Novel 2 Blues

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know I have been working on a novel called Flowers for Dionysus. (At least that’s what I’m calling it so far.) Last month I finished the fifth draft of it, and test readers are selected. I’ve begun researching agents and self-publishing options for it. I don’t think there will be many more drafts left of that one.

In short, it’s in good shape.

Then there is my second novel, which I’ve been referring to here as Novel 2.

This novel is based on a seed of an idea I had years ago for a short story that never came about. About a year ago or so I made the decision that my second novel would be based on said concept, and  I began outlining the plot. (I’m more of a planner than pantser.)

Then November of 2012 came, and I decided to get as far into the novel as I could by way of National Novel Writing Month. (Nanowrimo.) I wasn’t sure it was a good idea, and I talked about that here on the blog as well. But I went for it.

I followed the portions of the outline I had already written before November, and when I surpassed the material in that, I went the rest of the way on instinct, Nanowrimo style. By the end of November, I reached what I estimated was the halfway point of the book.

I set Novel 2 aside after Nanowrimo, and worked on the next draft of Flowers for Dionysus for a bit. When I neared the end of that, I started to outline in my second novel again. I finished that up last month as well, and last week I started writing the rest of the first draft.

But all was not well.

There were plot problems from the first half of the rough draft and questions I had yet to answer as the author. I thought I’d just be broad in my outline, and let the solutions appear organically as I wrote. This is much more pantsing than I like to do, and while it may have yielded results eventually, I came to a conclusion last night: this isn’t working.

I don’t mean the inevitable sloppiness of a rough draft, either. I mean that after some analysis, some thought, and a touch of gnashing of teeth I came to realize that the problems of Novel 2 are just too large and too multitudinous to correct through writing the rough draft and correcting in subsequent drafts. This isn’t merely spotty execution early in the process. There are some flaws in the structure itself, and possibly the concept. Strictly speaking I could and should complete the rough draft and then address these things, but I think even for a rough draft, the foundation is resting on too much sand.

In short, I can’t keep building this one as is.

I wrote down all of the themes being addressed in the story, as well as all of the plot points, and there are far too many of both. So many that even if I found a way to tie them all together in one plot, it would feel forced, or convoluted. I hate reading that sort of thing, and so I can’t in good conscience write that sort of thing.

I’ve been writing this novel as a character-driven thriller almost from Day One. Yet there was always this tiny intuition within me that said despite the setting and the presence of some action, the novel wanted to be something other than a thriller. I convinced myself that perhaps it just meant it would be an unusually intelligent or even poetic thriller. But after thinking about it last night, it’s become clear to me that I can’t do justice to the themes I want to address in this novel by writing a thriller, despite there being some suspense in a few scenes.

It’s frustrating and deflating, coming to this realization. But there is good news. At least I think it’s good news: I’m holding onto the theme, the concept, and if all goes well, large portions of what I have of the rough draft. I’ve not looked into it yet, but I think I can make an effective re-calibration of what I have and transform the plot into something more fitting for the message. I don’t think I have to scrap everything I’ve created yet. The theme deserves another shot.

This will, however, mean I will probably have to break one of my cardinal rules and go back over what I have of the unfinished rough draft and alter it. I normally like to finish the rough draft and let it sit a while. Only then do I go back and start revisions. Yet given the major renovation that appears necessary, I don’t think I have any other choice but to go back and at least make some broad changes to what I have so far. What I have from Nanowrimo.

This happens, I know. It’s expected, common, and not the end of the world. It’s not even the end of this novel so far. Nor am I afraid of hard work, as all writing is hard. But this will be extra labor, because I have to extricate all of the twists, turns, daggers, clues, mysteries, investigations and actions scenes that make up the bulk of the novel now, and reinvent it as something else that remains recognizable to the theme I’m going for. It will be a bit of a pain in the ass.

But at least I’ve not quit on this novel. Not yet. They say it’s the not quitting, (as opposed to the constant starting) that makes a writer a writer. We’re about to see just how much of a writer I really am. Stay tuned.


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