Previous Post: Part 1
If you missed my last post, and don’t feel like reading it, the short version is I talked about my first major attempt at a book-length project. There were a lot of problems with that story, but it ultimately convinced me that writing books professionally was a realistic possibility. In the end, I put the project on hold to re-examine my goals for it and where I wanted it to go.
This is where a more inspirational individual would have dived back in, worked hard on the story, and gotten a fresh book ready to publish in a couple of years. Unfortunately, that isn’t who I am. Instead, I went back to writing short story length fiction, nothing longer than 10,000 words, while otherwise I focused on work.
In part this was because my workload had increased significantly as the company that employed me gained additional clients. I often found myself coming in early or staying late, and often covered weekend shifts. Some days I got home and was just too exhausted to face the prospect of working on anything else.
On top of that, I really didn’t have any clue where to get started. The idea never really left my mind, I kept chewing on ways that the story could be altered to get it closer to where I felt it should head, but actually pushing forward with that was not something I felt ready to face. Still, I wasn’t ready to actually abandon the project either. It was simply on a list of things I intended to eventually do someday, maybe.
As often happens, it is impossible for me to exactly recall what got me to pick the project up again. I expect it involved my rambling to friends about the book I hoped to eventually write. The time came when two factors combined: I was out of work, and one of my friends encouraged me to give the book a shot. By that point I was desperate to find a productive outlet for my time.
At first I had no clue what I was doing or where to start. After some thought I decided the best course of action was to identify what I disliked about the story and come up with the most likely solutions. Because I’d been idly chewing on the book for years by this point it proved far easier than I anticipated. In all, I spent perhaps a week figuring out what changes needed to be made.
First on my list was all the different points of view. I made a firm commitment to keep the story told through the smallest number of characters possible. In some instances I combined characters to form one new character. Other instances saw characters pushed more firmly into a subordinate, supporting role. A few even got cut from the story completely.
Many other major changes occurred too. The setting was completely uprooted from a location-based on European Feudalism to one more inspired by Japanese Feudalism because I felt it fit the themes better. I made a more clear military conflict, a civil war, the driving factor behind events to give a solid rational for why there is fighting.
The two main characters were probably changed the most. My male lead became a disgraced samurai, struggling to cope with his past, given a chance at redemption. He was still disillusioned, but for different reasons.
The female lead, formerly the princess, changed even more drastically. Her relationship with her brother went from antagonistic to caring, she became more impulsive and willful, and although her status as a bastard leaves her completely out of the line of succession this isn’t something she worries about. Instead, her main motivation was to prove her ability as a soldier.
Writing Again… Or Not
With these changes I gave it another attempt and got through the first two chapters in short order. I then promptly fell off the wagon again, this time because I didn’t have a clear concept of what the story was or where it was going. All my changes had focused on details of the characters and setting, not the plot, and the old plot didn’t suit the characters at all.
Another long period came where I didn’t write much. Occasionally, I would attempt to start again, but I always got stuck. This lasted about a year before I finally came to grips with the need for at least an outline to guide me. I resisted making one at first because I like having the ability to change the story’s direction on the fly.
Why would that prevent me from making an outline? Mostly because I am stubborn, but also because I hate the idea of wasting effort. Creating an outline only to change my mind felt like I was simply throwing work out. As such, I believed that making one forced me to either marry myself to one idea or else abandon all the work I had done creating it. For some reason I never considered all the effort I wasted by trying to work without something to guide me, however eventually I gave in and found (to my surprise) just how much easier writing became.
Rough Draft Done
By the time I really got back to writing I managed to finish the rough draft in perhaps a year. There was a large amount of down time in there, but I got to the point where I could say the end of the book had been reached. My friends who don’t write much all assumed that this goal post meant most of the work was behind me, but I had learned the truth from my smaller projects: only the easy part was finished.
Inevitably there were a bunch of changes I needed to make, but that can be saved for next week’s post.