To say that I am behind in my unofficial nanowrimo effort at this point would be a gross understatement.
I currently stand at word zero.
“What then,” you might ask, “is the excerpt that was just posted before this?”
That, dear reader, is rubbish. In fact, it’s the last straw in a large bale of rubbish, and my novel, like the proverbial camel, lays broken. A little background may be in order:
When I started this novel in 2001 I had the barest of plots, and while I was pretty sure of what was going to happen in the last bits, and over the course of the month I got a grip on the first bits, there was a cavernous mid-section to the novel that was left empty other than a “cool stuff happens” bullet point in the outline.
The novel was always meant to have three or so acts, consisting of however many “Parts” were needed. Act One consisted of Parts 1 and 2, were what was written in 2001, and at the end of November that’s where I stopped. Over the next five years I added around 4-5 thousand words of material to Part 3, the beginning of that difficult mid-section, Act Two.
Some of it you may have read. This was all the bits in the city built on a herd of enormous sauropod-like creatures. Truth be told, I was utterly convinced that this was the direction to take the story in. There was, at the end of Act One, a number of plot points that were floating around in my head that necessitated it. That “cool stuff happens” bullet point now had a bunch of things under it, but most of them did take place towards the end of the Act, and so I figured I might as well continue the damn thing and eventually get to those plot points.
This was the right decision to take at the time. You shouldn’t obsess over the latter sections of a novel when even your first bits aren’t in place (this applies to Acts as well). The problem is that if you haven’t properly comprehended what your first act is about after it’s written — and, in my case, understand more or less what the third and final act will be about — then finding out exactly what that vital bridge between the two acts is, i.e. what the first act should logically flow into while maintaining reader interest, is a tricky thing.
I lost my way. At the end of Act One my characters were preparing for war, their course was set… and Act Two started with them waiting two months for an appointment with a spiritual leader. It was interesting to write — certainly bureaucracy and diplomacy are parts of any war (at least they were on Star Trek), and much of the material written helped me define those plot points at the end of Acts Two and into Three a lot better, but this was really not the right direction to go.
You do end up writing a lot of crap when you’re doing a novel’s first draft. Entire chapters will and should be removed later, but they’re there for a reason the first time. When you’re writing a story you’re discovering it as much as you are inventing it, and walking down a blind alley or two can teach you much.
So, therefore, if you are one of the few unlucky souls who have read the first draft and actually remember the bits with the walking dinosaurs, well, that bit isn’t in the story anymore.
This does not, however, mean that I don’t know where to take the story. A re-evaluation of all those plot points and mechanics and other randowm things, plus a good, hard look at Act One and what it was trying to do, has helped me find a better direction for the story. An outline has been written for a chapter, it interests me, it excites me, and when I finish writing this post I’m off to flesh it out with big words and stuff. There are no long waits, no bureaucracy, no unending bits about how boring life in the army is.
The camel isn’t broken anymore, it’s just lost a bit of fat, and is back on its feet.
There’s no guarantee that even this new material is safe — I might find that it doesn’t work and I’ll toss it much like the last one. This much, however, I can guarantee:
Cool Stuff Happens.