Ada Hoffman: Five Things I Learned Writing The Fallen

The laws of physics acting on the planet of Jai have been forever upended; its surface completely altered, and its inhabitants permanently changed, causing chaos. Fearing heresy, the artificially intelligent Gods that once ruled the galaxy became the planet’s jailers.

Tiv Hunt, who once trusted these Gods completely, spends her days helping the last remaining survivors of Jai. Everyone is fighting for their freedom and they call out for drastic action from their saviour, Tiv’s girlfriend Yasira. But Yasira has become deeply ill, debilitated by her Outside exposure, and is barely able to breathe, let alone lead a revolution.

Hunted by the Gods and Akavi, the disgraced angel, Yasira and Tiv must delve further than ever before into the maddening mysteries of their fractured planet in order to save – or perhaps even destroy – their fading world.

1: Second Books Are Hard

They warned me! Everyone warned me! When you write your first novel you get to take your sweet time. When you write the sequel you’re under contract and you have to do it in a certain amount of time. It’s like having to learn your entire process over again.

It doesn’t help that, like, two years went by between landing an agent for The Outside and getting the green light from the publisher to write Book Two. When I finished writing The Outside, I was so in love with these characters and this setting, I was just chomping at the bit to write more. By the time I was actually allowed to write more? Time had passed. I was a different person. It took a lot of work to get that mojo back and I blew through a whole lot of deadlines in the process.

But I did it! I wrote the book, and now here we are. Because that’s the other thing about writers; we can do hard things.

2: Revisions Will Save Your Ass

The Outside had just two point-of-view characters – Yasira, who carried most of the novel, and Akavi, who got fun little “villain’s point of view” scenes now and then. The Fallen expands its scope – not just to more points of view but to more moving parts generally. Yasira and Tiv have been joined by a group of seven friends and oh my god why did I try to introduce seven new characters at once please do not do this to yourself. The climax of the book – I’m going to try to say this without spoilers – has them coordinating a bunch of dramatic things that happen dramatically in a bunch of places at the same time. This kind of expanded scope was essential to what I was doing with the book – it’s very much a book about collectivity, community, diversity of approaches towards a common goal. But also wow that was more moving parts than I could actually keep in my head at a time.

The solution? Revisions. Sure they’re annoying, and I’d rather get everything right the first time, but it turns out you can actually have seven vague underdeveloped secondary characters in a first draft, and then you can go back systematically and add more stuff about each character in all the scenes they’re in and people will be like “oh, your secondary characters are charming.”. You can have a final confrontation that’s sort of a rushed sketch of the major things that happen, and then you can go back, actually chart out what groups were involved in each of those major things and what their goals are, what major phases the whole operation goes through (including planning), what each group is doing in each phase, and add way more little scenes with way more detail, accordingly. Obvious writing advice is obvious, but, like, it’s fine! We get multiple passes at this stuff for a reason. You can be like a speed painter who adds more and more intricate detail with each pass over the canvas. Or at least I think that’s how speed painting works, I don’t know.

3: Isolation Sucks, Actually

I was writing about isolation before it was cool* (*spoiler: it’s not cool) simply for health reasons – I started work on The Fallen when I was in a complicated life situation and too burned out to do a lot besides go to my day job and then sit in bed with a blanket over me. Then of course the pandemic happened and now isolation is everyone’s problem.

I didn’t intend to make isolation a theme of the novel but, looking back at what I wrote, it’s everywhere. It’s in the backstory of Yasira and Tiv’s new friends, who were held prisoner by the Gods for years. It’s in the way Elu has to adjust to life without the information-rich networks he’s used to, when it’s not safe for him to interact with much of anyone but Akavi, and Akavi only interacts with him when it’s convenient. It’s in the way Yasira stays in her room out of trauma and exhaustion and the way Tiv causes problems, with the best of intentions, by trying to keep information from her for her own protection. Everyone in this book is at some level dealing with isolation, disconnection, or loss. Everyone who gets a happy ending gets it by finding new ways to connect and collaborate. A lot of this wasn’t even apparent to me until I finished writing, and then I did that thing authors do so often, where I looked back at it and went, “Oh, that’s what I was talking about,” and then blinked at myself with a suspicious expression.

I’m doing a lot better now, by the way. But still really looking forward to the day when I can go out and have a picnic with people again.

4: I Love Writing About Weird Buildings

It doesn’t play a big role in the novel, but there’s one chapter where Tiv goes and visits a museum that the Gods designed, and I fucking loved writing that chapter. It came out easily in a book where almost nothing came out easily. Give me a fictional space that was constructed to convey a sufficiently unusual experience and I will go wild designing its floorplan and writing what it’s like to move through it. I have no idea why I love this extremely specific thing.

5: Your Audiobook Narrator Is Going To Have To Actually Read This Shit Aloud

Writing a complicated telepathic conversation with a hive mind? Want to just splash phrases all over the page like an experimental poem to convey a multiplicity of collaborative but contrasting viewpoints within the same entity? Sure, go nuts, you’re already under contract for this book and you can do what you want.

But just know that the bewildered voice actor who’s trying to narrate the audiobook version will at some point call you on Zoom and be like “wait what is going on here? How do you want this read? Who is even talking in what part of this, exactly?” and you won’t have anything to say except “lol idk, good luck with that.”

Sorry, Nancy! I’m sure whatever you’ve come up with will be fine.

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Ada Hoffmann is the author of the space opera novel The Outside, as well as dozens of speculative short stories and poems. Ada’s work has been a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award, the Compton Crook Award, and the WSFA Small Press Award, among others. She is also the author of the Autistic Book Party review series, devoted to in-depth #ownvoices discussions of autism representation in speculative fiction. Ada is an adjunct professor of computer science, as well as a former semi-professional soprano, tabletop gaming enthusiast, and LARPer. She lives in eastern Ontario.

Ada Hoffmann: Website | Twitter

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