I chose to self-publish Lindorm Kingdom, because it had been sitting too long for me to do something else first. It was a matter of something like fairness, and also insecurity.
The story represented not just the amount of time I’d been working on it, but also the themes that had been weighing most-heavily on my mind during this latest bout of self-formation (and reformation): justice, strength, using opportunity, and one’s voice.
One writing friend voiced dissent among the other people who have known the story as long as its been in process. She hated the idea of my spending more time on Lindorm, she said, because it was such an early work, and that after reading my current stuff, offering criticism/feedback now seemed like correcting my third-grade homework when I’ve already moved on to calculus.
I was determined, however, and I wrestled the behemoth into submission, ultimately dividing the story in two, and determining to return to the second half in the future.
Well, the future has arrived, and after a seven-month immersion in reading published novels, I finally see what my friend was talking about.
Don’t get me wrong – I still think the first part was well-wrestled – but the second part represents everything that has barely been touched in five years. And that was maybe only two passes away from what I wrote nearly nine years ago.
What I find myself with is the classic (?) troubled novel, where the characters are there, and even some significant and (I’ll be the judge) moving scenes, but there isn’t a strong, compelling through-line in this half, binding it all together and pulling it toward the necessary end.
“Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story for themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.”
As a result, the experience of revision and pulling this draft up to snuff is daunting.
Sort-of as a result, I’m self-coaching now. I am taking the work, and applying what I’ve learned since I first invented Linnea, her stepmother, stepsister, and enigmatic sister-in-law, considering character growth, drive, goal and relationships.
As a fairy tale (or wonder tale, as I prefer to call them now, since so few include fairies), the plot is already determined. For me, the life in this type of novel comes not from any huge surprise, but from a new logic of events or connection with the characters.
I’ve always felt that the irrational randomness in these tales must have made sense to the principals in the moment, and that’s what I look for in recreating the story – the complexity that creates its own sort of sense. And that eventually becomes (through persistent editing) simple enough to follow.
I am traveling back to basics with this one: premise, hook, characterization, goals. It shines an uncomfortable light on on the cockroaches of my noveling process. Apparently most of my stuff comes pre-packaged, already assembled. Picking apart the yarn to weave in a different, more purposeful direction is a new experience for me. But for now I’ve got a bit of time for that.