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So, I started a new novel on Monday and so far, so good; the writing is coming along nicely and it’ll be nice to keep it coming at this clip. For me, the major problem is not writer’s block or plot issues or anything structural involving the novel; I generally don’t have problems with those once I start, and with this new novel, thankfully, I didn’t have any real issues starting.

No, the problem is that the Internet is an attractive nuisance. And not just in the sense of that it distracts me when I need to be writing. No, as I get older, I find that actually plugging into it before I do any novel writing scrambles my brain enough to make it hard to get any appreciable progress made for the day. I think this is a combination of me getting older and the Internet just plain doing a better job of angrying up the blood or otherwise distracting me. I also think it also has to do with a certain amount of habituation, i.e., if I’m checking email, by brain just goes “Oh, we’re on the Internet now,” and just fires up those parts of my brain that work on the Internet. These do not, by and large, correspond to the novel writing parts of my brain.

How to deal with this? Well, I’ve made a new rule, which really isn’t a new rule, but kind of an update rule. And the rule is: before 2,000 words or noon, whichever comes first, no Internet at all. No blog, no Twitter, no Facebook, no email, no checking the news. When I sit down at the computer (usually around 8am), I disconnect it from the network. I leave the cell phone in the other room (and unless you’re my wife, daughter, editor or agent, if you call the landline, it’s not going to get picked up, either). No Internet. At all.

Now, this is similar to the rule I had before, which was no Internet while I was writing. The change is that previously when I woke up, I’d check email and Twitter and what have you, or before I started writing on the novel I might put up a blog post or a Big Idea piece. And I’ve found I can’t really do that anymore — off my brain will go, into a non-novel-writing mode. So: No Internet. At all.

And, well. So far, it’s working swell. The words are flowing, the plot is bubbling along, the characters are quipping and so and so forth, and when I get to about the 2k mark (or noon, whichever comes first), I pack it in for the day and do other things. The side effect, at least so far, is then I slide right into the other tasks pretty happily and efficiently, knowing that the thing I really have to do, i.e., writing on the novels, is already done for the day and not hanging over my head.

That said, I don’t want to get too excited, as it’s two days in to this particular novel writing session. There’s still lots of time to me to screw up my groove. But on the other hand, the more you do something, the easier it gets to do it. Also, and unsurprisingly, the Internet seems to get along just fine without me when I’m not there, which is a thing my feeder-bar subconscious wants to deny. Surprise! I’m just not a big deal on the Internet! Well, I’ll get over that one day, I suppose.

In any event: Hey, I’m writing a novel. Again. Let’s see how this one goes.

The Big Idea: Eric James Stone

Welcome to the first Big Idea of 2016! And while the title of Eric James Stone’s novel promises that it will be Unforgettable, Stone asks an opposing question: If you wanted to make a character who was destined to be forgotten, how would you do it, science fictionally speaking?

ERIC JAMES STONE:

When I came up with the idea of a hero who couldn’t be remembered after he was gone, I needed an explanation for what caused that effect.

I’ve had several stories published in Analog Science Fiction & Fact, a market that offers mainly hard science fiction, so I can come up with scientifically rigorous explanations for various story elements. But Unforgettable was not intended to be hard science fiction — it was really more of a superhero novel, albeit with a rather weird superpower.

I toyed with a biological explanation involving pheromones, but eventually decided to use quantum physics.  I’ve always been fascinated by some of the weirder aspects of quantum mechanics, like superposition and wave function collapse. My wife is a high school physics teacher. Before we met for our first date, I told her she would recognize me because I would be wearing a tee-shirt with a physics joke on it. She said, “OK, but if it isn’t funny, I’m leaving.” The tee-shirt showed a wanted poster with a picture of a cat, and it read “Wanted: Dead & Alive — Schrödinger’s Cat.” (Fortunately, she found that funny enough that she didn’t leave.)

I figure most readers of this blog are familiar with the Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment (or are capable of looking it up on Wikipedia), so I won’t detail it here. Suffice to say that before the experimenter opens the box, the cat exists in a superposition of aliveness and deadness. After the experimenter opens the box, the probability wave function collapses, and the experimenter sees either a dead cat or a live (and probably very annoyed) cat.

However — and this is where we go beyond the original thought experiment — outside the lab is the experimenter’s colleague. From the colleague’s point of view, the cat’s aliveness is still in superposition, but the experimenter’s mind could also be said to exist in a superposition of two possibilities: having seen a dead cat and having seen a live cat.

All of that is still within the realm of current theoretical physics. But to provide a theoretical basis for my hero’s superpower, I needed to take it one step further. I wondered, what if there were some sort of glitch, and the wave function for the experimenter’s mind collapsed to the version where the cat is dead, while the wave function for the cat itself collapsed to the version where the cat is alive?

Nat Morgan, the hero of my novel Unforgettable, is the personification of such a glitch: he exists in a superposition of being there and not being there, and once he’s gone the wave functions of the minds of everyone he’s met always collapse to the version in which he wasn’t there.

Once I had my theoretical explanation in place, I proceeded to work out the implications of Nat’s superpower. Figuring out the rules for what happened when he interacted with people helped me to develop scenes that showcased the rules, so the reader would come to understand them.

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Unforgettable: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.