So in case you were wondering if I was hauled off by an errant dragon, got hopelessly lost somewhere between Les Miserables and the present day, or just quit blogging,
Hi. I’m not dead.
I’d say I needed a vacation, but I’ve been spending almost every spare minute editing a half-written novel, so that would be a lie. I don’t take vacations from writing.
Ever. I don’t know how.
But in between beta reading, snagging reader copies of new books, and figuring out the vast and alarming world of Twitter, I needed a break.
To make it up to you for the long lack of posts, I’m going to let you in on a little of what I’ve been up to.
This novel I love.
This novel in which I am doing absolutely everything wrong.
So you probably deserve a little background. When I talk about the 1,000-page WIP, this is it. This is my monster. My Legendarium. This book and I have a gamble over whether it’s going to be finished and published before or after my demise.
To put it another way, I have a really hard time imagining life without this book.
I started writing it down when I was about eighteen. Trying to find a place to sort it all out, just a single thread to untangle and follow. It felt about as impossible as trying to lift an elephant. But how long I’ve known this story, these characters?
I have an even harder time trying to remember when they weren’t there, every step of my life, laughing in my head, whispering in my ear, standing just out of sight behind my shoulder, telling me this story, telling me they’ll always be there.
Except, of course, when I have writer’s block. Then they fly the coop faster than pigeons scared of a cat.
Oh, and it’s greedy, this book! I can’t write a short story anymore without it reaching out, pulling it in, as if it was always intended to be a part of this massive, crazy, beautiful world.
I could wax poetic about what this story, these characters mean to me. But I doubt I can accomplish anything by it. I can’t make you understand them. There’s no magic word I know that can encapsulate it.
They’re family. I’ll leave it at that.
Sounds great, right? Ha.
With a draft that’s over 1,000 pages long, it’s really, really easy to get disorganized. So I made up my mind to straighten things out, clean up my timeline, explain how two characters who have sworn eternal hatred in one chapter are hanging out in the next, why I’m getting away with all the time/genre-hopping I’m doing (steampunk dragons. Don’t argue with me).
So I started with the section that finally worked, back when I started writing it. I sat down and told myself I wasn’t skipping anything. I could go back and change it if I didn’t like it, but if there was something missing, I was filling it in. No empty chapters.
It took me about a month, with everything else going on, to edit through 50,000 words.
And that’s when I realized my first mistake.
I am a high fantasy writer.
I am a diehard high fantasy writer.
I have 50,000 words of a novel with no magical element.
How does this happen?
Arguably, the novel’s going to be spewing magic later on, but how long can I persuade my reader to wait? Am I engaging, fascinating, weird enough that I can get readers to last 50,000 words without giving up before they get to the good stuff?
Can I cut anything out?
I already have. If anything, I probably still have missing scenes.
So what did I do?
I fixed one mistake with another mistake.
I broke the 4th wall.
Not like in a Deadpool way! The novel is fiction, but it’s in first person and reads sort of like a really interesting memoir, so I just…added a note at the 50,000 word point from the narrator giving a little explanation for why…things are a mess.
(Cue BookmarkedOne burying her head in her arms and screaming into a pillow)
Crisis at least temporarily averted, I kept writing.
I broke my rule. I skipped scenes. I jumped ahead. I kept teasing threads back together.
I am now 81,000 words in.
This seemed like a good time to google what the average fantasy novel length is. Just to see where I should consider an “ending.” Think about splitting the 1,000 page draft into a few separate installments.
Did I mention that I was 81,000 words in and showing no signs of stopping? Did I further mention that I hate the cliffhanger ending to a book that is clearly written as the middle installment of a series, that’s just meant to tease you into buying the next book?
Okay. 150,000 words. I can do that. Right? Make exactly 1/3 of the book empty of magic, then get into the good stuff? That seems fair, doesn’t it?
Except…there are so many “big fat fantasy books” out there. Surely 50,000 as the low end is way off, right?
Google, I knew you were a liar.
Long story short,
I have no idea what I’m doing. But I’m doing it.
Because as critical as I can be, as long as this has taken, I can see I’m making progress. I mean, I almost have a novel already, and this is only the smallest drop in the waterfall that is my Legendarium.
I’m scared. But I think it’s a good kind of scared for once. And when I’m writing, when something falls into place, when it clicks, when past me whispers to me, “ooh, that was good. I’m so glad we finally figured out what to do with that,” I actually feel happy.
Like I said. These characters are family. My family. And if they ask me to stay up until one o’clock in the morning for a month running to spend time with them, well, if your besties wanted a sleepover with a running siege of Monopoly and cheesy movies after you haven’t seen them for long ages uncounted, you’d say yes. It’s not complicated. You’d say yes.
We’ll return to regular blog programming…eventually. More updates for the Legendarium & Co. coming soon.