My novel, it is borken

I went to LTUE and found out my novel is broken. In the second panel I attended, discussing outlining and pre-writing, it dawned on me. I outlined my novel to death. But what killed it exactly? Here’s the list that occurred to me:

  • In mapping out my sub-plots I became confused as to which was the main plot.
  • I didn’t really think through what I thought was the main plot. After nearly a year it has occurred to me that it’s a really dumb way of choosing a country’s leader. Watery tarts in ponds distributing weaponry would be a better idea than what I had.
  • My outline was too detailed. I think I may have become bored writing the novel because I instinctively felt I had already written it.
  • I let a concept lock me into going a particular direction when it was not necessary.
  • I had too many subplots, and too much happening “off screen”.
  • I avoided conflict when I should have been focusing in on it.

So, what do I plan to do about it? Well, unfortunately the damage is done, and changing all the elements I believe need to be changed makes much of what I have already written obsolete. I believe it’s time to plug all the world-building holes I’ve identified and start over again. And it will be much better for it, I’m certain.

It goes against everything I’ve been told, but I really think it would be a waste of time to press forward and finish at this point. Yes, I’d gain the confidence of knowing I finished. But knowing it’s so broken would make it take for ever to finish. It would be better if I started over, as I’d be more excited and more motivated. I’m pretty sure I’ve identified the problems, and that I have a good idea as to how to fix them. I only wish It wouldn’t have taken me so long to figure it out.

But had it not been for LTUE I might still be beating my head against the tree, trying to chop it down.

This entry was posted in Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to My novel, it is borken

  1. Except for avoiding conflict, your post could have been written by George RR Martin. Too many sub-plots?… NEVER!

  2. Thom, your novel is only broken IF YOU decide that it is. I would certainly give consideration to what these others have to say, but, it is YOUR story. I can’t help but recall a quote from Heinlein, (I can’t recollect it fully but it went like this) “Listen to your critics, but kill to retain the integrity of your story”. Of course, mine is also, just a voice worth every cent you pay to hear it.

  3. Well, Bill: For Thom to say it is “broken” is a better status than “incinerated by the side of the road in a soggy ditch”. Clean breaks can be healed once the dr. finds the correct appendages.

  4. Or Diabetes…. “My book has a long, lingering chronic condition”. That would be bad… bad..

  5. Look on the bright side, you get to write another novel without having to think up a new everything.

  6. I agree, Kim. I just don’t want Thom to abandon his baby because someone else, who has never read it, gave some commentary that could be interpreted to mean that THEY wouldn’t like it, maybe. Cuz, let’s face it, Beethoven was such a lost cause.

  7. This isn’t someone criticizing Thom’s book, though, if I’m reading it right it’s Thom getting a perspective on why his book isn’t going as well as he’d like.

  8. My writing tends to suffer from lack of outlining. I really enjoy just starting with a concept and seeing where it takes me. I’m also not a fan of editing. That’s why my stuff will probably never be published. There has to be a happy medium somewhere.

  9. No, I didn’t think that they WERE criticizing his book. As I stated, they have never read it. I just assert that if he abandons it, he should do so because he legitimately thinks that it is broken NOT because someone that he is currently caught up in the fanboy flush of enthusiasm have just been to their brief seminar indicates that some notions that they have may apply to his work that they have not read. If he, Thom, thinks it sucks, great, kill it. But do so because HE thinks it sucks.

  10. Okay, perhaps I should clarify here. I’ve suspect there’s something wrong with the book for some time, but I’ve largely attributed it to being so busy in other aspects of life that I just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm.

    Yes, there were some things said in the particular panel I was in when the insight hit me that might have led to it, but it was more along the lines of symptoms that you may have outlined too much. The main thought that trigger this deep a reassessment came from me alone: “You know, the central premise of this novel doesn’t make any sense. Is there a way I can make it make sense so I don’t have to rewrite the whole thing?”

    The more I thought about it the more I realized that having the leadership of the kingdom decided, in part, by who hires the better musician is just lame, and while this country/culture has its problems, being utterly stupid is not one of them. Yes, it happens (some claim that playing Sax on Arsenio got Bill Clinton elected. Whatever), but life is often stranger than fiction. Things in a book (even fantasy) has to make some sense.

    So, with that thought in mind it occurred to me that the plot could remain much the same even if I just changed it to have him present to entertain during the electoral convention and get caught up in the other intrigues. However, it WOULD undermine one of the minor plots about the guy’s marriage falling apart because he’s too important to let leave to return to his wife.

    Well, I’ve been thinking for some time that I wasn’t playing up the guy’s relationship nearly enough, and what little I was doing was making her sound like a terrible person, which is simply not true. Suddenly it occurred to me that, in fact, that sub-plot is actually the MAIN plot, and that I wasn’t doing it anywhere near justice. Plus I could now point to at least two or three minor concepts that were originally in the book for “cool factor” but had in some ways helped hijack the whole thing.

    So no, I’m not just abandoning it because someone else said my process was wrong. Just raising the question of process in the first place made me re-examine what I was doing, and I realized I wasn’t writing the novel I wanted to write. And I’m not abandoning it. I’m re-starting it to do it justice, and I’m excited to do so. Oddly enough none of this changes the ending I had in mind. If anything it raises the stakes so that the planned ending will be even more satisfying, hopefully.

    Plus, I do think that, while I need an outline, I went too far this time, and it was killing my creativity. I’m still ironing out what process works for me. I think my last novel was a little too “free-range”, and though Bill preferred the first draft to the second, I was more pleased with the second draft and its structure. But it appears that too much structure is also not good for me, so now I must seek out the balance.

    So don’t worry, Bill. I appreciate–and understand–the concern, but the people who got me thinking were not people I fan-boy over, and they were merely the catalyst for a thought process that I claim most of the credit for. The novel was broken, and only sheer determination and stubbornness kept me from giving up before now. But now I will actually finish it, where as before I was simply ready to quit. (And now I’ve written a comment twice as long as the post!)

  11. Thom, you have already expressed those concerns before, so it wasn’t exactly news that you had been unhappy with it. If you are genuinely convinced that it is broken, then make the changes that you feel need made (like you need my permission …). I just have respect for YOUR abilities and opinions, and have seen too many people 1) make a big splash by following their own path and 2) give up because the establishment told them so. Didn’t wanna see #2 happen to you.

  12. I know–and I know you’re looking out for me, and it is appreciated. I’d be lying if said the thoughts and opinions of the panelists don’t matter to me–otherwise what’s the point of going to these things–but I hope I’m maintaining enough of an independent streak to want to make it on my terms and no one else’s.

  13. Well, in that case, knuckle under and cave and fold faster that the flash on laundry day. ūüėČ

Comments are closed.