False Starts and Dead Ends

I don’t remember how many times I’ve mentioned Amnesia Conspiracy on this blog in the last few months. Probably more than usual, since I was/still am participating in the YAB Spring Boot Camp and regularly updating my progress. For a while I had this self-imposed moratorium on talking about Amnesia Conspiracy, like I was going to jinx myself if I posted anything other than vague updates for the whole world to see. There’s a trend involving my posts about AC that goes something like this:

Really Excited Post because of big breakthrough about plot or premise or character development.

Sad Update Post because I am stuck.

Really Excited Post because I think I’ve gotten the story back on track.

Sad Update Post because I am wrong.

Really Excited Post because I am getting all the words written and have passed 30k in close to two months!!!

Sad Update Post (this one) because it still isn’t there yet.

You guys get the idea. For several weeks, I noticed consistent forward progress in my writing. That was super encouraging, because most past versions of AC have struggled to break from the starting gate. When I started running into some of the same issues that had plagued other drafts, I tried to will myself forward. Come on, you’ve had plenty of good days recently. This is just a slow week. You have other things on your mind.

I have this constant fear that I’m self-sabotaging my work by nitpicking for problems I shouldn’t be thinking about in the first draft. Some of the time, I’d bet that’s true. But I also know when the story I have in my head and the story that’s ending up on the page don’t line up. I know when something about the writing process feels wrong, even if I don’t always know why.

Right now, Amnesia Conspiracy feels wrong. It’s too retrospective for what I’ve intended to be a fast-paced book. The back story is taking over the current timeline. There’s nowhere near enough tension between the characters and the plot is dragging and dull because of it. I’m not even sure that I’m framing the story correctly or telling it the right way. No matter how much I’d like to, I can’t dismiss all of these issues as author paranoia.

When I came up with the idea that became FACING THE MUSIC, it took me six tries to find the story I wanted to tell. Four of those were partial false starts, where I had some of the beginning written and ended up scrapping it. One of them involved an entire zero draft that I gutted before starting over almost entirely. The whole process drove me crazy, and there were dozens of times where I thought about abandoning that premise and starting something new. Once I had the current version of the manuscript, writing it came so much more easily. I had low productivity days with zero motivation, but those had far less to do with the story than they did with my life outside of it.

I’ve made so many improvements between this draft of AC and the last one, but there’s still a lot more to do. Recognizing the source of my stress and frustration is half the battle, and getting through it is the other half. Once I’m at a temporary stopping point on my revisions, I’ll go back to the drawing board. I’ll get to know my characters a little better, and make adjustments to the pacing and the timeline. I will find a way to write this manuscript, because I’m already too invested in it to back down.

It’s just going to take some time.



Book Review #36: The Snow Queen’s Shadow

The Snow Queen’s Shadow by Jim Hines

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I reviewed the first book in Jim C. Hines’s Princess series a few months ago, so it seems fitting to review the last book too. Considering Hines spends the whole series turning known fairy tales on their heads, I wasn’t expecting a tidy happily-ever-after from “The Snow Queen’s Shadow.” This retelling of the snow queen legend is WAY darker than “Frozen.” 🙂

Instead of preserving the princess trio, Danielle and Talia find themselves battling Snow herself when a demon escapes her mother’s mirror and ensnares her with shards of broken glass. When the glass pierces its victims, all they can see is ugliness and hatred.

Though the characters–and by default, the reader–learn early on how demon possession distorts a person’s worldview, it’s still hard to differentiate between Snow and the demon. The demon has her appearance, her mannerisms, and all the insider knowledge of a friend, but everything is tainted by its other-worldly evil. When the villain is an inherently good person whom the other characters know and love, the threat feels much more real.

One of the reasons the stakes seem so much higher in ‘Snow Queen’ is that the possibility of danger reaches every single one of the characters. Nobody is safe and everything we know about the world is at risk. The rest of the series is peppered with minor victories or advances before the bad guy is finally defeated, but Danielle, Talia, and a new ally are thwarted almost constantly here. I expected a bittersweet finish, but Hines kept me guessing at whether he’d included any ‘sweet’ in the climax at all.

Once I got past the initial mix of anticipation and dread, I flew through “The Snow Queen’s Shadow.” Whether you’re entirely happy with the ending or not, I thought Hines wrapped up the story’s loose ends as neatly as possible–while leaving plenty of room for more adventures.

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