, traffic, sales, expenses, commission and other metrics.

So my novel is free to read online, with one new chapter published every Sunday. At the time of writing I'm working my way through chapter seven, though only chapters one and two have been published so far. I need that buffer for editing, revising and continuity checks.

The novel is called Missing Planet and you can read it here. I hope you enjoy it.

Alex Cruickshank has been a professional writer since 1994 and is currently trying to recall Einstein's equations regarding relativistic time dilation.

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