My first novel, Alice and Finch was not difficult to complete. It took three months, and about a fairly consistent hour a day. The entire manuscript is available on this website, and though it hasn’t been revised, it is in a more than readable state. Shortly after completing Alice and Finch, I began to mull over my options. Do I edit right away, or perhaps start something else and return later? I found some advice online that suggested one should shelve a newly completed novel for a couple months, and return to it later to edit with fresh, less familiar eyes. This seemed reasonable, so I started a new novel. Actually, I started two.
Where We’ve Been
I’ve no doubt said something similar to this in previous Solune Prince essays, but it bears repeating. The Solune Prince is a novel that, despite my frequent doubts, has been forcing its way into existence for four years. There have been three incarnations. The first was a short attempt that only made it to three chapters before getting dropped and forgotten. The second attempt was the one that I started after finishing Alice and Finch. The chapters were short, and I had nothing but the vaguest of plans in my mind to go off of. It didn’t follow the previous attempt at all; the only things that matched was the protagonist and the (eventual) setting.
Now, I’ve gone over the three attempts in more depth in a previous blog, so I won’t repeat that all here (although the differences in my perspective between now and two years ago might be interesting). I’ll just briefly note that the second attempt was disorganized, introduced new elements seemingly at random, and (in my opinion) was of fairly low quality. It and the book I was working on alongside it, Broken Teeth, were both set to private. I may have to look over them again some time…either way, it only took a year for me to get back on track. I don’t know why it is I decided to restart the piece every single time, but that’s how it ended up happening…at least at this point.
The third attempt is the current attempt; the current draft. In the most recent reflection on TSP, I pointed out that I seem to stop writing in the fall, and start again in the summer. Why? Well, the answer is mostly classes, exams, and mental health. It’s also far easier to write while working a summer job than it is to do so while studying. There is now a fairly consistent tradition of restarting The Solune Prince in the summer, and part of that process includes a blog like this which looks at where I’ve been and where I need to and want to go next with the project. Oh, and since starting draft 3, I’ve decided not to restart anymore, which brings its own difficulties.
And What Now?
So, like every summer since 2018, I write a blog post like this, a journal entry of sorts, and recentre myself and my plans. Thanks for reading too! From here on, I’m going to explore some issues I’m going to have to address as I pick this manuscript up again.
In 2018, I spent a month or more just planning. In 2019, the story had reached an uncomfortable and messy point, and obviously deviated from the plans. (This sort of deviation happens a lot, in part because I let it, and in part because I give my characters a lot of freedom to do as they please…and strange things can happen from there.) There were a lot of open plot threads and characters to manage and…for some reason I decided that I would just keep everything.
And, finally, 2020 came around and thanks to the virus, I had a whole lot of free time that summer. Despite that, only (?) put out 9 chapters. I don’t know, it felt far less productive than other years, especially since I had so much time. I don’t think I did any planning, even. (Actually, I did a bit of worldbuilding, which helped some, but no plot work). But worst of all is that I just added more characters.
This seems to be a consistent writing problem of mine. Constant generation of ideas (when I’m not depressed / in school), combined with constant generation of new characters. All of this leads to a needlessly complex story—a story that at its core is already fairly complex.
So, I’m a little frustrated, a little stuck. But fortunately (and I’ve written openly about this, even on the table of contents), The Solune Prince is a first draft. And, also fortunately, I’m nearly as good at combining, tethering, and entwining plot elements and ideas as I am generating and adding them. The major exception to this is characters; I don’t really like to cut characters, and I especially don’t like fusing them together. (That is something some writers do to reduce cast size.) Regardless, in the most recent few chapters, there are a handful of characters who I believe I can afford to simply remove. But this creates an issue—how?
I honestly think the solution is to…set the few chapters I’m walking back as private, and continue on from a decent point. I’m thinking only 2-3 chapters here, and probably a note to readers about how the story has taken a step back in order to take the next steps forward more cleanly…and maybe more carefully.
I actually don’t know when I’ll get back on the rails with this. I have a strong urge to pick up my fountain pen and just continue as soon as possible, yet…I need to backtrack a bit, as discussed above, and I think I should do more outlining and planning. I’m thinking readers can expect a new chapter online in 3-4 weeks. Maybe less, I don’t know. (And yes, for this project anyway, I start with a handwritten paper copy and transcribe it after. It helps with—or rather, it forces me to edit at least a little bit. I have considered skipping it, but really, I’m not sure.)
Until then, I will be trying to post some work from my creative writing class. I may try to return to a weekly posting schedule, but we’ll see. Things are currently in flux for, so I won’t set that sort of goal right now. Anyway, if you got this far, thanks. And also, I’m considering doing a post that gets more into the specifics of my planning, characters, their goals, and where things are headed (likely with minimal spoilers, as much as possible anyway). In fact, the more I think about it, the better of an idea it sounds, so I’ll look into doing that. We’ll see.
Thanks for reading,