Wednesday, May 15, 2013

100 Writers Project: Castle in the Swamp

Introducing Tia Kalla!                                                      
So, you remember that scene in Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail regarding the king who was dead set on building a castle in the swamp?  For the zero of you that haven't seen it, BEHOLD VIDEO EVIDENCE.  0:22 - 0:47 is the relevant part:

That castle that keeps sinking into the swamp?  Is my novel.

Close to fifteen years ago, my first novel started with a dream.  A dream involving what would be my main characters as the villains against a cast from a show I happened to be fangirling.  Being an impulsive fanficcer at the time, I began writing what was the longest project I'd ever attempted at the time.  Most of my works were short stories or one-two chapters of unfinished mess.  It was ambitious.  It was complex.  It was... a mess.  It was grammatically correct and sort of made sense, which I suppose makes it mediocre rather than outright horrific, but it was full of cliches, had a very rough writing style, and just didn't lead to a sensible plot (because even I didn't know where it was going.) Nonetheless, I made it to eight chapters, plus 20,000 words of prequel involving my own characters, which was the longest thing I'd ever written.  And then, when I graduated high school and went to college, I stopped writing.

My novel sank into the swamp.

It wasn't until five years later that I heard about this little thing called the National Novel Writing Month, And decided to give it a try.  At that point, the characters that I had almost forgotten about made their presence known in the back of our mind.  "Forget those fanfic characters," they whispered.  "We're the real main characters.  You want to write about us."  What?  These old characters from my fanfic days now wanted me to write that fanfic with them as the stars?  And yet... that story kept gnawing at the back of my mind, taking the basis of that original plot and making it not suck.  This was no longer a fanfic, but an original story in its own right.  This time, I managed 50,000 words inside of a month, failed to make it to the actual central plot, and fell over from exhaustion.

That novel also sank into the swamp.

This time, though, it wasn't forgotten.  I spent the next three years writing other novels, most of which were shoved into a drawer afterwards, a few of which were earmarked for further drafts.  I learned how to structure a novel and how to finish one.  I learned better prose, better formatting, and better characters.  I learned how to sit down and actually write, and write in volume.  And three years later, I felt ready to try again.  This time, the plot fell into place, the subplots fell into place, the side characters all shone... and the narrator character turned out to be completely worthless.

That novel caught on fire, fell over, and sank into the swamp.

But this time, I was okay with that.  This novel, I knew, had fully sunk its claws into me, and during the drafting my thoughts had shifted from "I can't quit you, novel" to "Never give up, never surrender!"  There were characters here.  There was story here.  There was a whole world that continued to be worked on and developed even when I wasn't writing the story.  There were sequel plotlines that began nibbling on the back burners, waiting their turn.  I couldn't quit here.  This time, I was close.

So five years after draft three, I tried again.  I took the nuggets of amazing from the last draft and worked them in, cleared up my POVs, and made the subplots even tighter than ever before.  I cut out close to 30k of...well, something from the previous draft.  I had a narrator who meant something to the story.  I am still having problems with the beginning, but I'm not worried, because everything else in the story has been overcome, and I now know how to tackle these problems.  Once the lead-in has been hacked out, this story will be ready to make the next step into the great unknown of editing and eventual publishing.

The fourth one stayed up.  And that's what you'll get, lad.

Tia (if that's her REAL name) is a thirty-something office slave living on the far outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia.  She lives with a cat, a roommate, and a heck of a lot of plants.  Primarily a fantasy writer, she claims to be enrolled in the remedial "million words is practice" course and has her fingers in far too many novels. She is short, may or may not be a ninja, and is most assuredly evil.

Follow her on Twitter or check out her blog In This Topic


  1. This perfectly describes my first wavering attempts at noveling as well xD

    Wannabe-Mercedes-Lackey novel? Check. 1st failed NaNo

    Bland/semi-cliche characters in a vague medieval world with no real plot? Check. 2nd failed NaNo

    Cliche, tormented artistic character in a more developed Industrial Revolution-sequence world, still lacking a plot? Check. 1st successful NaNo

    Then I was grabbed by the fanfic bunnies once more. "Oh, I'll just write some drabbles and oneshots!" By which I mean "over fifty."

    Weeeelll...Over the past three years, those drabbles and oneshots have turned into three full original novels, two prequels and a side character demanding I tell her full story. I wrote the roughdrafts of the main trilogy during NaNoWriMos 2010-2013 and am in the process of turning book one into something actually publishable.

    Yay for perseverance!

    1. That's incredible! I don't know if I have that level of determination. If you're interested in participating in the 100 Writers Project (which we'd love to have you do!) check out this post>

      Let me know if that's something you'd be interested in doing!