On lightbulbs and epiphanies

0408bulb1Have you ever had a great idea for a story, had a wonderful time researching it, spent hours working through the world building and having a blast coming up with a different social structure for your hero to play in, searched the web for inspirational images to create an associated Pinterest board and generally psyched yourself up to write something fun and extraordinary—only to find in the execution of it, that it is just not working?

Welcome to my world.

Gilded Scarab is as flat as the proverbial pancake. It’s as slow as treacle when it’s ten below. It is just not going to fly.

I think I’ve worked out why.

So far I have about 25000 words from Ned’s PoV. I’d originally seen him as my main character—rich, influential family with his father one of the ruling oligarchy, someone who is going to be important politically one day when he inherits his father’s honours but who doesn’t care about that. All he cares about are Aegyptian mummies and his archaeology. Despite the accident of birth, Ned is unassuming and rather modest, a little naïve even, quietly happy in his room in the basement of the Britannic Imperium Museum and not one to throw his weight around. Because those 25k words are from his PoV and are setting up the main novel, they’re filling in a lot of back story before his main love interest arrives on the scene—specifically his affair with Daniel and his marriage to Laeticia. Both are important, but (i) it’s unbalancing the book and everyone is going to be thinking Daniel’s the main love interest and (ii) they’re *taking too damn long*. At this rate, I’ll be lucky to get Rafe on the scene by Christmas and about another 10,000 words.

The pacing is completely and utterly off. There is no pacing in fact. See previous comment about treacle in a deep frost.


And because Ned is quiet and unassuming and he’s very young in this part of the story and a bit unformed, the story is flat, flat, flatter-than-it’s-just-been-run-over-with-steamroller flat. It has some nice passages that I’m proud of, and one or two sentences that I just want to take home and feed turkish delight. But overall? Flat. I think Ned is okay as a character—actually I’m very fond of him and he’s very sweet—and he’s a wonderful vehicle to show how this world and society work, but the story needs to have more pizzazz and flash and energy if it’s going to engage the reader. Ned isn’t the flashy type.

Now, I know that all the pundits say just write and keep writing, and keep your edits for the first pass through when it’s finished. But I am struggling here. I am finding it a chore to write about Ned and Daniel because I want to get on to writing about (older and wiser) Ned and Rafe. And if it is just plain *wrong*, what is the point of struggling on to the bitter end? I’ll just junk the whole thing then and that will be more words and time wasted. I know it’s wrong. I have to fix it now.

In my last post, I was mourning that I had all this good stuff with Rafe that was going to have to be junked, because it would be too late, 35000 words in, to introduce a new PoV character. I thought I might make the Rafe chapters available as freebies when the Gilded Dungbeetle is published, as a sort of taster for the main book.

But I’ve got that the wrong way around, haven’t I? It should be Rafe—flashy, energetic, raffish, rakish don’t-buy-a-used-airship-from-this-man Rafe—who should be the opening of the book, who should be the first (maybe only) PoV character. That would take us BAM into the time period of the main story, not the decade before. We’re almost straight into the encounter between the two leads. And Ned’s back story can be bled through some other way. I can maybe recycle some of Ned stuff in chapter 2 or 3, after they meet, because that won’t be too late to introduce a new PoV character, but it will be in a greatly truncated form. Or I can just make Ned’s chapters the freebie later instead of Rafe’s. I don’t know at this stage and until I start rewriting, I don’t care.

The point is I’ve had my lightbulb moment. I can see where this is going so horribly wrong, and I. Can. Fix. It. Yes, I’m 25000 words down, and I won’t finish NaNo, but who cares? This baby isn’t as dead in the water as I thought. I can do something with it.

Right. Rubs hands together and eyes characters. Come here, Rafe Lancaster. I have a little job for you… there’s a book for you to rescue and you are just the man to do it.




    • I’ve had workmen in for a couple of days so haven’t really had much chance today to do something, but I’ve so far retired Rafe out of the British Imperium Air Force and he is currently kicking his heels in a hostel in Bloomsbury wondering what to do with himself. In a few minutes, he’s going out to find a coffee house somewhere…

      Hopefully it will spark better than when it was poor Ned dreaming his way through life…


    • It’s set in an alternate, slightly steampunky Londinium of 1900, where the Britannic Imperium is governed by an oligarchy of 8 Convocation Houses. Hence the fanciful spelling for Aegypt/Aegyptian. Things in it are recognisably our world/history, but with a twist.


      • oh right. that sounds really interesting. I’ve read a couple of books with that sort of vibe, and I really liked them. It make you look at quite normal things in a completely different light.


        • It started out as a very ordinary little novella set in a coffee shop near the British Museum. When I decided to rescue it from my hard drive, I thought that it needed something to make it different – the coffee shop romance thing is so old hat! – and I’ve always fancied trying something steampunky, but that isn’t in your face, self consciously steampunk. The steampunk elements will, I hope, just be woven through and appear to be quite normal and unremarkable. Rafe, for example, flew a steam/aether powered aerofighter in the Air Force of the Britannic Imperium, but it’s just mentioned in passing rather than making a big deal out of it. It’s a lot of fun, actually, writing that aspect of it.


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