Monday, May 9, 2011

Growing Up...

...or the evolution of a story.

Sendek came to me in a dream almost nine years ago. It has changed a thousand times over the years and in truth it's mostly a new story now. There are a few characters that share names with that original idea. The Draguman were always there, but even they've changed so much that they're a  new species.

In the beginning, Sendek was a YA novel. My MC, Elyzbeth, was 18 and leaving to attend the University in the capital city. She had these dreams but had no idea what they meant. She had two parents that loved her and an older brother who teased her and dated her best friend. (In fact he liked to call her "bug" when she followed him around, but they joked that he became the "bug" when he took an interest in Trace.) At school there was a gorgeous guy that watched her from across the hall and then ended up in one of her classes. Of course he liked her right away, but thought the brother was the boyfriend and thus the effort to stay away from the girl. Blah, blah, blah...

And that was it.

For six years.

Yeah, I had nothing. No ending, wasn't sure how the Draguman played into the picture and thus no conflict. I was stuck.
Something had to change because I wasn't willing to trash the idea.

I killed all of Elyzbeth's family, changed her name to Talia, and made her ten years older.These small changes commenced the beginning of Sendek's growing pains. It was hard to leave the realm of YA where I had been so comfortable. But based solely on my MCs age, leave I must.
I took that shaky step forward and wonderful things happened. An ending came to me, the story fleshed out, then deepened with each revision. I could understand my characters motivations better now that they had more life experience. One addition is Talia's ability (necessity really) to drink the sunsrise. I love this new part of her! Could my teen MC have done this? Sure, but she didn't. Does that make any sense?

Here's where I'm at right now. I'm holding onto remnants of Sendek's childhood. Little personality traits that no longer make sense. A certain level of neediness and insecurity in Talia, a slight one-sidedness in Landry, and too much sympathy for the bad guy.

I've almost fixed all of Talia's problems, and half of Landry's. Now its time to let the bad guy be the bad guy. I realized with my last read through that I need two or three short scenes with the Draguman earlier on in the book. They need to be more of a threat, more menacing, more terrifying. More evil.

When those last elements struggle through the rite of passage called revision, and grow up, it'll be time to query once again.

What kind of growing pains have your WIPs been through? What have you struggled to let go for the good of the story?


  1. Mostly I think that my big growing pain/struggle has been with word count. Before I started networking and reading blogs, I thought that 170,000 words for a novel was kinda short and that this was okay. So here I had this 170,000 word novel and then started looking at the publishing industry and realized I needed to trim 70,000 words out of this thing. It necessitated deep cuts and reworking of entire plot lines to simplify everything. But I like the finished project.

    Now I'm writing something new that has a goal of no more than 80,000. I hit halfway there last week so I'm really using words conservatively to come in at this mark.

    The plot is super simple. It's a fantasy. Guy was hired buy another guy to break into a vault in a city. That's it.

  2. I went through similar issues with my second novel. I couldn't grasp where the story needed to go. I went around the bend with it, and finally got to the point where I had to put it to the side, at least for now. I have a good idea of what needs to be done, but I think it needs to stew in my brain for a bit, even if a 'bit' ends up being a few years.

  3. Most of mine have been letting go of a particularly good scene that just doesn't belong. I keep hoping these types of scenes will find a home in another story.

  4. I have two stories that have had major issues like that that I have been working on to fix. The one needed more tension and to have much higher stakes. The other I need to make the MC more sympathetic - no easy feat when the MC is an assassin.

    Here's hoping you have everything smoothed over soon so you can query soon!

  5. Thanks Nicole! I have the wip out with beta readers again and that is a huge help in finding those problem areas.

    Tara that is so true. Sometimes the stewing is more important than the writing. Um, well, you know what I mean. :) Good luck with it when the time comes to look at it again.

    Sierra, I keep a file of cut scenes in the hopes I can use them somewhere else. Some of them are really good, but like you said, they just don't belong.

    Michael, isn't it wonderful that you still liked your story after such cuts. Sometimes its hard to cut out subplots or even just scenes that we've spent time on. Good for you for doing it! I'm learning that simplicity really is the key now days. Start simple and then layer if needed. Seems to work. Good luck!

  6. I loved reading about your novel growing up :)
    It doesn't seem easy that's for sure, but what a journey!

  7. I think every book is different. For me, sometimes all the growing pains are at the beginning. Other times it's all around the end. But I usually have a pretty good idea of where the story is going and what I want to say with it.


  8. My very first novel was christened with the title 'Black Diamond'. I started in when I was in the third grade. It was about a dragon. That's all I really knew. I didn't yet understand plot, word count, voice, or other things like that.

    Slowly, my novel evolved growing more characters, some of which were fairies (thumbs up for branching out). Then, when I was in about the fifth grade, I popped in some humans and changed the title to 'Rubies and Silver'. It was a big complicated mess.

    From all the ideas that that first novel has evolved into has sprouted two series, THE SWITCHERS and HEIRS TO ESIO. It's amazing what can change in five years.

  9. Oh, I love the idea of being able to drink the sunrise! I wish I could do that.

    My WIP has had a very long and very slow development process as well for the last 10 years. It was so hard to let go of some of those early characters and settings and premises. I'm not sure if it shares much of anything with those early forays into storytelling. But I keep those old ideas in the back of my mind so I can always go back and poach from them for future stories.

  10. Awe, thanks Estrella!

    Jai, I'm learning to plan better. BTW, I've been enjoying your vlogs.

    Excellent Brooke! Keep up the good work. You will have a great start on those of us who started writing seriously later in life.

    Sarah, I love to just sit in my back yard and feel the sun on my face, or watch it dance through the leaves. I think that's why the power of the sun has been growing throughout this book. It IS hard to let some things go isn't it?

  11. I've been through very similar growing pains with my WIP. Making the bad guy badder was probably one of the hardest parts. He wasn't supposed to start out so bad, but he just seemed childish. Treading the line between annoying and evil was hard :)

    Good luck!

  12. I know I'm a bit late commenting, but when I read this post I simply couldn't leave it without a comment. My WIP, Tangled, has gone through a LOT of growing pains. At least five characters deleted, several plot lines culled, a change in when it's set, a new title and rewriting it from 3rd person to 1st person. So I totally get where you're coming from. Hopefully both our novels end up amazing as a result of all the changes. :-)


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