I Started A New Book

One possible image of Jim Thompson, protagonist of The Lore Of Efrathah


I’m not reading a new book. I’m writing a new book. This may not be a big deal to lots of writers, but it is to me. I’ve been working on The Lore Of Efrathah, the four book epic fantasy story of Jim Thompson and his journey … well, hopefully some day you’ll get to read it. But suffice it to say, I’ve been working on that story for a very long time.

The book I’m starting now is my “Hobbit” book — the prequel of the four-book epic. I’m pretty excited about it, to be honest. At first I didn’t have a story, just an end point. I also knew I didn’t want it to be a journey quest, since that’s primarily what Lore is. I wanted this one to be different, but similar enough so that readers who like it wouldn’t be disappointed with the four-book epic.

So now I have the rudiments of a story, and I’m in the process of developing characters. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had to flesh out main characters. Sure, I added minor characters from time to time, especially in Against Blood and Fire, the conclusion of Lore. But this is different. This is the main character and the necessary opponents. Who are these people, I keep asking. What do they want?

It’s slower than I’d like, but more fun, too. Slower because I’m taking a different approach this time. I’m really trying to get the scaffolding up before I start writing. I mean, I want the story structure to be in place. I want to know it’s right, that it works, that I have all the pieces.

Not that I think I’ll map out the story, then sit down and write. I don’t work that way. In John Truby’s book The Anatomy of Story which I’ve been going through, he has twenty-two steps in developing the story framework, one being to list all the scenes you’ll have in your book.

I balked. No way am I ready to list scenes. Even when I knew my characters inside and out and had the end of the series all lined up and in my sights would I have dared to write out a list of scenes. How can I know, when things change so easily?

I tried that in my first book. I carefully outlined the entire thing but as I wrote, the next logical step after I completed one scene was something different from my outline. So I inserted and changed and doubled back and skipped. And decided I’d never do the entire outline ahead of time again.

But I have to know what’s going to happen in the present scene and maybe in the one after that. I can’t write when I’m facing blankness. I don’t know how to start.

I stumbled on a system that works well for me, and later learned that Jim Bell had a name for it in his Plot & Structure book. I use the headlights method. I need to shine the light far enough ahead so I can see where to go, and I need to know what my destination is, but I don’t need to have the entire map laid out in front of me as I head down the road.

I’ve got lots to do still. I don’t have names for my characters yet. They are still Hero, Opponent 1, Opponent 2 and so on. I don’t know the subplots for sure and I don’t know who the allies will be, though I have some rough idea.

The main thing I’m trying to do now is get to know this new protagonist, and not make him a Jim Thompson clone!

Anyway, if any of you think of it, you can pray for me as I venture out into this new story. It’s exciting, as I said, and at times a little daunting. I fluctuate from thinking the plot is too convoluted to thinking it’s too simple and boring. I think I’ll never know the characters well enough, that I won’t be able to make someone with the set of needs and desires Hero has, likable enough for readers to take to him.

So yes, I would appreciate many prayers. Only by God’s grace will I be able to make this story what I would like it to be.

7 Comments

  1. Praying for you, Becky, and wishing you well as you gain ground in this adventure–which it truly is! I enjoyed this post.

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  2. Likewise, rooting for you. Is the epic going to be character or plot driven? I’ll pray that your imagination soars into the original!

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  3. Yes! You go, Girl. I’ll be praying too, Becky. (And always appreciate yours for me. ;P )

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  4. Good luck Becky!

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  5. Maria, thanks so much for your prayers and kind wishes. I decided to write about the new book because that was foremost on my mind! 😉

    Bob, thank you, too. I’m aiming for a balance rather than having either the characters or plot drive the story. I hope that’s the way it comes out! Your prayers just might make the difference.

    Nicole, yes, indeed. We do need to hold each other up in prayer. The cool thing — I’ve been working on getting to know my new protagonist, but I’ve been concerned that he’s going to be too much like Jim Thompson, so today — after people started praying — I got this whole new image of who the new guy is. Very exciting.

    Mark, I appreciate you weighing in with your kind thoughts too.

    Means a lot to have support from you all.

    Becky

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  6. Have a good trip, Becky! ‘Cause it’s sure to be a journey. I know exactly what you mean about having to start anew after having written about the same protag for so long. The new ones always seem like ciphers at the start, no matter how much alleged “flesh” I put on them. The fact that often it turns out to be the wrong flesh doesn’t help, so there’s much adding and removing — or just plain ignoring of notes — as I go.

    Thanks for this post and especially the mention of the “headlight method.” Yes! That’s more or less what I do, too.

    All the best to you, with this new endeavor.

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  7. Thanks so much, Karen. I know you know, so this is really encouraging. I’m relieved that I feel like I know my character (still un-named) a little better each day. Today was especially good because I got an important piece of his backstory. What’s good is, I don’t feel like it is arbitrary. It’s coming from who he is and the logical things that could have happened to influence him so he would become who he is.

    Anyway, I appreciate you sharing your writing journey on your blog. I’m less shaken by my own struggles because I know it’s not uncommon. 😉

    Becky

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