When Your Book is Trying to Kill You…

Y’all. Unquickened is not playing nice. This book is trying to kill me.

I don’t mean this metaphorically. I mean, seriously, characters are reaching across the boundaries of the multiverse with swords and magic and other mystical things to snuff the life out of this adolescent novel and kill me in the process.

This book is trying to kill me.

It’s not that the basic story isn’t there–it is.

It’s not that the characters are new–they aren’t. I’ve known these people for ten years now.

It’s not that I don’t know how to write or even that I’m not working on the book. I do know how to write, and I am trying to work on this book, even as it’s trying to kill me.

But my word, I am becoming seriously discouraged by what I keep finding.

Backing Up

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane, shall we?

I started writing this draft for NaNoWriMo 2014. At the time, all I was worried about was churning out my required word count every day and doing something to advance the story.

Back then, I was not finished with Bloodbonded. I had given it to beta readers who had panned vast chunks of it, and I hadn’t entirely figured out how to fix the problems. Part of the reason for working on Unquickened during NaNoWriMo was to help me figure out how to fix its predecessor.

It worked–sort of. I got to 50,000 words on Unquickened and promptly tucked it away to stew in the mental crockpot. Some of the work I did that month helped me clarify how to fix Bloodbonded.

But back in 2014, I was in the thick of volunteering with AHG. Y’all remember that? For about five years, all I did was scouting. I had little time to even think about writing, much less work on these books.

So… jump ahead a little…

The Middle Stage

Somehow, I finally managed to finish Bloodbonded in 2016. I am still not sure how I did that, given that everything in my world went off the rails that year. If I had not made progress on it before everything fell apart, there is no way I could have finished it that year. But by the grace of God or the Muses or the Force or whatever, I did it.

And then… well, I didn’t have a lot of writing energy for a long while. It was different from the crash of 2012. This was more of just complete emotional, physical, and creative exhaustion. I tried to write sometimes, here and there, but I was just stuck. I genuinely thought I might never write again–at least not fiction.

Then in 2017, I got a ghostwriting contract for a book, and I had to force my writing gene to wake up.

That project could not have been more ideally suited to what I needed at that time. My client was a dream client. She was easy to work with, kind, compassionate, witty, incredibly competent, and truly authentic. Working with her helped me rebuild so many of my writing muscles, and her complimentary words about my work helped me rebuild my confidence.

When I was working with her, I was still finishing my volunteer obligations at AHG. When I finally hung up my faded, torn, dirty “scout mom” hat in 2018, I reopened Unquickened. And I started writing. All I did was compose–just churn out some kind of story to get me to the right length and the right general conclusion.

Which brings us to last year, when I said I’d finally finished it and put it in the mental slow cooker…

Present Day

It turns out there’s a problem with writing a book in fractured bits over a five-year period.

Okay, more than one problem.

So far, the problems I’ve encountered, in no particular order:

  • Repetitive scenes
  • Uneven character development
  • Plot points that aren’t even possible given the events of Bloodbonded
  • Large timeline issues
  • Forgotten character, plot, setting details that should have carried over from the first two books

… and other issues that I just don’t have the right words to describe.

This book is trying to kill me.

I have to confess that these are the moments when I wish I were a plotter instead of a pantser. If I had the ability to actually outline a novel in a way that I could be fairly certain it wouldn’t change in any large-scale way, I would probably not be dealing with all of the aforementioned issues at this moment.

Or maybe I would. I don’t know.

Because here’s the thing… At one point, I did do some fairly extensive outlining on Bloodbonded. I used that outline to finish the book, and then I gave it to beta readers, and they hated it. So I revised it. A lot. And all of those changes are still rippling through everything I wrote between that first draft and the final draft.

In any case, it seems that, for better or for worse, my Muse is a pantser, at least when it comes to fiction.

And now I’m dealing with the consequences.

What to Do When Your Book is Trying to Kill You

At this point, Unquickened looks a lot like a bowl of alphabet soup. A bunch of the words are there, but they are most definitely not in the right order, and there’s too much broth and not enough substance, and it would be really nice if there were some protein on the table.

So… I am in the process of deconstructing the damn thing, figuring out what pieces are worth keeping, and throwing away the bits that aren’t important.

My novel currently resembles a Medieval battlefield.

Maybe that’s appropriate, since this book is, after all, trying to kill me. I mean, can I claim self-defense?

How I look after a day of editing

Deconstruction is a lot harder than demolition. When you demolish something, you can just take a sledgehammer and start swinging. Sure, you might need to make sure you don’t damage the pipes in the wall or maybe you want to save a fixture, but mostly, demolishing is the easy part.

Right now, I wish I could just take a sledgehammer to Unquickened.

But no. I’m deconstructing. Which means I’m looking at every section, every chapter, and deciding whether to keep it or toss it. I’m evaluating the ones I want to keep for timeline, plot points, character development, and all the rest. And I’m staring at the gaping holes I’m creating and wondering what in the holy heck I’m going to fill them with.

This is slow going. It’s painful. It’s frustrating and discouraging.

But it’s necessary, because even though I’m struggling with this stage, I know it’s worth it. I need to publish something I’m proud of–not just the first ramblings of my crazy Muse.

Maybe It Won’t Kill Me…

This is the part where micro-choices come in. I have not been very reliable with my efforts on Unquickened lately for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it’s really hard to put in an hour of work and walk away feeling like you made no progress at all.

But back when I was focusing on habits and small, daily improvements to my health and fitness, it wasn’t one workout that changed me. It was the accumulation of progress from dozens of workouts.

I’m trying to remember that as I pull this novel apart bit by bit and watch the bloodied letters pile around my feet…

So… It’s possible that working on this novel one hour per day might not be realistic right now. It might just be too soul-sucking.

But if I aim for half an hour? I can probably do that. And maybe that’ll lead to an hour, or two hours, or who knows how long…

The older I get, the more holistic I get in my perspectives. I started exercising again just because I didn’t want to feel so sad anymore. Then I wanted to reach a weight goal. Then I wanted to reach a strength goal and a mile goal and a speed goal. Every success built on the successes before it. Every setback was overcome by the lessons already encountered on the journey.

I’ve done this novel thing before–twice. There were setbacks with Ravenmarked and Bloodbonded–many, many setbacks, as many of you know. But in the end, I finished both books, and I didn’t die.

This book will not kill me.

Once more unto the breach…

And may I come out bloodied, battered, limping, but victorious.

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