Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'm not letting go, but this is why I should

I've been working on more or less the same novel for over eight years. And while there was a significant period of change between the earliest version of The Temple Well (or Fateless, as I called it at the time,) and the current version, I am still forced to work within the boundaries of a teenager's writing mistakes.

Some of these mistakes take the form of "too much dialogue and not enough action." But an even bigger problem is the complicated rules and mechanics of the plot and world-building. This requires me to incorporate more dialogue and info-dump. And it doesn't help that what I thought would be the first novel in a two-book series needed to be cut into two separate novels. I found a good place to end the new "Book One," but it still leaves a lot unresolved. And the backstory is so thick that I worried that it would overwhelm the story. In other words, even if I finish the novel, there is a good chance it will remain unpublishable.

The second half of the novel is really difficult to write. This is because a good part of it takes place in a setting that is hardly relevant to the overall plot. Because of this, it's hardly worth the word count to develop this setting well. As a result, what should be a tense and oppressive-but-not-too-oppressive setting feels more like   a room full of high school gossip and relationship drama. I keep thinking of ways I could make this setting darker and more oppressive, but a) there isn't much of a point in doing so (especially since I hate using a dark and oppressive setting solely for the purpose of creating character angst), and b) turning a "complicated but not necessarily dark" setting into an "oppressive" setting would change certain elements of the backstory, which would make my protagonist's goals, motivations, and relationship to other characters incompatible with the plot.

I'm finding ways to work within these parameters. By changing how I frame the important conversations and trying to write in a richer style, I can reveal more world-building and change the tone, without necessarily adding too much to the word count. I'm also finding ways to break up and re-distribute backstory and info-dumps so that they feel more relevant. And I can usually catch repetitive conversations in second-draft edits. (This helped me cut out about 10,000 words from the first half of the novel.) The novel won't be perfect, but I can make it the best it can be.

But wouldn't it be so much easier to scrap it all and write something else? Easier, yes. But when you spend eight years working on something, you can't just give up on it. It's a "closure" thing; I won't feel like I'm mature as a writer until I get that closure. And while it's going to hurt when people tear this novel apart and reject it, I have to give it a chance.

And, most importantly, I believe in my characters and their journey is important to me. Despite this novel's flaws, I believe that these aspects will shine through. This story means something to me, and maybe it will mean something to someone else, as well.

So I'm going to do my best to finish it. And edit it. And send it out for a full critique. And if all that is relatively successful, I plan to query it.

So we'll see where this goes. Maybe this won't work. But then again, maybe this will turn out more spectacularly than I'd ever imagined.

***

Where I should be by December 31st: 75,000 words
Where I should be by (the end of) today: 57,356 words
Where I actually am: 46,216 words

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