When you realise your book is broken.

Sep 19, 2019

This is a strange revelation to have on the day my latest book came out (thanks to everyone getting behind it, you people rock!), but here it is: The current novel I’m working on, that I’m about 62k words into (so maybe 3/4 or so done) is broken. And I mean really busted. The central premise for one major part of the story is so flawed the whole book falls down around it. It’s like playing Jenga, and you pull out the wrong block so the whole tower crashes down. I’m 62k words into this damn thing and just realised I pulled out the wrong block right near the start. The whole thing has been teetering on bloody-mindedness for weeks but I can’t bring the book home, because as soon as I take my hand off the tower, the whole thing collapses.

I can fix it, I think. Well, I’m sure. The major bones of the novel are salvageable, but… ugh.

I’ve been languishing in the third act now for a while, trying to figure out why I’m reluctant to keep writing. And I keep saying to myself, “Don’t overthink it! Trust in the story! It’s always worked before!” And it’s true, that has always worked before. But I often wondered if there would come a time when it didn’t work. Hello, this fucking book. It’s not working. The reason I’ve been so sluggish at moving on? It’s because I’ve realised what I’ve done so far is wrong. It took until now to really figure that out, but right from the start I was coming at this thing from the wrong angle.

The premise is sound. There are two primary threads that crash together to make the book, and those fundamental ideas are good. One of them works pretty much flawlessly. But the other one has a fatal flaw. A really brutal fuckedness that upsets the whole damn thing. How much that will pull the other thread out of true remains to be seen. So what now?

Like I said, I can fix it, but that requires a lot of thinking to restructure the whole core thread that isn’t working. And restructuring that thread means completely re-imagining the major supernatural threat of this novel. It can’t be what I thought it was. At least, not in the form it took throughout the writing so far. It has to be different for the story to work. But different how? Have you noticed yet that this blog post is as much me having a conversation with myself as it is telling you what’s happening?

Let me go on a tangent here. I met a mate of mine for breakfast a while ago. She said, “I have this major problem with the current book and maybe you can nut it out with me?” Of course, I was happy to. What happened is I sat there eating breakfast nodding and mm-hmming while she went through all that was wrong with the book and how it needed to be fixed. By the end she had her answers and I hadn’t said a word. That’s how writers work – we solve problems with words. She and I had breakfast. You and me? We’re hanging out in a blog post together, because no one was available for breakfast. Then again, I still don’t have answers, so maybe this blog post is only me realising I need to catch up with a mate and blather at them for a while.

So yeah, I need to completely re-imagine the Big Bad in this novel and let that foment in my braimneats. And then I have to go back to the start of the book and rewrite the whole damn thing. But doing it right this time.That’s okay, you know. I mean, it sucks massive hairy balls, but it’s okay. That’s the job. We get shit wrong sometimes. The book will no doubt turn out great and I’ll look like a genius or something, but these things are always born from me floundering away at the keyboard, with no idea what I’m doing. None of us really know what we’re doing. We pound on the word-making slab until a book is born.

But it’s important to recognise these revelations for what they are. It’s important to admit when things aren’t working, and then figure out how to fix them. I certainly don’t want to push on with a flawed book and then try to send it out for publication. We all know how that would end.

Regardless, first I need to get my head around how to change things so the story works. Perhaps I need to catch up with some folks for breakfast. I haven’t decided yet whether it means I take a while off to think, or shelve the whole book for an indefinite period and let it percolate, and work on something else in the meantime. I suppose I’ll wait and see. Now I’ve had this bolt of understanding, answers might come to me quickly. Or they might… not. I’ll let it simmer for a few days while I enjoy the launch of the new collection. Then I’m off to Comic-Con next weekend, so that takes some focus. I’ll let things rest until then, and see where I am. Maybe I’ll write a short story or two in the meantime, to keep the old creative juices warm and bubbly, while my hindbrain chews on this particular conundrum. Meanwhile, I do have a very big new project in mind that I was saving until after this book was written. Maybe that needs to move up the agenda. I won’t be doing anything until after Comic-Con.

Whatever happens, I’ll move on in one way or another because I’m a fucking professional. Shit, eh?

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