Having finished off a rework of Tau Ceti Diversion (SF), and the third Jakirian book, I thought it was time that I went back and fleshed out the whole novel for an Urban Fantasy concept I wrote in 2010 called Distant Shore. At the time I did a lot of work on backstory, generated a good idea of the characters and the storyline, then went ahead and put together three sample chapters and a proposal.

This was something of an experiment for me. When I stopped, I could remember feeling a tremendous pressure to keep going. Hey – I love writing when everything is finally coming together. But true to my plan, I put the stops on and sent the thing out. So far nothing.

The whole thing was part of plan to perhaps do a series of proposals, backed by three sample chapters, in a variety of areas to see if I could snag any interest. What I discovered is that I absolutely HATE working this way.

To get going at all, basically I need to ‘front end load’ the entire story and the characters – before I can type a word. I need to understand what is going on inside each of the characters at an emotional level. I need to do enough plot work to have an instinctive sense for what is moving in the background of the story, for what threads are weaving in through the main action. I also need to have a fundamental confidence in the core concept – particularly if it is science fiction (which this one is). I love the ‘wow’ concepts, but there is enough engineer in me to need the things that surround that to be entirely credible. All that stuff takes time.

So to start. Then STOP. It really hurts.

What I have discovered hurts even more is trying to go back to the original concept cold and finish the damn thing off!

I have just worked my way through an extremely painful month of reconnecting with Distant Shore. I would sit for ages staring at the page, trying to find some way into the next scene in the plot sequence. Nothing.

I had to go back and duplicate all the crucial elements of my process. Go back to the characters. Delve deep enough into what was blocking me to see each little hurdle as they came: perhaps I needed to understand this character better, or I needed to do more research into the key elements that drive the book or crucial pieces of setting (in this case criminal psychology, organised crime in New York, how long it takes to identify a body, how dental records are used etc)

Finally I managed to write that scene. God what a relief!

With the major plot hurdles jumped, I’ve decided to use NaNoWriMo as a spur to get some wordage down.

Where is everyone at with their WIP? Anyone doing NaNoWriMo?

Cross-posted at chrismcmahons blog.


  1. I left a novel half-finished when the idea for the WIP hit like a tsunami.

    I don’t regret switching, but I still REALLY like what I was doing in the previous one, and plan to go back – and I KNOW it’s going to hurt.

    It’s almost more tempting to just start something fresh. Almost.

    Good luck – and at least you’ll find your mind has been working on your Distant Shore all this time, and will send up (eventually) nuances and connections you might never have seen if you hadn’t taken this break.

    1. I hope so! The new WIP must be exciting to have shunted aside the other novel. I’d have to say I have never had the happen to me – I work too much to plan, which is kind of good and kind of bad. Right now I wished I had ditched the plan and finished this one off the first time!

  2. I’ve got so many things I need to finish and polish, that I’ve decided to forgo the official Nano and set my own goals.

    One novel, finish the two scenes left and polish.

    The other two are a bit odd. All my beta readers for the last novel came back saying it was too confusing, so I pulled out two different POVs and their whole subplot sequences. 30K words total. Now if _that one_ had it’s own problem and some continuity it’d be a nice little novella. And the other one . . . continuity between the scenes, sure, and being careful to emphasize that the two main characters just live to dive gleefully into yet another disaster . . . yeah, at least a novella. If I’m not careful it might turn into a novel. There’s little enough wordage, that I ought to be able to finish all three in a month.

    And yeah, the hard part is going to be going back and getting sufficiently into the characters heads that I can write inside a story that’s “already over” in my head.

    1. Hey, Pam. We you’re certainly not short of ideas:) The good thing about related novellas is that you can put them up as ebooks to promote your linked works. Neat.

      I’ve never done NaNo before and I have no idea how it works. I might end up just running my own race anyway. It’s a bit of an experiment for me.

  3. I’m not doing NaNoWriMo because I did that in August. The draft is laying fallow before I launch into revisions. I have written three more short stories, with a fourth pending that I did not intend to do right now, but apparently my subconscious had other plans. I’m also well into the cover-design and editing process for the e-book, due out in November.

    A major non-fiction project is in initial research phase (dig, outline, dig more, tweak outline, write chapter, dig more, rinse, repeat). A second non-fiction project is hanging fire because the publisher is still waiting for an outside reader to get around to doing their bit.

    I have a terrible time getting back into some stories, and no trouble with others. It seems to depend on where I was in the process when I stopped. If it is very early, then re-starting is a bear. If I have ideas sketched out and a few scenes written, then re-starting comes more easily.

    1. I know what you mean about timing. This is the first time in more than a decade that I just happened to be on the very of first draft when November came along.

      Sounds like you are doing some good work getting your work out. I will probably need to do that with my Jakirian series. I am shopping that around with Aus publishers at the moment. If I don’t get any responses by early next year I will be putting them up myself as electronic and POD.

      Coming back to any sort of project seems to be equally hard for me, so if some go smoothly for you – more power to you!

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