A Daunting Task

Today’s post is related to yesterday’s, Getting Lost Is Exactly What I Needed. They both stem from my reading of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series, but I wanted to pull this topic out and give it its own space on the page. One thing that’s always impressed me about Jim Butcher’s work is the pace at which his novels are set. From the first chapter the story just rushes forward, often finding its conclusion within mere days of the characters getting involved, and there’s so much going on that sometimes it’s hard to keep track of which details belong to which subplot.

The Codex Alera is no different. Jim Butcher has built a complicated and fascinating world, and has populated it with people who all have their own desires and motivations. He weaves these people together with such grace and fluidity that it almost resembles a ballet. His stories are complicated, and the characters have to fight tooth and nail for every inch they gain over their adversaries.

My current fantasy project isn’t like that. I understand that I’m not Jim Butcher, and he has so much more experience than me, but I can’t help feeling completely inadequate to fulfill the task at hand. I like the main storyline of my project. But I don’t have much besides the main storyline. I don’t have interwoven characters, and random people who show up from the past, and strange things happening that won’t make sense until the end. I can see these threads in other authors’ work, but I don’t know if I’m capable of creating them myself.

Jim Butcher’s characters get thwarted at every turn. They make a plan, and it fails, and they make another plan, and it fails, and they get captured on their way to some big important event, and someone else has to step in and make sure the important thing happens. My characters have a plan, and they follow that plan, and nothing particularly bad happens to them along the way.

I need to make some changes. I need more subplots, more history to enrich the plots that already exist, more peril for my characters, more roadblocks to throw in their way. I just need…more.

I have the basis for more subplots already, in the editing notes I’ve been making, which I discuss in the post Rewrite Sticky Notes. I want to add in more mythology, and pull in more of Callum’s family history to further define his motivations. But it isn’t enough. I’ve decided to halt my push to finish the first draft. What’s the point of writing the ending if I’m going to have to make significant changes to it anyway? Instead, I’m going to do some planning. Determine what subplots I need to add, and figure out how to incorporate them into the story I’ve already created. Then I’m going to begin rewriting. I don’t feel up to this task. It’s terrifying, and as yet I have no idea how to accomplish it. But, as tends to happen, maybe it’ll make more sense to me once I actually throw myself in and get started.

Getting Lost Is Exactly What I Needed

Last week was a struggle for me. With being sick, and still being weak during recovery, I quickly developed cabin fever and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. By the time Saturday hit I was climbing the walls, but still too tired to actually accomplish anything or go anywhere (not that I could go anywhere anyway, because apparently you’re still contagious for up to a week after symptoms go away). I told my husband while fixing some dinner that if I had to find something else to watch on Netflix again then I would feel like killing myself (in jest; I’m not suicidal and all true suicidal feelings should be taken seriously). He suggested I read instead.

Kasey thought I should read the fantasy series I bought a few months ago with my birthday money (see: A Barnes & Noble Pilgrimage). I told him I couldn’t, because I had a plan. A plan to read the books I already owned, like my neglected classics. Then it occurred to me: my plan was stupid. I definitely wasn’t in the mood to read my classics, and I’ve really been wanting to read the new books, and why was I keeping myself from reading something I really wanted to read?

I started on the first book that night, Furies of Calderon of The Codex Alera by Jim Butcher. I’ve written several posts about Jim Butcher, all centered around a series I loved called The Dresden Files. I loved them so much, when I learned Jim Butcher wrote a true fantasy series, I bought the whole thing without so much as knowing what the story was about. And when I finally started reading them Saturday night, I was hooked. I’ve finished 2 books so far, Furies of Calderon and Academ’s Fury, and the only reason I haven’t started book 3 is because I need to actually do things with my life other than sit on the couch and read for 12 hours straight (which I did on Monday).

I’ll admit, the series isn’t as good as I expected it to be. I love it, and I’ve been completely drawn in by the story, but the numerous mistakes I’ve noticed are distracting and disappointing. Almost immediately, the book like it hadn’t been edited for punctuation. Some of the sentences don’t feel like real sentences, and there are commas everywhere, way too many commas, and in places that it doesn’t make sense to have a comma. It makes me wonder if he was in such a rush to publish that he didn’t take the time or use the right people to iron things like this out. The next big one is continuity errors. Nothing major, but they’re still there. For instance, when describing a street in the capital city, on one page the street is named Craft Lane and on the next page the street is named Crafter Lane. And, the main character is tasked with stopping a thief, who he later refers to in passing as the Black Cat, although that name hasn’t been previously introduced.

As I said, these mistakes have no bearing on the overall story, they simply lessen my experience and highlight the flaws all authors have. A lot of them were probably changes the author made during writing and editing, and they didn’t get caught before the book went into publication.

Nevertheless, I’m completely engrossed in the story. I feel like I built it up too much in my head, expected too much from one of my favorite writers, and that’s nobody’s fault but mine. It’s a beautiful story, and I can’t wait to finish it (over the course of the next 2 weeks, because each one is 600-700 pages, and that’s a lot). And, drowning myself in a new series is exactly what the doctor ordered to lift my mood and pull me through the remainder of my quarantine.

Life Happens…Again

I feel like all my posts have been the same lately, when I get around to posting at all. Basically: I meant to write, but such-and-such happened, and I didn’t actually get any work done, so I have nothing to say, but I’ll get back to work soon.

Life happened again this week. After finally getting back into my current fantasy project, which is still soo close to being finished, I only actually worked for about 2 days before I came down with the stomach flu.

I’ll spare you the details, because it wasn’t pretty, but I spent 3 days completely useless. Even after the not pretty stuff was over, I was still weak, and could barely eat, and spent all my time either sleeping or binge-watching stuff on Netflix (The Good Place and Santa Clarita Diet, if you’re curious). Even today I feel more like myself, but I’m still exhausted and have a crazy headache. I’m trying to get back into a semi-normal routine, but my body has decided I’m not quite done recovering yet.

I’m finally settled in with my laptop for a bit, and kinda feel up to working, and I’ve realized that I don’t know where my story needs to go next. I’m smack dab in the middle of chapter 20, and I don’t know what to say. Typically when I’m stuck, just diving right in helps me to figure it out, and once I get started everything ends up being fine. Hopefully sometime in the next few days I’ll get past this block and truly get good work done.

Fighting The Fear

Several weeks ago I wrote a post titled The End Approaches, excited that the end of my current fantasy project was a mere couple of chapters away. I’ve recently realized that I’m afraid to finish it.

That excited post was several weeks ago. My wrist injury and various illnesses kept me away from my computer, and, to be honest, it’s been tough getting back into a writing routine. I haven’t written much this week. Partly because this week has been difficult for me. I’m no longer working part-time. I’m not going to go into the details here, because I’ve seen too many stories of people facing consequences for saying something wrong about a major company on social media, and I’m not willing to take any chances. However, the loss of that job hit me harder than I expected it to. I didn’t like it, but having it suddenly disappear from my life has been disorienting and a bit depressing.

Today marks the beginning of a new week, and I thought I was excited to finally have concentrated time to pound out the rest of my story. But whenever I think I have time to write, I keep deciding to do something else instead. And I finally realized that I was avoiding the project, an action born out of fear.

It sounds kind of silly, but I think I’ve mentioned it in passing before. Right now, I’m safe. The project is still in its early stages, and is noticeably incomplete. There are no expectations for it. It could stay in this state forever, and remain safe. But if I finish it? It has the potential to hurt me. In my head, I can acknowledge that day is still months away. There’s still editing to do, and more editing, and beta readers to contact, and then more editing. I’m considering sending it to a freelance editor this time before I try to hook an agent. That’s a lot of work, and a lot of time between now and possible publishing. But it doesn’t have to get done if I never finish the project.

This week is going to be about conquering this fear. I’ve felt it before, at the end of every project that I hoped would go somewhere. I felt it a few weeks ago right before I hit the “submit” button on my January contests. It’s a familiar fear, probably even healthy, but one that I refuse to live with. I refuse to let fear of failure hold me back. Or fear of success, for that matter.

I probably won’t finish the project this week. But I will work on it consistently, and I won’t let the fear win.