Silently Working

I’ve been on pause from editing the novel in progress, “Incomplete States.” I’d become troubled that it was missing an overall aspect that could tie it together.

It wasn’t something I immediately jumped on. I let it flow through me for a while and considered what I’d written, the novel’s totality. I didn’t want to be rash. I convinced myself it was necessary to add a greater arc.

I didn’t have any idea what that arc would be.

I began addressing the problem by thinking and writing about it. Exactly what was it that I was looking for in the greater arc? The novels and series that are most in mind with this novel came back to me:

  • Roger Zelazny’s “Chronicles of Amber”
  • George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice”
  • Frank Herbert – “Dune”
  • Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series
  • J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series
  • J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy

To a lessor extent, I also thought of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. All that reading helps.

This wasn’t a quest novel, though; I wanted to ensure I didn’t accept an easy route and create another quest.

Several aspects attracted me. One, the epic sweep. Two, was how these novels and series embraced multiple levels of acceptance about the past, legends and myths, and prophecies. As the past receded in them, the past blended with myth and legend. More people in the novels grew enamored with lessor concerns that gathered importance in their lives, like fortunes, empires, and revenge. These smaller concerns were magnified into important concerns that eventually dwarfed the true, greater threats. In a way, I saw mirrors with our own planet and human civilizations, and how often we put profits, nation, and empire ahead of civilization and the planet.

But —

These novels and series also attracted me because of the greater and lessor acceptance. Uniform agreement about what was to happen, what had happened, and why, didn’t exist. Elements told their own stories. The differences in these stories provided the foundations for tension and conflict.

I wrote a one paragraph summary of each of these novels and series, defining their greater arcs against the dominant sub-stories that often propelled most of the action. That helped me clarify what I though my novel lacked.

Then I turned my attention to my novel and the situation.

I began by organizing information. Hundreds of thousands of words had been written. Deciding I needed visual assistance, I created character cards for the six major characters. Keeping faithful to the novel’s concept induced me to create character cards for each of their major iterations. As this novel is about cosmic and other entanglements, several of the characters are sometimes male, and sometimes female, with and without children, and sometimes married to one another. Sometimes one is the other’s parent, and sometimes, they’re enemies. Cards were created for each of them.

Having the cards allowed me to tack them up and move them around, hoping to prompt new thinking and insights. That approach produced; I brainstormed potential ideas, and then walked, thinking through what attracted me to each, and discarding some. After doing this, I thought I’d come up with the structure for the greater arc.

About four days had passed.

I sat down to write this morning. While I’d been thinking through all of these angles, the muse, or the muses, were at work in me. Sitting down with the slimmest idea of what was now to happen, I began typing. Within a few lines, I was on a world I’d not conceived before this. Memory of Jack Chalker’s “The Four Lords of the Diamond” series flashed into me along with Brian Aldiss’ Helliconia trilogy. New characters jumped into action, along with the agenda they pursued, in accordance with the greater arc.

Finishing with thirty-five hundred words about an hour later, I felt excellent about where I was. There’s still a tremendous amount to be done, but I had the semblance of the direction, the outlines of a plan, and vague ideas about events.

It was a good day of writing like crazy.


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