And then there were none….

Well, not precisely “none”. They’re all still there, those 35,000-plus words in the latest writing project. However, as I was cranking them out, letting them lead me, I got wrapped up in the story and the characters. Then, as happens all too often, I got sidelined for a very long time. Nearly a year, in fact. Although I have picked through it quite a few times in between, most of my actual writing time has been spent revising another project (written under another name) and working on shorter pieces.

This week, my daughter and I attended the first installment of a three-part mystery writers workshop at our local library. Despite the fact that (due to the above sidelines, in large part) the last thing I want right now is to be around people I don’t know, I actually had a great time. Our presenter (Frankie Y. Bailey) was bright, witty, a great teacher, and really knows her subject.  She presented the intro in an entertaining and informative way. While I learned nothing new (technically), I did get a chance to look at the old from a fresh viewpoint, and it was inspiring.

It was, in fact, inspiring enough to encourage me to pull out The Manuscript and read through what I have so far.

What I have, is a mess. Frankie was talking a lot about characters, and with her words in mind, one of my own really stood out as I read through the hodgepodge of words that sit in Scrivener, begging me to untangle them and continue. He stood out because he doesn’t work.

At all.

He doesn’t fit the tone of the story. He doesn’t fit the goal I have in mind. He doesn’t fit the mood or the other characters. Naturally, I wound up getting sidetracked by this almost comic-book pseudo-being, and realize as I re-read that I have somehow managed to turn him into a key player and weave the entire blasted plot around his little devious fingers.

My choices now? Go back to page one and rewrite him, completely, starting from scratch as I try to repair a bunch of tangled ends and get the story back on track. Or ditch the whole darned thing and start from “Once upon a time”.

(Don’t worry, it doesn’t really start “Once upon a time”.)

Maybe I’ll re-title the working draft, start fresh with NaNoWriMo this year, and just try again from as close to square one as necessary to fix this little dilemma. (NaNo worked out so well last year, after all, did it not? Sigh.)

It’s hard right now to be enthused about diving into such a massive undertaking.  The workshop, though, was inspiring, and I look forward to the other two segments. Maybe I’ll wait till after next week’s workshop, which will continue on the subject of characters, and see if it gives me any brilliant ideas.

Edit and Addendum: We’re going with the final thought. The draft has been re-titled, I’m starting with not much more than the outline, and I will try to keep my demons (that was literal) under a tighter rein this year. Wish me luck!

It’s Not Over When It’s Over

Y Wyddfa dominated the horizon, separated from the island by the turbulent waters of the strait and miles of open wild country.  Even from this distance, he could see that its rugged crest was still laced with winter white.  The sky was dark, as if a storm approached, and the air around him crackled with power.  As he climbed higher up the slope, the wind grew fierce, tossing his red‑blond hair into wild tangles.  Up he strode and then down again, and the rocky rise behind him hid the gray‑green shadow of the distant mountain from view.

Seren neither saw nor felt the forces around him.  Her face floated before him, ebony eyes filled with terror, pleading to him for help.  How could it be?  It was all wrong—the place, the time.  She did not belong here.

And how could Iolo expect him to take her life?  But of course Iolo had no way of knowing.  Or did he?

–snippet from Forever Lovers, Forever Foes, by Aydan Forrest

At the moment, I have a number of books in various stages of creation. One is in first-draft form, currently with a friend who is reading it over before I dive into rewrites. Another is in an “almost done” state, with one (I hope) rewrite to go. The third is still being researched and outlined.

It’s the second that I pulled out today, the aforementioned Forever Lovers, Forever Foes. It’s an old manuscript, originally penned many years ago, which has already undergone some major overhauls in the last year. I hadn’t looked at it in some time, thinking it was pretty well done, and only awaiting the cover art. After blogging about it, however, I decided to pull it out again.

Naturally, I found a whole list of little things that bother me.

Today, I began going through it, focusing mainly on point of view issues that need a bit of tweaking. I’m also finding other minor things to fix.

I’m sure new writers, people with stars in their eyes and ideas in their heads, probably think that the wisdom of the King of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland actually holds true:

“Begin at the beginning, “the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

While these words might work well for a portion of the process, getting to the end of a book most certainly isn’t the time to call it “done”. As a matter of fact, books don’t even usually begin at the beginning. Before you can even start the actual writing of your story, there is plotting, character development, outlining, research, and more to be done.

Then, you write “The End” … and you start all over again.

This is at least the fifth editing run that Forever Lovers has gone through.  There were at least two major rewrites of the first draft before the “minor rewrites” began. Then, I pulled it out of mothballs twenty years later and had to do another serious overhaul to update the technology to something more current. After that came an “editing revision”, to catch little errors in syntax, help the words flow more smoothly, and dig out the many little typos that aliens and gremlins inserted into the book while I wasn’t looking.

Now, I’ve made the mistake of reading it again. I couldn’t believe how many little bits of literary lint bothered me enough that I had to start picking them off.

Books are like that. Once you commit to one, it becomes a living, breathing entity. It has a life of its own that grows and changes like a perennial garden. It goes from seed to sprout to bloom to seed, and then it starts all over again. Throughout the process it needs watering, pruning, nurturing and a whole lot of weeding. It’s only when the gardener is satisfied that the story can be plucked, wrapped up in love, and handed off to those who will be blessed to read the words.

For the next week or two, therefore, my focus will be on the final run-through of Forever Lovers. I’m hoping I’ll finally run into the friendly neighborhood fat lady. I’m looking forward to hearing her sing.