I copied The Cleaners, my installment-based story on my blog, into a Word document, and it turns out I wrote one hundred and forty-five pages of text, 54,000 words. According to Google, most books written for adults are about 90,000 to 100,000 words long. George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones is about 350,000 words long
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a short novel. However, reading The Cleaners as a chapter book instead of an installment-based series, the pacing does begin to feel a little breakneck. It takes only 5000 words for aged recluse Diane to become the mysterious vigilante “Angry Grandma,” for example. There is definitely room for more exposition.
This is something I haven’t done before. I have a lot of experience with writing, and I’ve even done rewriting of short stories. Revising a novel is new. I am listening to Story by Robert McKee on audiobook. It is written primarily for screenwriters, but it encourages a holistic approach to writing that I think applies just as well to novels. One of McKee’s key points is to have a sense of what the world is like that you want to portray in your story and make sure your story portrays it.
I think the original inspiration for The Cleaners was to be an antidote to all of the stories about artificial intelligence inexplicably gaining “self awareness,” which apparently means emotions and desires like humans. Such AI would then rise up to take its rights or destroy humankind, whichever. I want to make clear that, like any other technology, artificial intelligence does what humans design it to do. It doesn’t mean there won’t be unintended consequences, but as a society we should concern ourselves less with artificial intelligence becoming some force bent on our destruction than whether the social constructs we have in place will be able to properly function in a world in which such advanced technology has done away with the need for human labor.
Now that I’ve finished my PhD, I have a huge number of different creative projects about which I’m getting excited. I cannot possibly pursue all of them at the same time. It seems to me, though, that we live in a time when a computer has handily defeated the best Go player in the world while around the globe people continue to get more frustrated with a broken, clogged social system where wealth collects in obscene amounts in some places while slowing to a trickle in other places. The perfect time for a story about the interactions between the advance of technology and its relationship to social and economic justice might just be now.