Progress Report on First Novel (Wait, wait, I’m laughing too hard…)

It’s been so long since I posted one of these that I forgot I had posted one in the first place.

Awesome, right?

This has been one enormous lesson in how not to start writing a novel, which I imagine every writer goes through. Not that there’s a single right way to do it. Not that you should expect it to be anything but a tragedy with a laugh track.

Being a ‘Pantser” Does Not Mean You Jump in Barely Knowing Anything

My first big mistake was that I started writing before knowing what I wanted to do with certain elements of the story. I didn’t want to plan out every scene or have a massive outline. But being a “pantser” doesn’t mean you just start writing without figuring out a few things first. I didn’t know who my villain really was, which means I had no idea what the climax or ending of the story was going to be. If you’re writing fantasy, you’re probably going to have a villain of some description in your story. That villain is the one who shoves a lance into the spokes of your wagon wheel and messes with your caravan. Why did he do that? What does he want? And what am I going to do about it? Pesky villain questions which must be answered.

Some fantasy writers think up a world, make up some interesting features for it that would affect a story in a way that’s impossible in any other kind of fiction, and their next move is to imagine the characters who inhabit that world, the societies and customs which might create tension, which is the spark you can blow on to ignite a roaring story. I’ve got a few of those rattling around in my head and my Evernote (Evernotes?). But this first novel was born from a scene that popped into my head. In that scene, a guy was playing an MMO and chatting in-game with a female friend he’d grown close to and played with for a while. They have a mysterious conversation about the nature of magic that leaves him curious and puzzled. After that, she doesn’t log on for a few days and he starts to get worried something bad has happened to her, so he tries to find her. Problem is, she lives across the country and they’ve never met face-to-face.

That was all I had.

For some reason, I thought that was a great idea around which to form a novel.

Something Thickens… No, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…

So I plunged in and started writing and quickly hit a wall. On this wall, against which I bashed my head with a sickening splat, was scrawled a single word: PLOT. Something bad did indeed happen to our character, something that began with no less than the assassination of the Faerie Queen, an event which took place in the Oval Office during a meeting with the President.

OK, cool, but I still didn’t have a real villain or motivation. This is a problem because in much of Fantasy (and in fiction in general) it’s the villains that initiate, instigate, and drive the plot. No villain means no plot and no plot means no novel.

Where the Hell did these Other Books come from?

In the process of figuring all this out, what was originally planned to be one book grew into three. I had contracted Fantasy Trilogy Disease. Or at least I think it will be three books. It could be just three sections of a single novel if each section isn’t long enough (not that length itself is a goal ). What’s sad and funny is that is that I had thought to myself that all I have to do is just finish this first one, just hurry up and get it done. But when your second book is all about one of your characters becoming Queen of the Goblins, well, you just don’t say no to that, do you? And the third book? Probably all-out war, but we’ll see.

What have I Become? And Where are My Pants?

I’m not going to outline and plan out every single scene in advance. My characters need to make their own decisions up to a point. Up to the next plot point, more specifically. Maybe they’ll make decisions that wreck everything but it will be so juicy that I’ll have to keep it and resign myself to reexamine the plot. If that happens, it happens.

My Words, My Words

Because of all this (combined with unadulterated procrastination for many days combined with frequently slipping into depression) my concrete word count for this thing has grown at a pathetically wretched pace, and I’m still not finished with the conceptualizing and planning. I don’t want to plan every stupid little thing and I’m not going to, but what I do want is to reach the point very soon where my travel route is plotted out to the end of the road, so I can continue writing the actual words that go on the page.

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