How the writer avoids writing by writing

i very nearly gave up this week. And then i didn’t.

In order to keep myself going on the Twiry stories, i finally sat down and mapped out which story ideas would make the cut and then put them in order. Then i wrote a story and a half. i’m now on number seven.

i’m still stuck on the eponymous chapter, however. Part of my problem with Twiry Glitterwing and the Moss Palace has been that i’m not sure i’m getting the tone right—it doesn’t feel like i imagined it would. And part of the problem is that i don’t know for the life of me what the moss palace should be like—where it is or how it looks. i decided that that story should be the last chapter, to sort of end at a high point, where there isn’t anywhere else to go. But if i can’t figure out the moss palace in the next few days i’ll probably be forced to insert another story in the middle somewhere and end with what i meant to be the penultimate chapter—the tea party, where all Twiry’s forest friends are in attendance. i think either story would work as the last in the book (if i could figure out the moss palace itself, that is), and i think the tea party would work either as last or as second to last. So it’ll work out. But if i scrap the moss palace, i’ll have to come up with another story idea and change the name of the book. No big deal, but still, things that’ll need doing.

Meanwhile, since i don’t particularly want to be writing Twiry, i’ve been spending unnecessary mental energy on another book that i have no intention of writing anytime soon and which hadn’t really occurred to me as a real option until halfway through October. i didn’t have time to think out an outline before Nano at that point, and i wasn’t sure which time period it would cover, so i couldn’t get started writing it, but now that i am stuck writing something else, ideas for this other novel keep coming to me.

It’s a vicious cycle.

The other novel that i’m considering writing is centered on Alandros. He’s Rixi’s best friend’s magic tutor. i really like him as a character. The original reason i thought of him as an option at all, though, was the simple fact that he’s in his late 30s and it would give me a chance to write someone closer to my own age. But that he’s also a powerful Deteer in a well-positioned town with a lord who’s very politically important also gives me an opportunity to write a story with high-level intrigue and action. Of course, therein lies one facet of the rub (if that’s a valid metaphor, mixed as it is): i don’t really pay attention to fight choreography in the shows and movies i watch. i know when it looks cool, but i don’t analyze the moves. And i don’t tend to pay very much attention when reading that stuff, either. i get the gist, but i’m not a strategist. So it would be a challenge to learn to write the battle scenes well.

On the other hand, i’m going to have to write scenes like that for the next book in the Lily Cycle, also, so practicing on Alandros may not be a bad idea.

Other facets of the rub are the fact that he’s male, and he is closer to my age than my other characters—and his age would mature the book’s tone significantly. Durom Falls works well as a book about a sixteen year old adult. The tone will have to change (and hopefully not in a histrionic way) as Lily matures and starts dealing with harder things, but Durom Falls itself felt very much like a YA novel to me. That wasn’t what i was going for, but as i said, it works for a sixteen-year-old protagonist. It won’t work when the protagonist is 37. And can i write older prose? i guess we’ll find out. (It’s not like i don’t read enough of it. i just don’t have any characters older than 17 right now.) And the fact that he’s male just puts me outside my comfort zone. i’ve written some snippets with him in them, but not from his perspective, and i’m not used to writing for a male lead. i’m just not sure if i can pull it off believably. (Tana French says that people are just people, and i’ll buy that, but i can’t ignore gender altogether. Men and women just aren’t the same, internally or externally, and while i buy that individuals do not act as stereotypical representations of their class, they do carry at least part of a set of characteristics, even if other parts of the set don’t seem to correspond.)

Anyway: The brilliant idea i got this afternoon was to tell the Alandros story as two parallel stories. One, a present-day struggle (siege or civil war), and the other, his first year or so as a black robe (graduate) Deteer. That would allow me to develop his character more fully—we’ll see what makes him tick and why he ticks that way. It’ll also give me the chance to use my YA voice, while contrasting it with an adult voice for the same character—a fascinating study, and a good writing challenge.

i was talking this over with Jonathan at dinner, and thought up another twist on this idea. i could write the parallel stories as Alandros’ youth and the siege (i understand this might be a very opaque reference), and then write a second book as his experience in the civil war (another opaque reference). The siege is a very simple thing, much easier to do in half a book than it would be to delve into the strained relationships and the morass of motives between the bevy of political players that exists in any civil war. The civil war can hardly be told in half a novel, but it could certainly be told in a full novel (if kept to a single perspective). You know, depending on how things turn out. i am writing living history, after all; not all details are clear yet. And that’s another reason to use the siege, rather than the civil war, for the parallel stories: The siege has already happened. The civil war is only just heating up. So if i used the siege, i could pretty much start writing this book anytime. No waiting, just outlining.

i sort of like the idea of having a book plot in mind for a year before writing it, however. It might be well-formed by next November. Neither Durom Falls nor Twiry were well-formed before i began writing. It’s not a work’s death knell, but “measure twice and cut once” can be applied to any project.

Summary: i made no progress on Twiry today. But i have a lot of great ideas for a completely unrelated project.

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