Megan O’Keefe: Five Things I Learned Writing Velocity Weapon

Dazzling space battles, intergalactic politics, and rogue AI collide in Velocity Weapon, the first book in this epic space opera by award-winning author Megan O’Keefe.

Sanda and Biran Greeve were siblings destined for greatness. A high-flying sergeant, Sanda has the skills to take down any enemy combatant. Biran is a savvy politician who aims to use his new political position to prevent conflict from escalating to total destruction.

However, on a routine maneuver, Sanda looses consciousness when her gunship is blown out of the sky. Instead of finding herself in friendly hands, she awakens 230 years later on a deserted enemy warship controlled by an AI who calls himself Bero. The war is lost. The star system is dead. Ada Prime and its rival Icarion have wiped each other from the universe.

Now, separated by time and space, Sanda and Biran must fight to put things right.

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I Like Big Books (And I Cannot Lie)

When I sat down to write Velocity Weapon, I really thought it would have a single point of view. I plotted it as such, pitched it to my agent that way, and even sold the thing to Orbit with just Sanda on the page. My brilliant and gracious editor (hi Brit!) saw through my nonsense, however.

She pointed out that, lurking beneath the surface of Sanda’s story, was a massive world and political tug-of-war that would be better explored if I leaned into the space opera element and brought in multiple points of view. She was, naturally, concerned that I’d balk at being asked to add so much. I loved it.

Expanding the novel let me nerd out not only on the worldbuilding and the characters involved, but also on plot structure. Maintaining the balance between Big Book and fast-paced was a fun endeavor, and I enjoyed layering elements of the original plot structure (the outline became almost fractal) to get the feel I was going for.

The original draft of Velocity Weapon clocked in at around 70k words. The final version runs closer to 170k, and that’s what it should have been from draft zero.

Sentience Is Weird And No One Understands It

Look, I can yammer on about the three projected stages of AI development, qualia, and the hard problem of consciousness until we’re both blue in the face. But, at the end of the day, the only answer to any of these questions regarding what it means to be a thinking, feeling being is a big fat shrug emoji.

The good news is that, because these things are so nebulous, it allows writers a lot of freedom to play with possibilities in fiction. Of course, even if we knew for sure what the answers were spec fic writers would continue to play with what-if scenarios. But hey, at least this way if one of our speculative theories turns out to be right (probably not, let’s be honest) we can pretend to be smug and say, “I told you so.”

I Subconsciously Act Out Facial Expressions and Body Language…

… and people, did you know that you can see me? I am, in fact, not inhabiting my own little writer-bubble where all that exists is the world in my head, the music in my ears, and the clicky clack of the keyboard.

I am, however, not going to stop. My local baristas may think I’m absolutely bonkers but they’re probably right, so I might as well own it.

People Want to See Healthy Relationships

The central protagonists of the story are a brother and sister. There’s no dark back story there, no history of one sibling picking on the other and desperately trying to make up for it now that things have gotten dire. They just love each other, and their parents, and are doing their best to keep their family members safe and happy while respecting their boundaries. Just as it’s important to model dysfunction in fiction so that we can better understand it, I believe it’s important to model healthy relationships, too.

Tense family stories are valid stories to tell, and many of us can probably relate to them easily, but this once I wanted a break from inheritable drama. The book has enough tension without family conflict, and so far readers have reacted positively to the Greeve family.

Subtlety and Complexity Make Strange Bedfellows

One of the most common notes I receive from editors is that I can “bring up” certain elements more – make Chekhov’s proverbial gun on the mantel less of a peashooter and more of a bazooka, so to speak. This is valuable feedback for me, especially as I’m one of those writers who likes to keep all my cards up my sleeve and only show you a little peek on occasion.

That’s a lot of metaphors. Anyway, this kind of writing (e.g., I used that word instead of this word which totally sets up everything I swear) is all fine and dandy when your plots aren’t a tangle of overgrown roots and hey, would you look at that, mine usually are. I blame growing up on Final Fantasy games for this (mine do come together in the end though, I promise).

This is where I’m supposed to say something like, “Writing Velocity Weapon helped me learn to strike a balance between the two styles.” That’s mostly true, but the hard fact is that writing Velocity Weapon helped me to be more aware of those proclivities. Writing is art and craft, and if we’re not actively learning, we’re not growing, and to hell with that. There’s always something each new story can teach us.

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Megan E. O’Keefe was raised amongst journalists, and as soon as she was able joined them by crafting a newsletter which chronicled the daily adventures of the local cat population. She has worked in both arts management and graphic design, and has won Writers of the Future and the Gemmell Morningstar Award.

Megan O’Keefe: Website

Velocity Weapon: print | eBook