And just like that, I’m nearly two-thirds of the way through the rewrite of my WIP.
I should rephrase that: I’m two-thirds through the second draft of my WIP, with an as-yet-undetermined number more to go after that.
And it’s not exactly “just like that” either, for I’ve been hard at work on this draft since January. This has involved, in addition to multiple rewrites of chapters one through three, a first crack at the additional 15 chapters I’ve completed to date some of which were in much better shape than others.
But it really does sort of feel like yesterday was reading through the my complete first draft for the first time, marking up the hundreds of hard copy pages as if with stage directions and binding each chapter with a colour-coded paperclip to symbolize the extent of its revision needs.
It is this latter act that I attribute as the secret of my success thus far. By breaking down a larger whole into a number of smaller, less intimidating parts, I’ve been able to work steadily on each immediate goal (revise one chapter), to achieve measurable progress, and to remain encouraged to stick to the larger goal.
So much so has this method helped and encouraged me, I’m cautiously anticipating reaching both the end of this draft and the question of what will come next.
More drafts, most likely, obviously, will come next. But I’m referring to what comes next next, on the day my “work-in-progress” has become merely “my work”.
That is to say, when it’s time to start writing my next novel.
On the premises
Yes, I’m thinking about that already – this despite my hope to traditionally publish this current book, along with the two subsequent books in the series. Were this to actually happen, it would preclude the need for a brand new novel – one with all new characters set in a completely different story world – for years.
I’m thinking about it now because it takes me a long time to come up with ideas for brand new novels.
Many writers come up with story ideas the way they come up with their next breath.
For them, the question of what to write next is like trying to choose your favourite child: they all have so much potential; with the right amount of love and encouragement, they could all be great.
But there is only so much time: only so many hours in a day, only so many days in one’s life. And so these sorts of writers who are blessed with a bounty of story ideas have to make Choices.
I’m not like that; I don’t have an endless cache of novel ideas waiting to be seized upon.
Admittedly, I’m often heard saying “That’d make a good idea for a story”. But I make the statement in that exact way: that would make a good idea (rather than that is). Because it would – for some other writer who can figure out how to transform a random premise into a complete story.
I was able to do that once, with my WIP, but it was very slow in coming.
The initial spark of the premise occurred to me from a throwaway remark made in a fantasy novel I was reading at the time. From that inspired moment to the final draft of my outline (which still ended up changing significantly once I actually started writing) took almost two years.
Part of the reason I outline is to make sure I can actually turn an idea into a full-blown plot.
Searching for the story
I actually believe I’ve already had the idea for every novel I will write in my lifetime.
Most of these occurred to me in my early- to mid-20s, and have been in a holding pattern ever since.
My ideas tend to come in historical wrappings, which further requires considerable time spent doing research. The next novel I plan to write will be set in Ancient Greece.
I don’t have too much more to go on with it so far other than a handful of keywords: gods and their diminishing influence, slaves, Spartans, diverse characters, deception, war, disguises, and a few more I’ll keep under my hat for now.
Much of my lack of insight is owing to my not yet knowing what is possible. I experienced the same thing with my WIP. I struggled with the outline because I kept trying to compose it before I’d conducted enough historical research.
I all along had an inkling of the story I wanted to tell – the story of a nobleman trying to claim his inheritance and the significant role a lady plays in helping him do so. But I found so much of the story as it now exists in the research itself, each new fact or concept I learned having refining my understanding of what I was actually trying to write.
I’m counting on this same thing happening in my next novel. I should rephrase that: I’m desperately hoping and praying the same thing happens.
I console myself with whispers of, “It’s in the research. The story already exists within the research – you just need to keep reading to find it”.
Or prior to about a month ago, “You just need to start reading to find it”.
I’ve finally cracked the cover of Daily Life of the Ancient Greeks, which for two running now has been on my summer to-do list. I also recently added Women in Classical Antiquity and The Complete World of Greek Mythology to my collection.
These are the first of many reference books I’ll need to bring my knowledge anywhere near to what I have of medieval England, for which I had pre-existing familiarity and a lifelong interest besides.
Two years is a long time to put off doing anything, especially for me who is not a procrastinator by nature. But in this instance, I can’t attribute it to anything else but that.
I’ve written about my writing fears before but if I’m to be honest with myself, this might well be the biggest one of all: that because I’m not overflowing with ideas like other writers – because I like to write about things I don’t naturally know about; because I don’t even know in detail what I plan to write next – maybe there is no next.
Maybe my WIP is all I’ve got in me. A fluke. After spending so much of my life just working on one story, do I even have it in me to do the same thing all over again? Maybe I’m a one-trick pony who mightn’t even get the chance to showcase that one trick in the manner that I desire (i.e. getting traditionally published).
It’s a heavy burden to carry. Some days, I feel myself shrinking beneath the weight of it. Yet when you fear a certain outcome and then don’t do the one thing that can help prevent it, the result becomes both a vicious circle and self-fulfilling prophecy.
I don’t want to believe this outcome could be true and especially don’t want it to be true, which is why I’m carrying on as if it’s not.
I’m feeling the fear and doing it anyway, for while this won’t guarantee success, not doing so will definitely guarantee failure.
Do you come up with story ideas easily? What sorts of ideas do you typically have? Where do they come from? Let me know in the comments.