Like ripping off a Band-Aid

Green Magic I stalled out on me on the second chapter. I blamed exhaustion. I blamed stress. And there’s certainly some truth in both of those things, but my number one adage remains true: If you’re stuck, you’re writing the wrong thing.

So today I ripped out the finished second chapter, watched my word count drop from 10,688 to 7091, put in two new plot cards, and as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to figure out the new plot cards (I have some idea already) and see if I can’t do the version of chapter two that will let me move on to chapter three.

Will read the rest of the Friday Snippets later, and will comment.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

3 comments… add one
  • MerylF May 12, 2007 @ 22:23

    Oh ouch, ouch. Personally I’d take the fire ant in the ear any day!

  • Gabriele May 12, 2007 @ 11:48

    Fai, you’re in good company here. Most writers I know, published and aspiring, have First Novel bodies in their closets.

    My first attempt had three MCs and some cool scenes, but plot? You mean, I need a plot? Lol. I’ve for a long time tried to give that thing a coherent plot that would somehow connect the three MCs (while working on other novels, though). Finally, I indeed found a way when I took the story away from historical fiction to historical fantasy by introducing magic stones. The three MCs now are Keepers of these stones, and that connects them even when their plotlines run apart for half of the book. But it means I have to nick about 100K out of 120K words and start from scrap. I only could save some of the scenes I loved enough to keep working on the sucker.

    Having more than one project to work on helps, I think, because your mind doesn’t get stuck in one loop for years.

    Good luck with you new version.

  • FaiThanh May 12, 2007 @ 11:29

    Hi Holly, have you ever written an entire first draft novel that was 120k worth of words and then threw it out the window becuase you weren’t happy with the end results? I did. It happened quite recently. I wrote a martial arts fantasy novel that took me about 9 months to write and it was 40% good.

    The other 60% was not so good. The book had two protagonists and the protagonist with the good plot thread had a focused storyline, focused motivation, and a focused conflict. The other protagonist’s plot–I couldn’t even summarize easily at all (the other 60%).
    I should have taken up on the warning signs much earlier but i was stubborn and thought that i could fix the troubled plot as i wrote. The character’s name was Jia-lin Shin and her troubled plot revolved around her being an amnesiac kung fu master who was trying to find medicine for an ill boyfriend while at the same time protect a princess from assassins and at the same time find out more about her past. All of the trouble started in chapter 2 and i ignored all the warning signs while i tried to plot the story as it went and i marched forward for another 20 to 30 chapters stubbornly.

    The second protagonist was named Yoa and she led an invading army into the Xing Empire and her goal was to simply kill a corrupt emperor who was responsible for the death of a previous leader in her position. She was armed with a chinese dragon and despite her hardened exterior underneath it all, she was a sweetheart and a softie. I loved this character much more so then the main character. (another warning sign for me, i wasn’t supposed to favor a supporting character more than the main character.)

    I guess i wanted to do it all on my first novel, bring in an epic story laced with asian mythology and pop culture while at the same time hold down crazy plot twists that I hoped would wow the reader. ::shakes head::
    Anyways, my beta readers and myself included, loved all the Yoa parts and tried to make sense of the Jia plot (they had trouble becuase they couldn’t find an immediate link with the character due to her unfocused motivations.)

    After nine months spent on the book, juggling a full time job, keeping my family fed, and the bills paid. I was not happy with the end product. I dug deep and tried to figure out what went wrong. Many things on my side i spotted that i was able to identify that contributed to the hindrance of the story. One, my writing style was flawed instead of trying to find my own writing voice, I let myself get highly influenced by other writers’ voices. I ended up half-assing my narrative. Two, i tried to throw in everything into my first novel, i guess i aimed too high and too hard of a road rather than stick with my strongest writing strengths. Three, I didn’t build the world and the characters properly before setting out to write the novel. (I figured I’d wing it and solidify things as i wrote)

    So i threw out my novel out the window and started from scratch. Throwing out my first completed novel was the absolute hardest creative decision i ever had to make. I was tempted to start another book with different characters and a new universe to explore but being as stubborn as i am, i didn’t want to leave my first creations to the wayside.

    I kept my characters, created each their own profiles, re-focused and properly defined the world they lived in, and made some drastic decisions. I cut out all of the epic stuff and stripped down the storytelling down to the fundamental levels. I upgraded one of the supporting characters up to main character status, downgraded a main character down to support level, and came up with a new plotline that i could actually summarize in two to three sentences!

    Here’s what i meant, The plot summary of the first book goes like this…
    Jia-lin Shin and her friends are trying to find a medicine to cure her boyfriend of a mysterious illness while at the same time trying to protect a princess and find out more about jia’s past. As jia and her party explore the Xing Empire, a woman named Yoa Kipari leads an army on a campaign of vengeance against a corrupt emperor. (Phew!)

    Here’s my new plot summary for the revamp of the first book. Two different heroes, Yi, a priestess of balance, and Yoa, a leader of a nation, are tasked with bringing an exiled princess to a safe haven. As they try to fend off the Beast Elites (Kung Fu Masters laced with black magic) and try to survive the unknown wildnerness. The two heroines must wrestle with their tumultous relationship with an amnesiac fighter named Jia-lin which threatens their mission and their lives.

    I’m much happier with the way the current book is going and I am already more than a third through my first draft of the novel. Things are going much smoother, not totally, but that’s alright. I have a much clearer vision for my characters and the plot. Much of this revision, I credit for reading your website and I wanted to thank you for your efforts in cultivating tools that helped me on my creative journey.

    Anyways, sorry to take up your blog space like this, your entry has been a catalyst for this mental spill. I just wanted to share with you and any would-be writers out there of my own personal writing experience. Don’t EVER WING IT when writing a novel! It was a hard road but I learned my lessons…

    P.S. I loved Talyn, Sympathy for the Devil, Fire in the mist, and Memory of Fire. You’re great writer and I can’t wait to read Hawkspar! Keep up the good work Holly!

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