Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Crowns Threnody Diaries: Unexpected Beginnings and When the Story Hooks You

Work on my first novel has begun in earnest, and I've decided to document the progress of my endeavors. I'll be making regular posts to this blog each Wednesday about my habits, feelings, and thoughts on the birth pains of a story. There may also be some occasional extra posts if I feel the need come to me between scheduled dates.

As I write this, I'm only weeks away from beginning the prose drafting of what I hope will be my debut novel, the as-yet untitled first book of my first epic fantasy series Crowns Threnody. The thing is, what is now Crowns Threnody was originally conceived under the working title Terminal, and the descriptor 'epic' wasn't really supposed to get anywhere near it. It was supposed to be a short story around 10,000 words in length.

I wanted to do something small-scale and failed. I can't seem to do anything small. I may have a mental disease of some kind.

Terminal began as one of a good number of kernels of fantasy conceptualization scribbled haphazardly in a notebook while I was moderately drunk and listening to Wolves in the Throne Room. I returned to the notebook the next day once sober and crossed off all of these ideas. All but one.

Around that remaining idea, I started building a story. As something interesting started to take shape, I got more and more excited about it. It quickly grew WAY out of the original bounds I had set for it, and the stakes got considerably higher. I kept trying to constrain it (first as a novelette, then a novella, then a single novel), but it casually burst all of the limits I tried to set to hold it in and is presently planned to be a trilogy (with provisions in place for a fourth book if I need the extra space to tell the story properly).

Typically, we as writers try to create hooks in our stories that will grab readers and keep them reading to find out what happens next. In my experience, it's a little rarer that we get caught on our own hooks and dragged into something different than we'd planned, and it's always thoroughly enjoyable when that does happen. It's also helped me maintain enthusiasm for the project, which makes it easier to keep working on it hour after hour, day after day. Some stories fight me while I struggle to drag them kicking and screaming into existence, but this one seems much more like something whole that already exists within me somewhere, and all I have to do is uncover it.

My intention is to begin drafting book 1 by the end of March, and to finish the book by the end of the year (the first draft, at least). I'm actually a little stunned at the amount of momentum I've built up behind this project; it's simultaneously heartening to find myself working this hard so willingly/consistently and a little terrifying to know that I'm responsible for translating this set of ideas into something compelling. It's not hard to have a good idea; the real challenge is in drawing it out of my mind without damaging it and maintaining the spirit and balance of it while still growing it into a satisfying work. There's also a very real feeling of reality to my dedication to this project that I'd never noticed I was lacking in other cases; a sense of weight and purpose and perhaps just a little panic that I'm finally really doing this.

I've talked about writing all my life. As far as I can recall, there's never been a time in my life when I was anything less than certain that this was what I wanted to do. Somehow, though, I never felt ready until now. In spite of all my efforts, it always felt distant. It was always something I'd be doing someday. Now that it's finally happening, it feels very surreal. There's a dreamlike quality to it.

There's also a very deep sensation of relief. I realize now that I should have been doing this all along. I had no idea how much stress I was feeling on a daily basis simply because I wasn't fulfilling my need to write. As much as I've always loved writing, I'd never realized how necessary it is for me.

I'm very excited about these characters, about this world, and about this story, and I can't wait to share them with you.

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