I have to admit I was a little disappointed at the end of NaNoWriMo when my novel failed to break 100,000 words, but I’ve already gone over that. Needless to say, I kept writing, and tonight I crested the 100,000 word mark of the first book in what I am currently calling The Deicide Saga. Since it also happens to coincide with the end of the outline I had written to guide me through the first half of the book, I thought this would be a good time to take a break and reflect on what I’ve done so far and what I plan on doing in the future.
I don’t have a whole lot to compare the experience of this novel to. Since 2010, I’ve written 3 other novels, and each of them have been so different that they just don’t line up. I imagine – and soon I won’t have to imagine much any more – that this is much like raising children.
I will say that, so far, this one seems to be a bit more like work and a bit less like inspiration. My last novel, In the Shadow of Legends (a post coming soon on the fate of that work, by the way) was loosely inspired by my own wanderings through Europe, during which I passed through the village where my grandfather was born and grew up until he was ten or so. I’ll save that story for a beer, sometime, but there was a kernel of something deeply meaningful in that book for me. I was connected to it by real-life events and inspiration, and even though the book ended up having nothing whatsoever to do with that experience, I wouldn’t have written it without it.
This book, which I can best describe as taking Hindu and Greek mythology/philosophy and mashing it together to create an epic fantasy, was purely formed by brainstorming and wasn’t necessarily inspired by anything at all. Sure, I am a great fan of mythology and read it as often as I can get my hands on it, but there was no personal experience that suddenly sprung an idea in my head. I’m just not feeling the connection to this one that I felt to my previous one, and it has me doubting my motivations and the quality of the work.
I’ve heard from many authors that writing isn’t all about magic and fairy dust, so I’m not necessarily discouraged. In truth, this book is flowing out of me at a faster rate than my previous novel, which must mean something, right? I’m also working very hard to apply some principles and lessons I’ve learned over the last two years from conferences and editing my own work and others. I’m trying to take my writing from telling a story to relating an experience, something that I think is much more “art” and much less “work.” You tend to think of creative endeavors as these ethereal things that are drawn from an invisible force that dwells inside of you, but I – and many other authors – will readily admit that that is not frequently the case. There’s a technical aspect to creating that I think many authors ignore.
The result, I think, is chaos. It might be therapeutic, it might be cerebral and ingenious, but I think the audience is dramatically narrowed. Those pieces are written for oneself, and aren’t meant to be shared. As James Owen said during his keynote address at LTUE 2012, the one thing that nobody will ever understand about you is your point of view. Those pieces are your point of view. They are a form of meditation. The brilliance in writing is taking that meditative, free-form chaos and applying it to a format that other people can understand. It’s taking that swirling miasma of creative ether and distilling it using a filter known as “technique.”
That’s what I’m trying to do with this and all my future works. That might be what has me feeling so uncomfortable about it all, because I’m forcefully sterilizing some of the craziness that is inside my own head. Now that I’m 100k into the book, I can see that it takes a form that I’m not used to. I used to think that fantasy novels had to have battle scene after battle scene, but if you look at some of the greats, there’s hardly any battles at all. They are set pieces to which you are building throughout sequences of scenes, and very frequently they are short and sweet. They are memorable because of the non-action-oriented scenes that came before it, and without that buildup they don’t mean anything at all. The problem with writing it is that you start to get worried that something hasn’t blown up in a while, and you’re wondering if the reader is thinking that very same thing. The last thing I want a reader to do is skip chapters so he can get to the “good stuff.” I want it to all be good stuff.
Anyway, those are some of my thoughts as I am about halfway through the first book in this series. I’m sorry for this disjointed and confusing post, but I have to get my chaos out somewhere if it’s not going directly into my novels. Now YOU get to read it. Lucky you.