RTW: Novel (or WIP) Love List

Today’s Road Trip Wednesday looks like one that might help me refocus my dissipated attention on my current literary enterprise (a.k.a., my Work In Progress). The question posed by the writers at YA Highway comes from an idea author Stephanie Perkins discussed on Natalie Whipple’s blog: Love Lists. What’s a love list? Here’s Stephanie’s description:

Whenever I begin a new project, I also begin a list called “What I Love About This Story.” I start by writing down those first ideas that sparked the fires of my mind, and then I add more ideas to it as I discover them during my push through early drafts.

So this week’s question is:

What is your novel’s “Love List”?

My current WIP is about a teenage alien who winds up in Victorian London. She got there by accident, and needs electricity to re-power her travel device and get home. But domestic electricity is still a thing of the future. And she fears she’s left her best friend in trouble back in her own time, so she has to find a way back quickly. To make matters worse, my alien’s race is not known for their technological skill–they’re still impressed with DVD players!

That’s the basic premise. So what did I like about this story when I first started developing the idea? Here’s my initial list:

  • Teenage alien
  • Time travel
  • Victorian era/Victorian science
  • Aliens who aren’t smarter than Earth people
  • Alien teenage “voice”

It’s a short list, but this is what started me off on the story. I must admit, I’m not a big fan of the Victorian period (or I wasn’t when I started), but what I liked about it with regard to this story was that it was a time of discovery and enormous scientific enterprise. My MC is not very scientifically-minded, so these Victorians are, in many ways, more knowledgeable than her about these things. And given she already has a great respect for Earth technology, I think this sets up an interesting situation that I don’t often see in sci-fi. The story is first person, so another interesting challenge is writing from a female alien’s perspective. I struggled with this to begin with, but I think I’m getting closer to her voice. It’ll probably take a couple of drafts to nail it, though.

There’s my short list. What’s on the love list for your novel (assuming you’re writing one)? It can be short like mine, or much longer. Check out the YA Highway article for today, and participate by writing a blog post on the subject and commenting on the YA Highway article with a link.

55 Responses to RTW: Novel (or WIP) Love List

  1. ” I’m not a big fan of the Victorian period (or I wasn’t when I started)” Oooh, Colin, you’ve intrigued me there. If you’re not crazy about the era, is there another era you’re more passionate about? Swapping the time period could be a way to help re-enthuse you with the story.

    I don’t envy you for trying to nail down an alien voice, that sounds tough. But you’ll get it! My character voices tend to change completely between first and final draft.

    When I got frustrated with REBEL edits I’d occasionally swap the setting/genre from contemporary YA urban fantasy to futuristic sci fi. Seeing it from a different angle helped me clear up a few things, like how to explain fantasy roles in realistic terms.

    • When I was first developing the story, I thought medieval, because that was always my favorite period of history (particularly British history) growing up. But as I thought more about *how* she ends up time traveling in the first place, and why she accidentally ended up in the past, it became clear to me that medieval wasn’t going to work, and, in fact, the Victorian era–particularly the late Victorian era–worked much better with the plot. And as I’ve researched the period, I couldn’t imagine the story happening at any other time. It really is ideal. So that’s why I said I wasn’t a fan of the Victorian period *to start with.* It’s grown on me. Particularly with the characters there, especially a precocious fifteen-year-old girl who befriends our alien hero. Again, perfect for the period.

      In a way, then, you’re right. Changing the setting from medieval to Victorian really did help kick the story off the ground in the beginning. What I need now, though, are RTWs like this one, and talking about the story like this with people like you… that’s what helps re-ignite my passion for the story. So, thanks, Emma! :D

      • Ah, now it makes sense.

        I’m glad you’ve fallen in love with the setting, and of course I’m excited that RTW is relighting your passion for the story. Looking forward to hearing about your progress soon! :D

  2. I LOVE this list, Colin. You’ve mentioned this story before, and every time you do I’m even more interested! What a fantastic premise. :) Can’t wait to read it one day!

  3. Awesome! You really got my attention with these two:
    Victorian era/Victorian science
    Aliens who aren’t smarter than Earth people
    I’d love to see how those come together!

  4. Strrange Colin! Sounds semi-similar (the closest yet furtherest possible way) to my current WIP! I love your list though… it sounds like this will be a really interesting story, an alien in Victorian times! Awesome!

    • Thanks, Samantha! When I first had the idea, I thought “someone must have done this before!” The closest I could think of was THE WAR OF THE WORLDS by H.G. Wells. But I’m pretty sure those aliens didn’t spend their weekends shoe shopping… :)

  5. Yay Victorian era! I love that era but I’ve recently become more fascinated with Edwardian times.

    If the aliens are impressed by DVD players, I’m kind of curious what would happen if they encountered the Internet.

    • How’s this for some backstory to a novel that hasn’t even been finished yet: Certain of these aliens make excursions to Earth, fact-finding, getting ideas, trying to learn new technology. So, they’ve heard about “the internet”–but a lot of them think it’s an urban myth. I mean, using your computer to talk to people anywhere on the planet? Being able to look up anything about anyone? Yeah, it would freak them out to find out it’s true. :)

  6. Juliana Haygert

    Oh, this is different: “Aliens who aren’t smarter than Earth people” … nice! And time travel is a weak spot for me as I have a WIP that features time travel ;)
    And alien teenage voice, bah, I want to see that!
    Great list, Colin.

    • Thanks, Juliana. The “aliens who aren’t smarter than Earth people” was a big factor for me. So much sci-fi is based on the premise that we’re the intellectual pond scum of the universe. But what if, at least for one race of aliens, that wasn’t the case? And being a bit of a history buff, the temptation to mix that with some time travel was too hard to resist! :)

  7. Aliens and Victorian England…great combo.

  8. I love the idea of aliens that aren’t smarter than us. Very cool. Aliens in the Victorian era is such an amazing hook!

  9. This sounds so intriguing – I’d love just a teensy bit more detail. Ahem. Maybe a few more items to tease us?

  10. Yes, Colin, please go and finish that book! :-) It sounds great and I want to hear the Alien´s teenage voice! :D

    • Thanks, Elodie. I really do appreciate all this encouragement, guys. It really does help motivate me to finish the story. It’s not that I’m bored with it, it’s just other things get in the way, and I don’t make the time for the novel. And I really need to.

  11. Ditton on Victorian times. Like you, it’s not my favourite – at least my A*Level History course didn’t make my favourite – but there’s so much change in that period that’s transformed society so much I have to admire it and understand how important it’s been.

    I’m getting to know your novel well now from the little snippets you’ve given us now and again. I’d read this. It’s nice to see an alien visitor who isn’t bent on taking us over. I do feel aliens have a big problem with that in a lot of sci-fi. I think the genre likes to show us that we’re not as advanced as we like to think. Yay for nice, pleasant Pearl. :)

    • Wow! I’m impressed someone’s keeping track of all the snippets I’ve left lying around! Thanks, Robin–that’s really encouraging. :) Pearl certainly is a nice alien… but not all of her people are as nice, as we shall see… :)

  12. You had me at time travel!

  13. I remember when you posted that story about the alien who comes to earth and doesn’t understand modern technology and I thought then as I do now that I really want to read a novel in which aliens aren’t smarter than humans. So I was all smiles when I saw that on your list.

    • Wow!! You remembered that story?! I’m so impressed, and humbled! Thanks, Tracey. Okay, I really need to get on with this novel… :)

  14. Let me just say that I am absolutely in love with your novel after just this post. It just sounds so original and intriguing. I already want to know what happens with your alien protagonist. And in your alien’s defense, a friend of mine (who’s 20 and grew up in Holland) is still impressed when I skip the previews on a DVD.

    • Thank you so much, Samantha! :) Let me just say that Pearl, my alien protagonist, is in for quite an adventure. Culture shock doesn’t even begin to describe it! :)

  15. I’m going to have to echo everyone else on here. I am seriously interested in this combination of Victorian era science and aliens. I would love to see that character try to navigate the era and find solutions to their problems.

    • Thanks, Nickie. All these positive comments really help encourage me to get on with it. And yes, Pearl, my young alien, has some major problems to solve, not least of which is the fact that she is as far removed from her own sense of normality as she can possibly be. She does find some sort-of help, but… well, let’s just say it’s not all easy-going for her. :)

  16. Ohhhh, time travel and aliens with a “teen” voice? Love. :) And the fact they’re not smarter than us? Phew!

  17. Your list has definitely made me want to know more. And…why is that in most stories the aliens are smarter than the humans? I’m sure that if I ever met an alien I would know more about this planet than they do. I mean, at least I would know not to run out of gas so far away from home…

    • Cool, Tyrese! I’m glad this has piqued your interest. :) In defense of my alien, she didn’t know she would run out of power. And the trip was a bit impulsive… you know how teenagers are… :)

  18. Can I just say how much I love the how the Aliens aren’t as evolved as Earthlings. I love it. It’s hilarious. Thanks for sharing. :D

    • Thank you, Leslie! The whole “Earth people are stupid” thing bothered me for a long time, which is why I wanted my first foray into anything remotely sci-fi to go a different direction. :)

  19. I’m really intrigued by this story, Colin, and I really respect you for choosing a time period you’re not even that crazy about. What an amazing way to challenge yourself! Haven’t had time to update my blog recently, but I have so enjoyed reading everyone else’s comments! I can so relate to this week’s topic, as my WIP right now is totally focused on real-life issues I’m coping with. I’ve created a character who’s dealing with those issues much more creatively than I am, and I’m finding it extraordinarily therapeutic.

    • Thanks, Amy. I try to let myself go with the story, rather than try to make the story fit my comfort zone. Sometimes that creates problems for myself, but I’m up for the challenge!

      I’m glad your writing is giving you an outlet for working out issues. Isn’t it cool that writing can do that? :)

  20. Stephanie Allen

    I’m a HUGE fan of the Victorian era, so I’m glad to hear (er…read) that it’s been growing on you. Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve said this already, but the premise for your WIP sounds so interesting! Good luck with it, because while I’m not usually into aliens, this one sounds like something I would read :)

    • Thanks, Stephanie. I’m hoping it will be of interest to those that don’t usually read sci-fi, or YA, or historical. We’ll see. :)

  21. Victorian era + aliens = win! Sounds like a fun read.

  22. I am very, very intrigued by the “alien teenage voice.” Every aspect of this project sounds so cool, Colin!

  23. “Aliens who aren’t smarter than Earth people.” Love that! TI always wondered why there was the assumption that aliens coming to Earth would be from a culture vastly advanced in every way.

  24. I’m not typically a historical fiction fan, but WHOA. I would read this one!

  25. I really like the sound of your story, Colin! Can’t wait until it’s in book form so I can buy and read it!

  26. I love the premise of your book! I agree that the alien not more technologically advanced than Earth is not commonly seen in scifi and I love that aspect. You’ve got a lot of great elements here! Hope to pick it up at a store and read it one day.

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