(note: this is a bit more personal an entry than I’m used to, so bear with it. –B)
I never thought I’d be able to say I actually finished a novel. Now, bear in mind, I don’t mean finished-finished, but the writing is all done.
Of all the stories I’ve ever started, this is the first one I’ve completed and been able to say, “Yes, this is an actual novel. This grouping of chapters is it. Here’s the beginning, here’s the end.”
This may not seem a very monumental occasion to some of my fellow writers in the audience, but you have to understand that, when it comes to projects like this, I am extremely scatterbrained.
Over the course of the last ten years, I’ve been writing Unlucky Seven.
During the first run, I would churn out chapter after chapter of argument and rhetoric between the main characters, much of it rehashed due to my snail’s pace of production (a chapter every two weeks to a month). I did it so slowly that I didn’t remember what I’d done three chapters ago and wound up reusing the same lines. I would create a conversation involving one set of characters, then the same conversation would occur later in the story involving an entirely different set of characters or even the same characters taking on opposing viewpoints to what I had already written.
Sixty-five chapters and nine or so years later, I took a look back at the long trail of destruction I’d wrought. I realized that I had allowed things to grow out of control like ivy and the house of the original idea had been engulfed in unrelenting vines of side-plots and foreshadowing which would never come to fruition.
It wasn’t until this past summer that I came in with some weed killer, one of those chainsaws on a pole, and a two-gallon container of kerosene. Every vine I cut, no matter how thick or how thin, seemed to regrow and assert its place in the storyline.
I thought, maybe if I tackled the roots; kill the plots where they started before they had a chance to anchor themselves to the main story. What weed killer I sprayed on the roots of one seemed to cause the others to grow larger and consume even more space.
The more I tried to fight, the worse things became. The vines had become the walls of the house and the more I removed, the more the house would grow unstable. So, I took the kerosene, splashed it around, and burned the whole house to the ground.
When the fire burned itself out, I started rebuilding from the very beginning.
On one hand, it felt terrible to trash something on which I had spent so much time. Droughts of writer’s block, forcing things to happen, trying to find a way to write my characters out of the moral corners into which they’d painted themselves… the last thing I did in the previous version was a three-chapter story where the characters time traveled. TIME TRAVELED for God’s sake. Time travel is where stories go to die (unless it’s a story about time travel from the beginning). Ask Voyager. Ask Lost. Ask any major label comic book ever.
Everything in the old one took so much time to accomplish. It’s a superhero-ish story and the “heroes” didn’t reach any sort of conflict with the “villains” until somewhere in the high-chapter-forties. Eff that. Too much QQ not enough pew-pew, as the gamers say. And, I know it doesn’t really matter how much action is packed into a story as long as it’s a compelling story. I’ve been writing and reading long enough to know that the body count isn’t what truly matters.
Believe me when I tell you that the original became very tedious very quickly.
What was once supposed to be a story which would be infinitely relatable (20-somethings get superpowers, have intense realistic and moral reservations about using them to fight crime, before being pressed into the whole hero vs. villain gig against their will) became less about the fun and more about the whining (20-somethings get superpowers and spend chapter after chapter debating and hemming and hawing over every little freaking detail before, somewhere around 300 or so pages in to the story, they actually do something vaguely entertaining, then they go back to sulking again).
I couldn’t bear what it became.
As I mentioned before, I’m scatterbrained. I always have new ideas for stories or characters. My problem was that I kept working them in to Unlucky Seven as if they were always there. The whole thing was getting too meta as I started writing stories within the story. Whenever I was blocked in one plot but still felt the need to continue the story, I would use every distractionary tactic in the old bag of tricks; flashbacks, side-plots, new characters, new situations, foreshadowing, hidden agendas… I would stop one story and continue the other, sometimes going three chapters or more before returning to the core story. Even when I finally made it back, I would only take a half-step forward before getting distracted by one of the other plots and thinking that I should go in that direction instead.
Were any of these rivers going to converge? Maybe, but probably not for at least another hundred or so chapters at the rate I was going. Things had exploded into too many different directions and it was extremely difficult to control. I was getting far too attached to characters who had absolutely nothing to do with the central plot. I fell out of love with the original idea because I’d become tired of listening to my characters whine and bitch and moan. I knew if I went back to them, there would be no action, just more complaining and debating. As much as I loved them, I just couldn’t abide what they were doing with themselves.
Yeah, I realize they’re not real people. But, in my head they were. Every time I went back to visit them, it was nothing but wah, wah, wah. I even tried slapping them around and getting them to pep up and do something, but they just wanted to whine. A bunch of other characters were ready for action, though, so I’d run off and play with them instead.
It’s crowded inside my head.
After burning down the house, I had a chance to remold them all, and I did so. I think they’re much better now. And, after twenty-six focused chapters and only two (maybe two-and-a-half, technically) parallel plot lines in the first book (there will be more Unlucky Seven stories than this one), I think I’m finally happy with where they are and where I am.
With that, the offers I’ve made on facebook remain firm to my loyal readers. Contact me there or through e-mail (link’s on the side bar) if you’d like to read through the rough-cut of the story or even if you’d like to take a swing at editing me. I’m up for constructive criticism. This is my baby and I want it to come up right and I’m finally, after ten years of labor, pushing this bastard out into the world. Painful though it may be for me to part with it, I think it’s time I cut the cord.
Drop me a line and let me know and I’ll be in contact. Thanks in advance if you want to look.
Keep fighting the good fight.