I’ve never tried my hand at cyberpunk before. I think watching Ghost in the Shell and Akira got me started me off. Or was it reading Anthony Vicino’s two cyberpunk books? Or my disappointment with Neuromancer that made me wonder what my ideal cyberpunk book actually looked like? I don’t know. I just had hacking, futuristic cities, brain-wiping and the thought of two friends going through a hellish military punishment together on my brain, when I sat down on November 1st. And I went to Berlin recently. Some wires got crossed there while I thought about this story.
Here’s a first-draft blurb for Citizen Erased:
‘At sixteen, Timo meets Cade – an exchange student from one of the wealthiest families in the New Federation. Their first night of fun together, hacking the New Berlin cybersphere, begins a lifelong friendship. Fourteen years later, the pair of them go down for the biggest cyber-heist the world has ever seen: one trillion dollars in tax avoidance money, hidden in the New Fed bank by a powerful organisation known as the Founding Twelve.
There’s only one punishment for getting on the wrong side of these guys: six years service in The Forlorn Hope – a regiment sent to re-take Earth from alien invaders. These soldiers are supposed to have their minds wiped clean, and new personalities installed before bootcamp. When the procedure doesn’t work on Timo and nobody seems to notice, he has to find a way off Earth so he can get Cade back, and have his revenge on Skylar – Cade’s girlfriend, who foiled their heist as a secret police rat. When a memory-wiped Cade turns up as Timo’s new commanding officer, and doesn’t want to hear his story, Timo must do battle with both cybernetic aliens and an imposter in his friend’s body to survive.’
* * *
So, I’ve got 55,000 words of this book. I know how I want it to end. It’s based around three major action scenes that last a long time, and I’ve only the 3rd left to write. This is a short book, by my standards. Yes, there’s a sequel already in my head, and possibly more books in this world after that. But I’ve never been so glad of a project taking off so quickly and easily.
I spent most of yesterday evening reading and editing my NaNo words. I got echoes of all my other books when I did it, yet this one feels so different. None of my other books have a three part structure based around war action, for a start. Fighter’s Defiance has an action based pace, but first the reader has to get past Fighter’s Mark which despite its scenes of violence is really one great build-up book for its sequel. Citizen Erased jumps right in. The flashback scenes are more selected, briefer, and act as a pause between the action, unlike the Talent Show books where the reader gets (literally) hours of history lessons.
I feel like I got all this by forcing myself to write faster. Okay, so my other two NaNo projects became those more dense, padded books, but I already knew they were going to. I won NaNo with those precisely because of that style. This time I made myself write a fast, largely unpadded narrative that drove through everything quickly. Every time I found a section that felt like the Talent Show kind of narrative, I gutted it, with this great relieving feeling of ‘Been there, not going there this time.’
Is it a better book? Have I improved? I honestly don’t know; change isn’t always improvement and a reader who likes one style might not like the other. All I know is that it’s good to know I’ve got something I like as much as this book as quickly as this. Spending the last seven years in the Carnathia/Earth world tweaking every fine detail and writing loads of wordcount heavy drafts was really starting to wear me down.
At this moment in time, Talent Show Book 3 is finished and about to go to betas. It needs one more book (I bloody hope!) for me to finish what’s now nearly an eight year war of writing, fought with mostly myself. Thing is, it might be a while until I start writing it. Citizen Erased has brought me something I’m far more excited by right now.