I did something I told myself I would not do: I shelved a half-written novel, and started a new one.
Let’s back up. This summer, inspiration hit me and I blasted out 200 pages of a novel, then hit a point where I realized that while the premise was decent, I needed to go back, start at the beginning, and perform a major overhaul.
Why? I didn’t know my characters as well when I first started writing. I needed to go back and make adjustments – add things they would have done, subtract things they would never have done, make all kinds of revisions now that my characters and I were simpatico. It was a difficult idea – involving different dimensions, different timelines.
November rolled around and I worked on a new novel – an idea that’s been rattling around my head for years. This too circled around a unique idea, but it was complex, and included a Games of Thronian amount of characters. What does that mean? IT HAD A LOT OF CHARACTERS. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Most epic fantasies have tons of characters and their various maneveurs, schemes, and backstabbings all eventually work their way into a central plot.
I promised myself I’d see this one through. I lied. This weekend, I started a third novel. The idea is still fun and unique. But unlike my other two attempts, the idea exists on a single timeline. The characters begin at point A, they’ll end at point B. Also, there’s only one central main character, a handful of supporting characters, and the occasional walk-on.
I’ve found this to be one of the more difficult aspects of writing – seeing the project through, and ignoring that voice that tells you, “This was a good idea, but the logistics are too hard! Pick another story, a simpler story, it will be easier! Get it published, then you can go for your sweeping, complicated epic!”
The problem is I think my mind is just a complicated place, and most novels are only riveting if they contain complications – i.e. plot twists that make the reader go, “Wow! Didn’t see that coming! I need to keep reading!”
Plus, even after banging out 20 pages of my new novel idea, I can see complications starting to form. My past two attempts at a novel I actually had to develop flow charts – i.e. “OK this character did X at this time, therefore, he can’t be doing Y at that time. Character A did not do X in that time period, so in theory he could be doing Y, but then you need to go back and rewrite Chapter 3 to account for why Character A was not able to help Character B” and then at that point my eyes glaze over and I need a nap.
I’m thinking maybe for my first novel, perhaps the traditional “straight line approach” is the way to go. There will still be complications, twists, turns, the need for revisions, rewrites, and character building. I’ll probably get half-way through it and think my attempts at complicated epic fantasy might have been easier. Who knows.
Sometimes I wonder if that writing bug that bit me left me with a curse. Most people on their few precious days off go to the mall, watch a movie, or take a nap. I’m sitting here with a flow chart and a slide rule trying to figure out when friggin’ Hugo the Magical Elf has time to bring the enchanted chalice to the palace if he was also busy fending off the Orcs and…oh, screw it. Screw it. I can’t take it anymore. Yeah, I know J.R.R. Tolkien did it. Tolkien didn’t have a bunch of people interrupting him every five minutes when he was writing either.
At least I think he didn’t. I don’t know. I have no idea what happened in the Tolkien household. I just assume. But you know what happens when you assume…