Sunday, December 27, 2009

Distance and Time

I've pretty much taken the last week off, enjoying time with family and a distance away from writing and my novels. I'd all but come to the conclusion that Sasha will be a shelved novel, not finished, not fully realized, but I wanted to be sure. So while I had the time, I read it. (Yes, TikiBird, I know I said I wouldn't, but I did. I read it in my recliner, no pen in sight, no desire to edit on my mind.)

I was surprised to find scenes and dialog that made me laugh or that were perfect as is. I expected a lot rougher of a first draft, but the tension between the characters was real and believable and their conversations were witty. Shocking. Delightful.

Halfway through my reread, I thought maybe I was wrong. Maybe I could finish this novel. Visions of having two novels being queried at the same time danced in my head. I continued reading.

Something happened about twenty pages from the end (of what I'd written), and I realized all over again that this was not the novel for me. I adored reading it. It is a novel I would have purchased, if written by someone else. But it wasn't a novel I wanted to write.

I told Cody, in a rare moment of complete honesty, that I wanted someone else to read what I'd written merely to stroke my ego with praise over how good some of those scenes are. That's a really shallow reason for me to want anyone to read anything. It's definitely not reason enough for me to continue writing. Or, if it's a reason, it's not the right one.

So my decision is final: I will be starting work on rewriting Areia after the new year (while querying Madison). I've taken down all storyboards of Sasha. I'm going to recycle the pages I printed. The files have been moved into the larger "Story Ideas" file. It was fun and it was good practice, but it wasn't right for me. As far as learning experiences go, it could have been a lot more painful.


Marc said...

Since I'm a new reader to your blog, I wanted to know if you outline. I'm guessing no but an outline would have helped instead of writing then quitting.

Rebecca Chastain said...

Marc, thanks for reading my blog! I do outline! I call it storyboarding, but basically that means I have a 3x5 card for each scene taped to my wall, outlining the story from beginning to end before I start.

Setting this story aside took a lot of careful introspection. I *was* really liking it when I outlined it. It has a few fantasy elements to it, but it's basically a romance. The novels I've written before this have been urban fantasy or epic fantasy, and I thought romance with a little fantasy would be good (I like to read these).

Apparently, I can't write them. Well, physically, I can. But the thought of selling the book and being asked to write another romance in a similar vein was depressing. This project taught me that I need fantasy with elements of romance, not the other way around.

I have tentative plans to revampt the story, because the characters are great. But Areia, the book I'm going to work on now, I wrote three years ago as my first novel. It's ridiculously long (1,300 or so pages) and needs boatloads of work. Which is why I set it aside to work on something I could sell first. But three years later, it's still one of the last things I think about at night, so I think it's time to finally trim it down and polish it up.

That was a tremendous amount about me—what about you? Do you write? Do you outline?

M. said...

Hi Rebecca,
Was thinking of following through on mentioneing 'Number One Novels' in my sidebar (since I really do love debut authors) and went to the site to see if you have a widget or sprout (I say that like I know for certain they are two different things). Didn't see one. That would be a great thing to be able to lift and transport to another blog. Just saying.

Marc said...

I forgot who said it but someone said that all stories are romance stories. I agree with that even if the romance isn't the prevalent plot of the book. I'm a dude and I like having romance in the stuff I read & write, movies I watch or video games I play.

Me? You want to know about little old me? But I'm not a famous writer. Yet. Anyways, I think outlining is necessary and that people should do it. I've written four manuscripts but haven't been able to get published or an agent. I've spent over half my life working on it and I'm not even 30 yet.

I am curious about you though. Are you working on stories you think you can sell or stories you want to write?

TikiBird said...

Rebecca, I'm glad you found a plan for moving onward that makes you look forward to working on your books in the new year! I'm psyched that you're going to start querying Madison and working on Areia again!

About Sasha, I just wanted to say that you are allowed to change your mind later if you find five years from now you do want to return to that story after all. :) And even if you don't, I think it's awesome you NaNo'ed again!

Rebecca Chastain said...

M.--What a great idea! I asked my IT guy (aka my boyfriend Cody) if he knows how to make a widget, and he's going to look into it. Now I need to think of something attractive and small for it to look like...

Marc--Congratulations on finishing four books! That's quite an accomplishment.

As far as writing what I want vs. what will sell, I think they are one and the same. I write stories that I'd want to read. I couldn't write something just because I thought it would sell if my heart wasn't in it. Writing (and editing) a novel take so much of my time/life, I couldn't do it if I wasn't in love with what I was writing.

That said, the reason I originially set Areia aside was because it was so long, I knew I couldn't sell it at the length it is and I knew that it would take a ridiculous amount of time to hack and refine it into something sellable, so rather than toil away for another couple of years on that, I wrote Madison. Ariea is an epic fantasy, and I did the exact opposite with Madison, every decision designed to make a shorter novel (and the fact that I was writing it for NaNo WriMo helped). Madison is an urban fantasy that takes place within a week, with a character that's not at all into introspection or preplanning, where humor and dialog move the plot as much as action (vs. epic fantasy where a plot point introduced on page 10 might not come to fruition until page 90). I also thought short book would equal short editing, fast sell. Three years later (with a break twice to write other books for NaNo WriMo), I just got it ready to query, so nope, it wasn't as fast as I hoped. But I learned so much from the process that now when I go back to work on Areia, I know that I'll be making better choices and be more organized (and therefore faster) than I would have if I hadn't switched gears to focus on Madison.

And that was probably way more than you wanted to know. :)

TikiBird--You nailed my final thought on Sasha: if she's still begging to be written in a few years, I'll return to it. However, I've already written a couple of pages of notes for how I'd want to change it. What I think will happen is I'll take the characters and rework them. They were great characters. The male lead got too wealthy in Sasha. Like Bill Gates wealthy, which was fun, but I think if he stayed the art thief I originially planned of him, he would have been more interesting. I liked that he was very easy going and that Eva found that to be his most annoying trait. There was good chemistry there.

Oh, and while I was looking for NON authors, I found another literary agent to query: Scovil, Galen, Ghosh. They are the agent for Mercedes Lackley and Terry Goodkind. So that's nine agents to query in January. It's a good start.