It’s pretty funny, in an “oh well” sort of way, that I’m having to rediscover my novel-writing process just a few months after finishing the previous novel, and less than two years after starting it.
As you might’ve guessed from the paucity of updates, it’s been a hard first quarter of the year. I’ve started a half-dozen short stories, and the only one I finished was about 1,200 words and completely unpublishable. I haven’t been able to get back into my NaNoWriMo novel, and I might never do so. And my attempts to start this most recent novel are just now picking up steam, in spite of the first part being done in February.
When I wrote Fugitives from Earth, I took the entire month before I started the novel to sketch bits of setting, character, and plot. I did research. I thought about set pieces I wanted to include. By the time I was actually ready to start writing, I felt like I was about to explode with ideas.
I didn’t do that so much before this most recent NaNoWriMo, just because I was laboring so hard trying to get FfE done in time for OryCon. At the time, this didn’t seem like a major problem–I had a really strong concept of the story–but in retrospect I think it hurt me more than I understood at the time. The way I think about it, it boils down to a subtle but crucial difference: last NaNoWriMo, I had the concept of the story. With Fugitives from Earth, I had the concept of the world, as if it were a real place.
That distinction just came to me a day or two ago. I took a break from writing the story after two failed attempts to continue on from an awesome prologue, and I went back to my setting document. Before, this was about 300 words describing the universe and what I wanted to focus on. Basically, what I would’ve told somebody who asked about it in the line for lunch.
But that didn’t inspire me. I wanted to have a concept of the world of this work in progress as though I lived in it. I wanted to be able to picture people eating dinner, going on dates, flying to other planets, talking to aliens, brushing their teeth, and wasting time. My goal with my own universe is the same as it was with medieval England back in my college history days: I wanted to know what the average person did on a daily basis.
I think it’s helped. Those 300 words are now more like 5,000 and counting. Most of it will never–and seriously, should never–end up in the novel. But I can already feel like I’m getting into the headspace of my characters. Once I know how the world works, I can focus on who my characters are. And once I know that, the story will start to come naturally.