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Changes, changes, changes…

August 3, 2014

I’m starting to notice a curious pattern with my novel: every time I’m just about to finally settle on all the plot and worldbuilding details, yet another bunch of changes worm their way into my head…and slow my writing pace to an utter crawl.

This time, the changes began several weeks back. I’d been trying to tighten the structure of my book’s plot (again), only to realise that the first ten chapters followed a perfectly good plot structure all by themselves. This, I should point out, was never my intention; rather, it simply just happened.

What do I mean, you might be asking? Well, among other things, the first ten chapters include:

  • An introduction, along with a “hook”
  • An inciting incident
  • A period of rising action/tension, complete with a “rock bottom” moment mid-way through
  • A climax
  • A resolution (…or so it seems, anyway)

Having realised the above, I asked myself the following: why not structure the entire novel this way, with a set of shorter “parts” or “episodes” combining to form an overall plot-line. Initial attempts to outline the idea proved fruitful, which in turn led to a ground-up re-write of the novel’s remaining two thirds….along with a few bits of the first third, too.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I also decided to review the worldbuilding behind the book. Because, well, why not? There were a still a few details about the main alien species in the book which were overly vague and/or simply didn’t feel right, and I thought it high time to do something about it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, numerous changes resulted:

  • Three new characters were introduced. One of them originated in the 1st draft but was scrapped when redrafting started; the other two are completely new.
  • Some slight re-writes were made to my protagonist’s backstory, prompted at least in part by the questions in this post 
  • Huge expansions were made to the biology and social structure of the aforementioned (parasitic) aliens, with a few minor alterations made in other areas.
  • One particular character was promoted from being an important side character to the role of Major Antagonist, having made the exact opposite transition between first and second drafts.

Honestly, I consider the third point to be the most important of the four. It got me thinking about a huge variety of things, not the least being potential plotlines for future books…not that I’m getting ahead of myself, or anything. In understanding my world more, events and characters should come just that much more naturally, significantly improving the pace of later work.

More important, though, is that these world alterations got me thinking hard about worldbuilding in general. When we make fictional worlds, it’s our task to make them real enough to truly suck readers in. Before, the world of my novel didn’t achieve this; now, it…probably still doesn’t, admittedly, but is at least a little closer to doing so. And that’s all that matters, right?

At this point, the outlining seems to have come to an end, and I’m thinking it high time I actually got back to writing things. Of course, I’ll probably be slow for the next little while, simply due the gap that’s developed. However, if I just write a little each day, then I ought to be back up to speed in no time at all.

So how has everyone else been doing with their writing, lately? Got anything you’d like to share? Feel free to comment below!


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  1. What you’re going through is a perfect example of the novel-writing process, regardless of which stage you’re in. Things change, evolve, add themselves in, or no longer make sense as time goes on. It’s happening to me, too. It’s probably normal. *lol* Although it’s frustrating when it causes you to stop in the middle of revising or writing and rethink what you’ve done so far. But it’s all progress in the right direction. I like how you ended the post, too: Even a little bit of writing every day will help you get back on track. And we’ll be here to cheer you on!

    Thanks for linking to my blog article on character wounds! I’m really glad you found it helpful – though I never intended it to cause any slowdowns in anyone’s editing process. :S

    You have some catching up to do, btw. 65,000 has been up for a few weeks, and 70,000 may be coming as soon as this week. 😉

    • It certainly seems that this kind of thing isn’t exactly unusual, though I do reckon later projects won’t end up changing (quite) as drastically as this one keep doing.

      And thanks! I’m getting back on track slowly, but I am indeed getting back on track. The is pretty much as it was when I first wrote this post, but I’ve written a couple of unrelated pieces simply to get the writing flowing again. The next step, I suppose, is to actually start writing for the novel again.

      Hehe, no worries. The character in question clearly needed work, and those questions at the end were a huge help in that regard. Though given how much rewriting I’m still doing, I’d hardly say I’m at the editing stage just yet. Perhaps the third draft will be where the editing truly starts. I can but hope 🙂

      Congrats on getting to 70! Sorry I haven’t been around, lately; will be all caught up in the near future, for sure ;).

      • Yay! Glad to hear that the flow is coming back to you. 🙂 Someone should have told us writers a long time ago that patience is a lot more than just a virtue. *lol*

  2. Ooh, that’s exciting! My writing is going…uneventful, mostly. But in a good way. I’ve been spending most of my time on world building and developing characters for a story I haven’t written yet, and I’ve finally gotten around to actually writing some short stories.

    • Glad to hear you’re making headway :). Sounds like you’ve been doing a lot lately. How are the short stories going, if you don’t mind me asking? I try to do short pieces every now and then, but it’s been a while since I actually managed to finish one.

      “Uneventful” sums up my own progress pretty well at the moment, actually: I’ve written a few isolated scenes for various things simply to keep my wordcount going, but work on the novel remains…well, slow. Still, as long as I don’t stop writing altogether, I don’t reckon it matters all that much 🙂

      • Yeah. Well…slow. Very slow. I’m writing a decent-sized one (about maybe 15k, I think), and it was going well in the beginning, but now I’ve been going really slowly. Still, despite the speed, it is coming out well and a friend told me it’s supposedly some of my best writing. I sure hope it’s good.

        Ahh… well, I hope it gets better for you. But yeah, I agree, the important thing is to just keep doing it.

  3. I’m glad you’re seeing progress. It sounds like you made some real improvements to your story. I think if the world doesn’t suck the person in, just as if the characters don’t suck the person in, the book can fail.

    Personally, I’ve been working on a rewrite of The Light Side of the Moon (which is Book 2 in the Other System’s Universe) and I sent it to the publisher on Friday. This probably goes without saying, but I hope they like it. 🙂 So now I’m going to write a haunted house story, because I like haunted house stories while I’m waiting to hear back.

    • Thanks! Still need to actually implement most of the improvements, but at least they’re there. I seem to be having trouble getting black into the “flow” of the novel, for some reason, and have ended up writing a couple unrelated things to keep a block from developing. I’m starting to think a complete read-through of the current draft might be in order…

      In any case: good luck with this submission! I enjoyed Other Systems a lot when I read that, so I’ll be sure to pick up The Light Side of the Moon too whenever it comes out.

  4. sounds great, Nick. Writing -> questions -> possible answers -> eurekas -> rewriting -> questions, etc. That’s my experience too. I’m in the stage after that of my 4th now, where the questions are mainly answered and I’m down to fine-polishing and about to let some people read it and serve me up… more questions! Happy writing!

    • Thanks Bobbie! And sorry for not replying to you (much) sooner. Once again, I appear to have lost track of online things somewhat.

      Glad to hear your 4th book is going well. How many alpha readers do you have, out of interest (assuming I haven’t asked that before)? I still get quite scared at the thought of people reading my stuff, personally, but I know how important it is; the feedback I get from it is always useful, besides everything else.

      I’m somewhere between the eureka and rewriting stage stage with the novel, now. Even though I more-or-less know what I want to write, actually writing it has been a complete brick wall this week. I’ve written a few small unrelated things to keep the writing moving, but still. To be fair, I more-or-less predicted this would happen, so I’m sure the issue will go away with time.

      Looking forward to book number 3, by the way 😀

      • Thank you, Nick 🙂
        I’m sure you’ll get past the brick wall before long. They’re so uncomfortable, but they crumble eventually. One way I kick-start myself is to drop in on some random page of what I’ve written and start fidgeting with it. I hope you’re back in the zone soon.
        I just counted up the people who read ‘Oz’ and gave comments, and it’s nearly 20! But ‘Oz’ took 5 years and several brick walls.
        I draw on my alpha readers in batches, a new batch after each major rewrite. The WIP is looking in goodish shape after 2 years, so I don’t yet know how many readers it’ll need… I’ll have to see what the first three or four say… Wish me luck!

  5. I thought the snowflake method would eradicate my meanderings and deviations. What I’ve found it does is focus the meanderings and deviations. What happens now is that the unexpected inspiration comes from the nuts and bolts of the story and characters rather than my own frustrations. Case in point, minor character in my WIP who had a walk on part has taken on her life of her own and is now integral to the plot. Not part of the outline but she is fulfilling roles that others had been allocated originally. And in a much better way.

    Worldbuilding is a rabbit hole I have been sucked into in the past. With current WIP I’m committed to only making notes about that I need to and leaving the detail until the first draft is completed. That way I hope I can link everything together in a way that makes me seem wise and insightful.


    Great progress mate. Those little pieces will soon add up and I’m sure the words will flow.

    • Sounds like the snowflake (and outlining in general) has been helping us in similar ways. For me, the snowflake gave me a framework in which to construct the story; changes then came along whenever something that sounded good in concept turned out not to work in practice. Always fun when that kind of thing happens, I think – even if it brings immediate progress to a screeching halt.

      And yeah, further worldbuilding is probably NOT something I’m going to get into any time soon. I reckon I’ve got enough detail to be working with now, so my next aim is to simply build up momentum with my writing again. I’m getting there…slowly…but it’s probably still gonna be a while before I’m properly back up to speed.

      How are things going for you, by the way? By the sound of your blog, things have been extremely hectic as of late; have they started to let up yet at all?

      • Ahh, hectic. I remember when things seemed ‘just’ hectic… 😉

        I’m on the final straight now. Plan is to get the book of to my Editor (never tire of saying that) in 2 weeks. Then there will be an inevitable mass of rewriting and reworking I’m sure, but it does seem to be coming together at last. Plus I’m then on holiday for a week (well, as much of a holiday things are with two small kids) so hopefully the craziness will dwindle to normal levels.

        I think if you follow any process religiously then it will stifle certain aspects of innovation and creativity. You need to find what works for you and it definitely sounds like that’s what we’ve done.

  6. Before writing a single word of narrative, I carefully planned out the entire novel, scene by scene. Every scene had a purpose relative to the overall story.

    Once you start writing it is inevitable – and good – that your creative self thinks of improvements, new ideas and different ways to approach an number of scenes or even an entire section.

    When I was done with my first draft, my editor told me my ending sucked. So I had to go back and rework about a third of the book. It’s better now.

    However, it is important to ensure the darling circus doesn’t get out of control. What worked for me was to force myself to finish the rough draft first. When I was done writing a scene, I did not allow myself to touch it until the first revision AFTER all scenes had been completed for the rough draft. If I had allowed myself to revise as I went along, I’m sure I would have revisited several scenes way too many times as changes rippled through the narrative each time. Saving it all until the rough draft was complete was far more efficient.

    • Hmm…very good point. To be honest, I think I’ve reached a point now where big changes won’t come up again for some time; the problem is that did indeed get out of hand for a while, as you’ve said, and that I’m now having a hard time actually getting back into writing the story. I’ve written a couple unrelated things to keep the writing going, but this is obviously less than ideal.

      Basically, my plan now is to do more-or-less what you did: get the rest of the novel draft done and then worry about further changes afterwards.

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