So it’s been a long time coming, but I’m finally there. I finished writing the first draft of my first book.
For the past few months, I finally knuckled down, didn’t allow myself any distractions, and just wrote. I didn’t blog, I didn’t read others’ blogs (sorry!), I didn’t allow myself to sit down to read another book (more on that below), I hardly did any of my other various favourite time-wasting things. I got into the zone and wrote and wrote. Sometimes, at the start of a writing session, I went back to earlier bits and changed things I’d made notes on, but while I was in the zone and writing, it felt fantastic and I didn’t dare break myself out of it.
Want to know one of my main factors of motivation? (Apart from the wonderful support of my family, and the pure joy of writing that is its own reward, that is.)
Well, I’ve been looking forward to the release of Robin Hobb’s second book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, Fool’s Quest. So have my wife and my daughter, who are also hooked on Robin’s books (have I mentioned that I met her?!?). The book was due to come out on the 13th of August 2015. Well, I promised myself that I wasn’t allowed to read it until I’d finished writing my last chapter. Today is the 18th, and let me tell you, the last few days have been… excruciating. That was a mean, mean thing to do to myself. But you know what? It worked. I wrote more and better than ever before. (At least, the “better” part is what I’m telling myself. Shh! Don’t ruin it. I’m still riding that high.)
I know there’s still a lot of work to be done before my work is submittable, even to beta readers. I still have a few “[TODO]” markers in my draft that need attending. I’m pretty good (why am I being humble, I’m awesome! Like I said, shush!) with spelling and grammar even while I’m writing, but I’m sure there are occasional typos, and I’ll need to check for inconsistencies of PoVs, use of pronouns in my paragraphs, do cross-reference checks to make sure I’m not getting any names of minor characters muddled up, and so on.
But… I’m over that hump. Plus, I’m allowed to read Fool’s Quest now! Yay! My wife has already read it (finished about an hour after I got done writing, in fact), so now she’s in the position that I’m usually in after I’ve finished reading a book and have to wait for her to catch up so we can talk about it. I hope the book will have fewer errors than the last one, but other questions are much more important. Will Fitz finally Wit-bond again? Will the Fool pull through? (He has to, or the trilogy wouldn’t be named well… right?) What happened to Bee? Will we see more chapters from her perspective? Grrr.
Getting started on it as soon as I finish this blog post, which should be right about… now.
Nearly two months without a blog post (which was just a rant about something that seemed important at the time)… I’ve really been dragging my knuckles. Slacking off. Procrastinating. Sorry.
I’ve come to realise that the ending, which had seemed so good initially, was missing a certain something. Not that it wasn’t exciting the way I’d planned it, but, the closer I got, the more obvious it became that I needed more connections between characters, more things that I could hook into in later books. I don’t just need to end a story; I need to wrap up the first part of that story while setting the stage for bigger things down the line and weaving in hints and threads to be tied in later. I love reading the conclusion to a trilogy or series, and thinking, “Ah! So that‘s why she put in that morsel of information in the first book!” I want my readers to experience some of that as well.
Because of this uncertainty about how I could manage such a thing, I’ve been having a really hard time sitting down and writing the ending that I intended. Whenever I tried, I got that nagging feeling that I’d forgotten something, that I should improve something before I wrote the ending. And I just couldn’t bear to compromise on the quality of my story.
For weeks, it escaped me what that something was, and I was less productive with my writing than I’ve been for a long time. A bit of editing, a few pages of new stuff, working on background notes and the like. Just not really writing, dammit! Sure, I’ve had plenty of times where I hadn’t written much for a longer stretch, but that was always because of external influences, like work, family, or other projects (yeah, let’s call it “projects” – sounds better than “passing fancies”, doesn’t it?), not because I was stuck. I’ve never really suffered from writer’s block (maybe I just haven’t been at it long enough to experience that?), but I guess this is the closest I’ve come to date.
I found myself putting off writing during the few precious hours each week that I’m able to dedicate to writing. As a result, I wasn’t inclined to write up a new blog post, either. It just didn’t feel right; I’d just done a few non-writing-related posts in a row and wanted to be able to report on some sort of tangible progress.
A few days ago, it finally clicked in the deep, dark recesses of my head.
And you know what? It even helped me with one of the other things I’ve had a really hard time with: writing a blurb. I’m not sure how the two things are connected, but connecting Book One to the larger story helped me to see more clearly what the essence of the first part of my story is, and helped me to make the choice of which bits I could leave out in my blurb – something that always seemed wrong to me before. (“But that‘s an important component of the story, and so is that part, and I can’t leave out that bit!”)
Now I know what I need to do. It won’t be easy, and I need to make some changes that will ripple through other parts of the story, but at least I’m out of the doldrums.
Better get to it. Better get back on that horse.
Book One – more than anything else, that is what I look for when I’m at the bookstore searching for the next great read to sink my teeth into. I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for series. A book that ends after a few hundred pages without hope of ever encountering its characters again? Hmm, if it’s really well-written, great, I might read it. Personally, though, I’d be much more reluctant to invest my emotions in it than if I knew it’s just the start of a series.
There’s a reason that, these days, a larger and larger section of the Blu-ray and DVD shelves is dedicated to TV series. And even when it comes to films, many studios see the allure of producing sequels. In my genre of choice – fantasy – what are the great films people know, what are the best-selling books? Feel free to give counter-examples in the comments if you disagree, but to my mind, they mostly consist of multiple parts. From Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time to Robin Hobb’s series to George R. R. Martin to Patrick Rothfuss. Too many more to name.
Maybe it’s a bit too melodramatic if I say something like, “A truly great story doesn’t fit in one book.” Some really great ones are very short. Nevertheless, I enjoy intricate character development, following a character’s convoluted trains of thought without being rushed from action scene to action scene like a tourist on a bus tour. “Got a photo of that building? And that tower? Good, let’s go, we’re on a tight schedule, people!” Life moves pretty fast, but (thankfully) it isn’t like that.
What about you? Do you prefer epic series of doorstopper-sized books like me, or shorter, more succinct, more poignant, stories? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.