My Current Novel: Starting Over

As much as I’d love to emulate the success of writers who attribute their success to writing every day, rain or shine, I have stopped comparing my journey to theirs. My Starchild series has enough words and story for two full books with notes and outlines for at least one more which is why I basically scrapped the whole thing.

If you’ve been reading my posts over the last two weeks you’ll know that the series I’m talking about has been a work of love over the course of more than five years. It unfolds on a scarred planet where the native population is now facing a turning point brought about by outside travelers. There are three main intertwining stories and a lot of smaller side stories that weave in and out of the main story to reveal more about the world and journey forward in the story. This series is my strongest work to date and that is why I decided to start over.

In the past my stories followed a primary story with a small cast of characters and that made it possible to edit section by section to bring more cohesion to the whole. Although I don’t think my past stories are genius I know that my editing process on them was solid and improved their overall flow and readability. But, here’s the thing about NaNoWriMo — it is a fantastic way to drive yourself in a single minded way that can produce the desired results (word count) but there’s more to writing a story than the number of words. I have no regrets about writing the Starchild series over the course of two Novembers. Being able to really immerse myself in the world, forcing myself to explore characters who had only existed in order to support my main plot and expanding a world that was small into one that is richly detailed is an experience I would choose all over again. But the editing process is a mess. Full stop.

It was in December of last year when I got really sick and couldn’t do anything but stare out the window that I first realized I needed to start from square one. More to the point, I realized that starting over didn’t mean burning my old notes and throwing out everything I had worked on. Previously in my revision process I felt like I had to get the edits done in order to fully bring to life this story that had been gestating within my mind for such a long time. It felt excruciating because I’m ready for other people to experience this world I’ve fallen in love with. I had also fallen into the trap of comparing myself to other writers who are able to bring their worlds to their audience in less than five years.

Starting over means:

  1. Looking at the whole story with new eyes and picking up on threads that can overlap at a different point to create more impact. Making the structural changes that are hard because they mean rewriting chapters from scratch and not just killing darling sections.
  2. Being able to immerse myself in all the background research I did years ago that was folded into the work and forgotten about because I’m not the person you want on your trivia team.

I read Stephen King’s book on writing when I was in college and I took to heart the idea that the editing process would mean cutting word counts down but I’ve written for long enough that I understand that my process isn’t like his process. He is the successful writer but his strategies can’t be a blueprint for me in the literal sense–we’re working with different material. I do well with a split of freeform writing sessions dedicated to simply exploring ideas followed by messy periods of cleaning up after those sessions to find the interesting ideas and then creating an outline from there followed by freeform writing within the outline followed by messy clean up. Rinse and repeat until it makes sense for someone else who doesn’t live in my head.

As to where I’m at in this process with Camp NaNoWriMo — I’m about 1,000 words from my goal which I set to 5,000 because my goal had everything to do with finding my way in the revision process. I’ve been enjoying sharing my journey and hope to begin to share more about the Starchild series because more than anything it is a world and a story I want to invite you to read and enjoy.

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