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The state of the novel: avoiding outlining.

I ended up shelving the Cria/Iresha storyline (it’ll be its own book) to focus on Makrannan’s, which then made it clear that Makrannan’s storyline was weak and problematic. So I threw most of it out. The worldbuilding was flimsy as well, leading me to spend the last month fleshing it out (magic systems, history, surrounding cultures, etc.), and I now have a much more solid grasp on the world. I’ve also been learning more about Makrannan’s character and backstory.

All that prewriting has gotten me to the point where the next step is writing the full outline. I’ve done an amazing job avoiding that, however, because I don’t have a good ending yet and the middle is completely vague and muddy — nonexistent, really.

My goal this coming week: figure out a better ending, and plan out the overall structure of the novel. Once I have the boundaries and shape of the forest in place, so to speak, planting the trees should be much easier.

One of the things I’ve run into is that there is an overwhelming infinity of choices at almost every step of the plot. Having a solid structure will, I believe, help with making better design choices in plotting the book.

Sidenote: yesterday marked thirteen weeks solid of writing a thousand words a day. A lot of those words have been prewriting or random freewriting, but establishing the habit has finally given me the confidence that I can manage the day-to-day writing load necessary to finish a novel.

Edge of Magic update

I’ve decided to stop serializing The Edge of Magic and pull it from my site. I’ll keep writing it, but serializing my first novel in public was a fool’s game, and my hubris has been given its due. Perhaps I’ll serialize something once I’ve actually learned how to write novels, but there’s still so much I need to learn and it’s hard to do it well in public.

My plan now is to finish the book (including at least a couple good rounds of editing) and, if I’m not utterly ashamed of the result, release the completed novel on my site later this year.

For the few who were reading it: I’m open to having more alpha readers, so if you’re interested, let me know.

What I’ve learned so far

  • The way I write, I need a better plan before I start drafting the book. Far more detailed worldbuilding, a cohesive plot, clearer characterization, etc. — a really good outline with scenes that move things forward.
  • That said, outlining gives me a literal headache every time I do it. Not sure what’s up with that.
  • At any given point, there are so many possibilities, so many choices. Having a clearer structure will help those choices support the novel instead of veering off on tangents, so things actually happen for a reason.
  • Next time, I think I’ll only have one POV character. Juggling three while also trying to learn how to sustain the weight of the story over the course of a novel is…difficult.

The good news, of course, is that I’m learning a lot about writing novels, far more than I expected (cf. hubris). Still a lot left to learn, but the progress is visible.

The Edge of Magic

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For the past two months I’ve been working on a fantasy novel, The Edge of Magic, and I’ve recently decided to serialize it on my site (reasons below).

The first three chapters are up. Every Friday from now on I’ll post an installment — one to three chapters, which comes to around 2,500–3,500 words per installment. On that page readers can also subscribe to updates via RSS or email.

I’ve released fiction on the web before, of course, but this is the first time I’ve done it without being able to edit the whole piece in advance. It’s terrifying. I do have an outline as a security blanket, and I’ve already written the first eight chapters, but writing a novel in public (more or less) makes me feel even more naked and vulnerable than I expected.

My main reason for doing this somewhat unprudent thing: I have a bad habit of endlessly tweaking the beginnings of my novels and never getting past that point. By putting the chapters online as I write them, I’ll feel forced to resist that urge and finish the book. A psychological gimmick, sure, but I think it’ll work.

The secondary reason: writers generally need to write a few bad novels before they can write good ones. While I hope The Edge of Magic isn’t too terrible, getting reader feedback earlier on — with analytics to see where people stop reading, etc. — will help me learn faster. Consider this an open beta.

Once the novel is finished, I’ll do another editing pass and put it on the Kindle store for a couple bucks, with the free version remaining available on my site as well. I plan to serialize another couple novels after that, then try my hand at the traditional publishing route. I’m not going to submit these serialized novels to any publishers, though, since they’ll have already been published.

Whew. To be honest, I’m still surprised I’m actually moving forward with this — the past few weeks have been a blur of incessant insecurities and fears. But sometimes scary risks are good for the soul. Here we go…