I’ve been working on my debut fantasy novel for too long. This will be my seventh and last draft. There will be beta reading and editing, but I’m never writing this thing from scratch again. Seven drafts are enough, even if a couple of them were not complete.
I’ve written 40,000 words on this latest draft. That’s half what the experts recommend for a first novel. But I’m only a quarter of the way through the story. So my novel will be twice the length the experts recommend, unless I cut a lot, and even then, what remains will exceed 80,000 words. It will be what it is, and I won’t cut so much the story suffers for it, regardless. I plan to self publish this sucker, so it’s not like I have to adhere to someone else’s ideas of what’s best.
I’d thought about breaking the book into two or three books, but some people don’t like reading a book, even one that’s part of a series, that can’t stand on its own. I’m not that way, as long as all the books in the series are available to me. If I can’t find one or if the author stops writing the series partway through, then that irks me. With that in mind, I think it best to make this novel a standalone story, even if it’s 120,000 to 160,000 words. I intend this to be the first book in a series, but I want it to be a complete story in itself.
The previous draft of the story was meant to be the one I’d edit for publication. But after it went to beta readers, I discovered they all agreed on one thing: Alonso, the male human protagonist, was not a good viewpoint character. I’d been shooting for an antihero, and that’s what I produced. He was just such an antihero that the readers couldn’t relate to him or, worse yet, root for him.
The problem I face with not using Alonso as the point-of-view character is that he’s so central to the story, whatever viewpoint character(s) I use need to know about Alonso and be able to observe his actions in so many different venues. To sufficiently cover all significant aspects of his tale, I determined that I needed three viewpoint characters: Ngozi, the shadow elf woman married to Alonso; Locket, a nearly-twenty-year-old dream walking human gal who’s been told to spy on Alonso in his dreams to help facilitate his death; and Gabriel, a teen-aged human girl with a secret or two and a grudge against Alonso from her previous life as a jackal. The tale will be told without either the protagonist or antagonist being used as a viewpoint character. Other authors have pulled off this type of story. The tales of Sherlock Holmes comes to mind, those narrated by Dr. Watson.
I’m staggering the chapters, writing one from one character’s viewpoint, the next from the second character’s viewpoint, and the next from the third character’s viewpoint. Repeat to the end. I like this approach in that it gives the reader information from different perspectives, and the reader comes to understand all that’s going on before any of the individual characters. I think this helps with the suspense, because it’s questionable whether each character will discover what they need to know in time to save themselves and those they love. Before, with only Alonso as viewpoint character, it was unclear exactly what the threat was against him — or if there was any threat — until late in the story. Without knowledge of the threat, it was difficult to root for Alonso, especially with his being such an antihero. The way the story is written now, the reader will have other characters to root for, and whether they root for Alonso or not won’t matter much.
It will now be clear to the reader from the outset that someone wants Alonso dead and for him to endure a lot of physical and emotional pain in the dying. Not all of the characters, especially Alonso and Ngozi, will know this. The reader will understand why Alonso is being treated so nicely by certain people he interacts with, whereas the beta readers of the previous draft had confessed to wondering at Alonso’s great luck in certain situations. One beta reader had even admitted to feeling a bit jealous of Alonso’s luck. That shouldn’t be the case now.
Initially I’d thought that using a single viewpoint character would be the only way I’d want to tell this story. The reader could delve deep into one character’s psyche and get to know the character well. That’s cool if the character has a psyche you want to visit for an entire novel. Alonso wasn’t like that. All of the three viewpoint characters I’m using now are likable in their own ways and more likable than Alonso. Gabriel was singled out by one of the beta readers as a favorite character. Another beta reader singled out Ngozi. Locket is one of my personal favorite characters from the story, and is suitable in the role of main character. So there you have it. Three viewpoint characters.
In writing the story from these different viewpoints, I’m finding the need to fill in some details that I hadn’t bothered with before, partly because Alonso had paid them no mind. I’m also finding that using these characters is invoking a better understanding in me of events that before had transpired in the background, but which now make sense to flesh out to further the stories of the viewpoint characters. There are times while writing this new material when I feel a flush of excitement as I realize that I am coming to understand these characters better and loving the cool new stuff I get to write because I’m using their viewpoints. There is a whole side to Gabriel that never came out in previous drafts, because Alonso wasn’t privy to it. This secret aspect of her had colored how she acted in those previous drafts, and I think it was because of this that a beta reader liked her the best, even though he didn’t know her complete backstory.
When will I be done writing this book? I think I’ll finish writing this last draft by the end of 2015. But the beta reading and editing will go into 2016. So I’m setting a goal of mid-2016 to publish. I will have to stay focused, which is difficult at times. I’m easily distracted by the lure of doing something new.
I love receiving words of encouragment from others. They really help motivate me. Got any such words for me?