In my first Taichiren’s Update post I spoke a bit about the large errors I made in the novel’s original draft, as well as a bit on what I planned to do to fix them in the new version.
Today’s post will be about what I learned from writing the initial draft, and finally, a bit of a reveal as to what happened in the book. You’ll have to note that while much of the premise and characters remain the same, the story itself is now vastly different. I’m explaining this because though this will be a “big reveal” as to the content of the original draft, you will still only see glimpses of what will carry on to the new book.
So, let’s begin.
A lot of the insight I gained came either during the time I was writing the draft or after I completed it. While better known before I began, it is better to know now than never at all. Most of this pertained to the writing itself, such as: that I should limit my usage of adverbs, that “said”, “asked” and other invisible dialogue tags were better used than ones that stood out. I could go on forever; this is a list of things any novice writer is to learn if they are to succeed.
The most important lessons, however, were things I discovered on my own when I realized my draft was bad.
Characters and Characterization — This was one of the first hard-learned lessons, and it came about when I discovered I hated my main character. She wasn’t a goody-two-shoes perfectionist as you find written by most first-time would-be authors, but another level of entirely plain. She was useless and provided nothing but a lens through which we could see the story told. I wrote a more detailed post on the specific reasons I hated her, which you can read here, as that’s not exactly what this lesson was about.
The lesson was that no matter how good the idea for the character is, unless it is properly portrayed in the writing, they are just an idea and not a character someone would willingly read about. I wanted a story about a young woman who cared about nothing but herself, and was rewarded for her selfishness. Instead, I created something entirely different because I failed to properly build the characteristics needed for her to fulfill that role.
You can’t have someone be selfish and selfless without forcing that character into a devastating identity crisis.
My other characters were alright, but will be stronger the next time around. I tried throwing in some traits that I had never played with before, and though some of them turned out wonderfully– Take Cysar, the playboy who falls in love but still finds it difficult to tame his desires, as an example– others did not take so well to being written.
Making things happen — This was something I struggled with during the writing phase. I kept trying to make things happen; I would insert action in places where it wasn’t needed, as I was sure that action was the only way to make things happen. Of course I eventually learned otherwise, but until then it was fight after fight after fight after fight. Though I enjoyed the scenes individually, reading the book grew tiresome. It was then that I realized that there should be “breaks” in between each tidbit of “action”.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Just because there should be a break every here and there doesn’t mean you should switch from something exciting to something dull. You still want to keep the reader intrigued and dying to read what’s next, so you don’t want to write something that goes from an epic battle between two warriors to a woman talking about how she plans to paint her nails the perfect shade of pink. I would probably cry.
Thankfully, I was smart enough to realize that as well. I told myself, “If my intent [with the action scenes] was to keep the readers interest, then I don’t want to lose it in the downtime.” And I was right. This is what brought in some of my other sub-plots: Mydeth’s child, the Raiya, and pretty much everything that didn’t involve the main storyline, which is where I kept most of the action.
Adding too much — This was less obvious at first, but I came to the realization with time. I simply had too much going on and it was starting to feel all over the place. It wasn’t that what I had was bad, but that the story wasn’t mature enough to handle all that content. An example of something I added and later decided to push to a later book was what i dubbed the “God Children” arc. It was something I really enjoyed creating and it was hard to come to terms with the fact that I needed to move it to the second book. Some of it remains in the first (Mydeth’s child still remains an important character in the story) but most of it, including everything with Tael’rah’s sister, have been moved to the second book.
And finally, throwing more in a scene than I was able to handle. This became a huge problem near the end when the v’yeras and the elves sought to relieve their differences with bloodshed. I had the elven armies come to the battle on foot, and their summoned, undead dragons from the skies. While it sounds like a good idea without knowing anything about the scene, it ended up being an awful mess. Because I wasn’t able to handle so many things at once, I basically had the elves and v’yeras fight each other while half of the elven army remained in the sky doing nothing! Yeah, not a surprise that they lost.
I also removed the undead dragons because I’m tired of zombies and decided against death magic. That was a great decision.
Okay, so this post is a little long now. This isn’t really all I wanted to say, but because I’d like to keep it on the shorter end, I’ll have to finish this another time. But because I don’t want to keep these updates as dwellings on the past, the third update will be about the book I’m writing, and you will hear more about what I learned at a later date.