It’s been almost six months since I began writing my first novel. The first month felt wonderfully productive (yes, I was a NaNoer who “won”) but then a whole lot of conflicting realities set in. What felt like a novel living inside me turned out to be a distant ancestor. What seemed like a character, a plot, even conflict, turned out to be merely a world. With stuff in it. There was no house of cards, merely a deck. I know, because the web told me so.

That all came second. In the beginning, there was the reviewer. An excellent reviewer, Darth Mint, who slew all but one side character in the first three chapters. Sergius and I then went into the web to search for reinforcements. We found the answer lay within us. We’d just been ignoring it.

Fixing characters is about voice. With so many great blogs about voice, I could even find answers that disagreed. But that’s okay, it’s a complex topic that struggles with the brevity of a blog. Nonetheless, most characters were lacking in detailed backstory, which would explain motivations, constrain expression and drive character development. I had much of this, and it explained the decisions in my plot – but I wove very little of it into the thoughts and dialogue, since I was on a words-per-day schedule. I used my words to build a plot around an external world, because it seemed easier. Now I will have to rewrite practically everything, but that’s okay.

My reviewer and my web search also revealed many other problems with my story. The encyclopædic prologue. The themes that never made it to the reader. And innumerable problems with pace and suspense that come from my “and then this… and then that…” story structure. I’m rewriting some chapters as short stories. That allows me to get faster feedback on whether I can deliver these intangibles. I will eventually – but it could take a while.

Web pages would tell me to ‘read everything’. I had not. On the other hand, I did not even know my genre before I began. Since then, I’ve read several novels that are related, and some that are reasonably close. Nothing that I can emulate wholeheartedly, which is great. I will still be me. But it will take longer to deliver gripping characters and other intangibles divined from disparate books and my own imagination. This blog will follow my novelling, at least the bits that someone else might find useful. Here I will take a first draft novel that reads like a science experiment, and turn it into something you want to read. While remaining something I want to write.

Oh boy. That’s my viscera on the table. Wish me luck!

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