2018 was far from my most productive year, all told.
This is due in part to my attempt to taper off some medication I’ve been since I was in grade school. I had wanted to see how I functioned without them back in May, but in the process I spent an entire summer with severe hypochondria where most of my time was dedicated to Urgent Care visits instead of the things I loved. It took until September for a friend to convince me that I wasn’t going to improve without the aid of medication, and at that point it took only a few weeks to stabilize onto that.
You’ll some of that reflected in early chapters of Between Death and Dreams. Early suggestions of “tapering through this” were meant to be a shot at suggested a wrong-headed mentality that Peter would have to grow out of.
The problem was, I realized I wasn’t getting my work out fast enough. I didn’t know if he would have a chance to get stuff done. I’ve always had a tough time sticking to one project, as anyone who’s taking a look at this website’s archive over the past three years can surely attest.
Going into November, I knew I needed to shake things up. I knew there needed to be some way that I could get more material on the page. Someone suggested that I outline my work. This immediately terrified me. As I’d been told all my life that outlines “stifle creativity” or “make the work feel inauthentic.
Curiously, I’d never before noticed that the same people who told me this also never really wound up finishing their stories, either. I decided I would plan out the next week of material for Between Death and Dreams. One problem:
I didn’t know what constituted “a week of material.”
To solve this, I checked my schedule for the next week. This would be the last week of October, and I had more free time than usual due to some cancelled classes. By the end of the day I had a decent amount of the story outlined, and I proceeded to block a certain number of scenes for myself over the course of the next week.
I told myself that I would have twenty four hours to write every scene I had blocked out for each day, and when those twenty four hours were up I had to move on to the scenes that were schedules for the next day, regardless of if I was finished or not.
I got every scene written inside those twenty four hours. And I wrote so much more than I had since before May that over the course of a weekend I plotted everything out up to the end of Between Death and Dreams.
This allowed me to win Nanowrimo in November, and I won my own personal unofficial version in December. It was then that I finished writing the 100K word first draft of Between Death and Dreams.
I realized two things.
One: although I’m currently good at putting scenes together, without an outline, I’m not yet great at making them coherent. A lot of my early material clashed heavily with the latter material. These were problems that I could not untangle from the story, and were crucial to the development of early plot points. The stakes of the story became muddled, and tension in places was almost nonexistent due to the sheer unclarity of it all. I’d written myself into a corner with the unplanned early chapters, so even when I planned things out, there were unclear scenes, stakes, magic systems and worldbuilding that I was horribly dissatisfied with even after I finished.
I am sure that this was the cost of the lack of outlining in the beginning. I just clashed so much with myself, and never looked for the bigger picture until the moment came. I hadn’t seeded anything correctly, so some options were not available to me due to the serialized nature of the stuff I put on this website. I wasn’t sure if I could salvage it.
It was bad, you guys. And I knew I could do better. I knew you guys deserved better. I’m glad I wrote it, I’m glad I discovered how productive knowing what happens next can be. But trust me, you don’t want to see what a mess it turned out to be.
Between Death and dreamed will be going on something of a hiatus on here. I can’t say for how long. I’ll probably take another shot at writing it someday, but for now, unless I’m ready to completely overhaul the entire story to the point that it’s unrecognizable, I doubt I’ll be doing much with it. I wanted to apply these lessons, though. And I wanted to take the time to do it right.
So I put the Mythlings on hiatus for the past few weeks. And I’ve spent that time outlining something new. I want to have an outline for the entire project, and my plan is to be as thorough as possible with the worldbuilding for this story. I know everything that’s going to happen so I can correctly seed the right information. I know how the story is going to end.
I hope you all had some happy holidays, wishing you a fantastic new year–and I hope to see you again in 2019!