Professor Simon Woodward, from Periodic Videos, discovers that if you drop a few ml of Trimethylaluminium from a syringe onto a glass plate, this is what happens the second it touches normal air!
Have you discovered that you cannot publish book one in a series, until book two is written and all the details are formed coherently? Or is is just me who writes back to front, then has to go back to book one to fix mistakes, multiple times? For some of you, this post may be a cautionary tale on research and book publication expectations.
Lisa Kohn asked me to write a post on my writing process and I was honoured, but declined. It wouldn’t be much of a post. It would simply contain these words: “I binge write and then spend months fixing my boo boos, as I didn’t complete all the background research by the time the story gushed forth. I hope to streamline this chaos in the future.”
It is incredibly easy to paint myself into corners with plot and character arcs. It’s even easier when I am world building. I can spend a great deal of time researching, researching, researching and still miss that one sliver of information which will trip me up. (I’m sure historical novelists grapple with this too.) Though, there is still so much to be discovered scientifically, maybe, in the future, I will be the one who was right? Who knows?
I have been trying to make a planet glow with a soft, golden hue. So I took Saturn as a model and exchanged its ice rings for rock rings, which have small chunks of gold embedded in them. The sun hits the rings, the gold reflects onto the surface. It’s simple, right? All the gold on Earth comes from meteorite strikes on the planet. Gold is not naturally produced on Earth. Just leave the gold in it’s rocky celestial homes, it glitters and I’m done. Easy!
I checked the astronomy and it seemed fine… then I got distracted by the Periodic Videos on Youtube and discovered a major flaw in my plan. The gold in meteorites or astroids is not found in chunks big enough to create a glow. Rocks only contain tiny trace fragments of gold, which to make matters worse, are also far more likely to be embedded inside, not sticking out. In other words, no self-respecting meteorite trails gold dust through space. It’s tacky to flaunt your wealth. I can only make my plan work if I make it far more subtle and use a fair whack of poetic licence. The guesswork is, how much licence is too much?
Dr Sheldon Cooper would be disgusted with me. Being called derivative would be the least of the issues he’d expound upon. ;-)
I have studied astronomy and geology, never in my wildest dreams did I think to double check any of my science with chemistry! I didn’t take that subject at school and I am clueless. Once I add chemistry in, writing gets much more complex. I had also built in a layer of gas in the planet’s atmosphere to stop the gold hue being blinding, then watched the Trimethylaluminium video (image above) and realised that if I didn’t get the gas choice right, my pretty sky with gold flecks peeking through the blue, was more likely to become “come on baby, light my fire,” KABOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Darn it! That layer was eliminated before it took out the planet. At least I saved lives.
Many areas of astronomy are theories, even though the science is presented as fact. You have to dig to find out what is substantiated and what isn’t. There is room for invention: at least until they can set their theories in stone. (Pun not intended!) I had no idea that they can make anti-matter in the form of molecules. I thought that was just Star Trek, but it’s real. I’m learning. I know that if I get the science close enough, the work should be sufficiently plausible to be acceptable to most readers. The best I can do is try and research across as many scientific disciplines and sources as I can, which is great as it means that I will also come up with more ideas (or problems). However it also means, my publication process time is significantly expanded and I need to learn to deal with that and be patient.
So for those of you who have shown interest in when The Dragon Tree is coming out, the answer is, I have no idea. I have to sort out book two or I am sunk! At the moment I have to find an easily harvestable energy source which is eco-friendly. Setting aside the saga of the Hindenberg, I know from astronomy that hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the cosmos, so I am exploring that. Just keep the hydrogen away from flames and oxygen and secure it properly. How hard can it be? After the gold discovery, I am betting it is harder than I think. Imagine the reaction below on a mass scale, plus the saga of hydrogen storage…
So, what do you do to stop your writing from painting you into a corner and leading to horrendous book reviews? I’d love to hear about your adventures in the comments.
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