Writing Beyond My Headlights

The NaNo aftermath. I’m toasted more than usual. Burned. Well, maybe not that bad, but that’s me talking today and not yesterday.

First off, I’m not going to talk about words written, because they were irrelevant long before the month concluded (I almost tripled my goal. Scary.) Just know, the number is ridiculous. I had no life for a month.

Another "place holder" cover for NaNo. Cover: CA Hawthorne

Another “place holder” cover for NaNo.
Cover: CA Hawthorne

Ah, but did I finish? Yeah. There’s a book and there’s a story and characters in that story. The story I’m telling here, though, is the cautionary tale contained in my post-draft report. I want anyone out there whose draft went astray to know they aren’t alone.

It happens.

Given this was Bk4 where the other three books have seen minimal editing I won’t be looking at it again for a long while. There’s minimal editing on Bk1, none on Bk2, and Bk3 should be labeled: under reconstruction.

Wait a minute. What was I thinking writing the fourth book already? Good question. The allure of drafting more than anything. Also, trying my hand at drafting during a summer month (probably never again).

Basically, I have a vision of the series that grows hazier with distance and I stepped beyond the vision. It’s akin to driving on a winding road at midnight and at high speed. I was driving beyond my headlights. By the 25% mark I suspected the truth (the reason I only shared excerpts from before that point).

In my defense (provided by a terrible attorney) I thought I could get away with writing this story because, like with Bk2, almost none of the characters in this book are in Bk1 or Bk3 (the main thread). Although I wrote Bk2 after Bk3, the national events taking place were already determined in Bk3. No so with this book. It overlaps slightly with the end of Bk3, but as I already noted, Bk3 was under reconstruction.

Confused? You should be. I am. That’s how I ended up in leaping into the mess.

Photo: CA Hawthorne

Photo: CA Hawthorne

So, as I always do, I sat down the day after the draft was completed and recorded important impressions for when I return to the story.

It wasn’t pretty.

Still, as an exploratory draft there was much that was worthwhile. Truly, the experience wasn’t a waste (no writing experience is). Some characters were inspired, as were the friendships between characters who were together for awhile. There were great lines, especially from sarcastic Devers. There were new insights into magic operation as it relates to the Astral Plane. In short, what went wrong helped key me into where the series should go.

The central problem was I reverted back to a bad habit: letting characters go, well, everywhere. In truth, I was distracted. Fixing Bk3. Summer. Other big life events.

The protagonist traveling like in Bk1 was okay because the action stayed with her. Having a group traveling in Bk2 was okay because they were all together. In Bk3 the protagonist and antagonist spend the book on a collision course. In Bk4, though, my main characters are flung everywhere with virtually no interaction.

Yes, Christina, what were you thinking? H’m, I wasn’t?

So, I tried correcting on the fly and frustration wrote a trillion words. The worse it became the harder I worked. Somehow I reached the end. I’ve already identified the big problem, but it’ll require so much work to fix it might be easier to rewrite.

There were smaller issues like the threads running through the books I couldn’t address because Bk3 wasn’t repaired. In the report there was a lot of What happened to…? because subplots and side characters kept disappearing. Quite simply, in the sprawling mess there wasn’t time. Characters would open their mouths to speak and I’d say, “Hold that thought. I’ve got other stuff to get to.”

Photo: CA Hawthorne

Photo: CA Hawthorne

It was like that.

Think I’m harsh here? Nah. You should read the report that drips with sarcasm. Contrary to what you might be taking away here, humor is how I deal with the bad.

*sigh* Lessons learned.

Still, I wrote a lot I can use, and much of what will eventually be chopped from the book will become the seeds for other projects. I don’t waste anything. Ever. That’s a lesson I learned a long time ago and it has never failed to serve me well.

Another lesson learned is that sometimes we forget old lessons learned and resort to old bad habits. So, I drove too fast for stopping within the distance my headlights could see and hit a big tree. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the making of this draft—and I’ve hired the tree as an assistant.

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One Reply to “Writing Beyond My Headlights”

  1. Pingback: Writing Beyond My Headlights | Christina Anne Hawthorne

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