Posted in writing

Learning from Past Projects

penHave You Written Any Books?

I can’t tell you how often I get asked this question–probably as often as I tell people I’m a writer. And the answer to the question is yes, I’ve written a few books. Quite a few, actually, as I’ve been writing since I was ten.

This past week, I decided to reread a story I wrote five years ago. After sitting for so long in my computer, I’d forgotten all about it. It took me a good two days to get through it, but that’s not surprising considering how long it was. 215,000 words. I’d completely forgotten how long the thing was.

But in spite of the length, I had a blast reading it. I was good and didn’t do any editing on it, though that meant I had to sit on my hands to keep myself from correcting all the mistakes I saw. And boy, did I see mistakes.

What is the story about?

Let me tell you a bit about the story.

Tales of the O.S.O revolves around six characters in high school. The Orphan School for Otherworldliness takes in orphans of all kinds–Pixies, Sirens, Elves, Minotaurs, just to name a few. Over the course of the story, these six characters become friends, overcome their personal problems, defeat an evil stepmother and save a kingdom from the Shadow Eaters.

Cassie is a Pixie who wants to be a godmother. She’s 11 years old, has skipped three grades, and is four inches tall. On a daily basis, she dodges feet and bullies alike in her quest to survive in a land where everyone is bigger than her.

Kabecka is half Siren and half Sea-Serpent. She has no idea what she wants to be when she grows up, but she has a temper and serious anger management issues.

Ferdinand is half Minotaur and half Giant. He looks like a cow, but all he wants to do is dance. Unfortunately, his family wants him to go into the family security business.

Mot is a troll, and he’s studying to be a healer. Like Kabecka, he has his own anger issue problems to work through, and wants to discover why his parents abandoned him as a baby.

Colt is a long lost prince hiding in the school from his evil stepmother. His one goal in life is to break the curse his brother suffers under, but how can he do that when everything he touches blows up in his face?

Law was turned into a hawk ten years ago and unless his brother breaks the curse, he’s going to lose his mind. Literally. In the mean time, no one can know his secret. His world is a lonely one with brother as his only friend.

What did I learn?

As I said before, this sucker was 215,000 words. If I learned anything from reading the story, it was not to repeat myself. I repeated so much in the course of this story that if I cut out just the repetitive stuff, I could cut at least 15,000 words from the story.

Something else I realized I have learned since writing this thing is the art of plotting. I wrote this when I was a younger writer, before I knew about plot arcs or the three act play. I wrote this thing by the seat of my pants, not knowing where the story was going until about 75,000 words into it. I just had these characters I wanted to play with, give them issues and then solve them. It was an exercise in character development. That turned into a much longer project than I could have ever imagined.

If I were to rewrite it, I don’t know if I’d go about it the same way. I think I would have organized it better, perhaps turned the huge novel into two or even three books.

I’ve also learned a lot about editing since then. I remember how reluctant I was to cut scenes, as it would mess with the structure of my chapters. As I reread the story, I began considering which scenes were crucial to the story and which weren’t. I even started thinking about cutting scenes and how I could fix the story structure. Don’t get me wrong–fixing the story would be a monumental task, but it doesn’t scare me nearly as much as it used to.

Am I going to edit and fix it? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m already working on a project. I don’t think I can start another. I might, one day. This world I created is so much fun, it just might be worth revisiting. And who knows–I might one day write the sequel I’d always thought about writing.


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