AJ Revises: T Minus 32 – The Hard Question

It’s kind of depressing how I’m already starting to take apart my novel, and without even going near the actual manuscript yet.

But it’s also heartening, because that means I’m not blinded by love for my baby and will be able to chop and cut and reshape as needed. Probably.

Also, it’s going to be a long wait until I start the actual rewrite: not until January can I really attack it, and even then, life will, as it always does, get in the way. But it’ll be an interesting way to start the year, I think.

I’ve started by asking myself the really hard questions. But they can all be boiled down to one question: Why? And not even advanced ones like, “Why doesn’t plot line A work with plot line B?”

We’re talking basic ones, like:

Why did my main character survive the beginning disaster?

Why is she being sent somewhere that would apparently be beyond her capabilities?

Why would they let her stay?

Why would gods even attend a university?

Why does the Lon Derr exist in the first place?

Why did the other two main characters join forces with her?

Why did the opposition see her as a threat?

Why are all of the characters there?

Why does this story have to happen at all?

They’re humbling questions, testing the very fabric of the novel, sometimes pushing all the way through and finding holes. This is good, because I don’t want my readers to find such holes. Preferably, they shouldn’t find any holes.

You’d think I’d have figured this all out before I started writing, but nope. And then you might wonder why I could even go on for 50k with so little planned. I don’t know either.

So what was the point of the 50k?

As far as I can tell, the whole point was to explore and develop this one idea in my head. If I hadn’t written those words, I wouldn’t have come up with the basic fabric to begin with; it would have remained in my head, merely an idea, and there would be nothing to ask any questions of to start with.

So I’m spending the next couple of days repeatedly asking the hard question, and answering it little by little. I’ve not mentioned one of the most important why’s, because it resulted in excising an entire setting and dumping the rest of the leftover bits back into the main one. This is ok, though; one of the why’s resulted in adding two antagonists. Or maybe it’s not ok! We’ll have to see.

These why’s, taken as a whole, have resulted in entirely new scenes for the beginning—more dynamic ones, ones more in tune with my memories on a college campus ((When the dinosaurs roamed the planet.)), ones that felt better. Something I’ve always had an itch about—characters should not stay in the same room for more than a medium-length chapter—was scratched. (And now I know why you can end up with characters who don’t move from the first room they’ve entered: the world’s a scary place, even the one you came up with in your head.)

If brainstorming often requires the “if” game, then it seems like revising needs the “why” game. Which can be followed up with “if this character was doing something entirely different….”