For those of you who may be wondering (probably about a dozen or so, maybe less) whatever happened to Unlucky Seven, my comic-book style serial, I wanted to give you an update, as well as a bit of a blog entry.
A few weeks ago, I took a look at some of the earlier chapters of Unlucky Seven. Actually, I read the whole thing. Most of you never got to see the thing in its entirety, but it’s massive. We’re talking 364 pages, 10 pt. Arial, single spaced, standard margins. That gives us 230,650 words, 1,048,581 characters (not counting spaces), and 64 chapters of total story. I have a printed copy somewhere. It’s an absolute beast.
A good chunk of those chapters were never posted to the Unlucky Seven LiveJournal page. Those latter chapters were written for and read by only one person (who I consider the first and only person in Unlucky Seven fandom). They jive with the story as it went but, towards the end, I started reaching.
I realized that I had lost my way somewhere along the line. There were many pitfalls and perils along the path which threw my attention in a million different directions. Chapters 1-18 were written in fair succession (about one chapter a week), but even they were spaced out. Then, there was a year or so of downtime while I concentrated on other things because I thought Unlucky Seven was too hard to write. That was the first of about 6 incidents over the six or so years I’d been writing the damned thing.
The fact that I’d drifted in and out of the story made it tough to follow. I would come up with new ideas and forget about old ideas. I would set entire plans in motion, forget what the objective was, and leave them hanging like a chad on a Florida ballot and with the same indeterminable significance.
I injected new characters into the story whose roles were built to be significant from so much earlier in the story. I would try to backtrack and retcon and make it so that it looked like they were significant and that their significance was happening completely “off-camera”, away from the sight of the reader and without any previous reference. A terrible crime of the writing world, in my opinion, and a horrifying faux-pas to assume that knowledge on the part of the reader.
Not only did I assume knowledge of these relationships, but of those of the core characters. I took for granted that everyone could visualize the story the same way that I could. I looked at these characters, most of who are based on real people, and ignored the fact that no one knew them outside of my real life circle, thereby giving the reader no chance to develop as personal a relationship as I had with those characters.
I realized I made some unforgivable mistakes, including spending entire chapters with the main characters just plodding around and wondering what to do. I spent too much time explaining certain parts of the story by falling victim to the classic movie/comic-book practice of monologueing. People became uncharacteristically long-winded in spots when I needed a bit of plot exposition. Sometimes they gave things away before I wanted them to, sometimes they would force a bit of hard-to-get information into the ether. I know this is supposed to happen from time to time, but this was too much and it was too forced.
Also, the story went in a different direction than what I had originally intended. Things started to evolve in a way that I liked, but the lapses in writing left me needing to constantly re-read previous chapters to see if everything would match up in the end. The puzzle pieces fit, but they were custom cut on the spot when I couldn’t figure out which one went where. I was forcing them to fit together.
I was constantly hinting at something bigger and nastier in the works and, while I had an idea of what that could be, I never figured a way to get my characters to be strong enough or prepared enough to unleash it upon them with a chance that they would defeat it.
In the end, I guess things kinda fell apart.
It’s not really the end, though. It’s more of a rebirth.
When you’re lost, the best thing to do is to retrace your steps or, sometimes, go all the way back to the beginning. I did the latter.
I started a wholesale re-write of Unlucky Seven, starting with chapter I.
Taking that long of a journey with the characters, watching them develop, seeing what they would become just due to the natural progression of the original story, allowed me to step back and see what exactly I should do when I started over.
Now, I have the chance to integrate things earlier. I can foreshadow more efficiently. I can adjust attitudes and views and change entire situations to better fit things. I’m building a better story from the ground up rather than trying to chisel at the existing work to improve it.
So far, the first five chapters of the re-write are complete and they are based on (but not verbatim) the original first 5 chapters. If any of you old U7 heads out there are interested in checking it out, I’ll e-mail you a copy, just drop me a line.
I think the fresh start was all I needed. I’m charged up and ready to take on U7 on a more full-time basis now. Things will change soon. I can’t see much being based off of the originals past chapter 8. There will be some brand new twists and turns and, most importantly, character development.
It seems kind of a shame to have to go so far only to realize that I should start over, but it’ll be better in the long run. It took far too long to reach where I was when I put down the original. This one, I’m hoping, will be more concurrent and congruent.
Thinking of setting up a U7 WordPress account. Anyone interested? Any thoughts? Suggestions on what you’d like to see in the new U7 universe? Let me know.
The reconstruction has begun.
Keep fighting the good fight.