I have been writing for a long time. Admittedly, when I first started at six, my skills were…terrible. Later, around nine or ten, my stories were basically me taking all my favourite elements of Tolkien and throwing them together. Great fun to write, but not original at all. Over time, though, I began to focus more on story and word craft and eventually figured out some of the elements to writing a good story.
From there, I went on to stury linguistics, which is the science of language. It hasn’t anything–technically–to do with story writing, but is more focused on how people use langauge and how language shapes people and cultures and thoughts and ideas. I never officially studied storycraft.
I did, however, read. A lot. My average is somewhere between 280 to 300 books per year, in all genres and of all types and lengths. I can generally tell within a chapter or two whether the story is going to be a good one or not.
No matter how much I read, or how well I can manipulate words to string a sentence together, no matter how much people like my books, I always think that there is more to learn. I love taking a topic or concept and breaking it down, determining how and why it works. It’s so beautiful to me that we, as people, can continuously learn and move forwards and expand our horizons, doing our best to improve our craft and ourselves to make something better.
Though, I will freely admit that some days I’d much rather be a cat sleeping in the sun.
I took last month off so that I could pack up my house and prepare to move. I am a week and a half out from that date and frankly, I’m super excited. I had meant to do some writing during the month of May, to get ahead on projects that I was planning on starting later this summer. To plan out some ideas and work through scheduling for publication. For a bunch of reasons, that didn’t happen and I spent pretty much all of May either packing boxes or trying to recover from emotional rollercoasters.
Fortuitously, in taking a month off, I allowed myself to work through story ideas and concepts without actually writing them. My subconscious continuously sorts through problems, presenting me with solutions at the most random of times. One of the solutions that I ran into was that, for some reason, some of my stories were stuck.
For the purposes of this post, I will examine specifically Fire Burning Bright. FBB is the first book in the series that follows The Wing Cycle trilogy, taking place about ten years after the conclusion of the epilogue. It follows Mire, an immortal being who is on her way to meet the waking dragons, and Erowain, son of the infamous Davorin and Queen Lenore in his quest to discover and come to terms with his magic. I had, prior to my “vacation”, written about 35k of the story. And it was good.
But definitely good.
So why, during my time off, did my subconscious decide that it was stuck? That I could do better than good? That I could really craft this story into something for the ages?
There are a bunch of reasons. Characterisation is a big one. Mire is a fascinating character, but she’s too abstract for this sort of quest story. Erowain starts out confident, but somehow ended up being very wishy-washy, which is not what I think he should be. The other big issue is concept. They’re going to meet the dragons, but why? Yes, it’s a big deal, but why? What is happening in these people’s lives that makes them do this? What’s the point?
All of that was orginally going to be explored at the end of book one. At this point, I think I need to fix that.
There are a bunch of ways that I could go about doing that. Start redrafting, do a serious edit, even just finish the first draft as it stands and then go back and fix things from there. But what I’m going to do is study the fine mechanics of story crafting, build up my knowledge base and then start replanning Fire Burning Bright as if I’d never started it.
So, I may not have studied storycraft as my official degree, but I am super excited to start studying it now.
I love learning, and when I learn something about something else that I love, the warm fuzzies build up rather a lot.
This is what I’ll be doing until I move. Yes, it means I won’t be writing a whole lot, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the process.
One step at a time, and before you know it, the book writes itself.