Development Hell to Development Heaven!

Wow, it was quite the storm here the other night. Torrential rain. Loud, ripping thunder. Blinding flashes of sheet lightning. Truly awe-inspiring stuff. As a result, I’m feeling a bit more contemplative than usual today. By the way, I didn’t have my camera handy during the storm. The accompanying picture is actually from another storm (way back in 2011).

Capturing a little lightning...
Capturing a little lightning…

This is Day 4 of my humble little “open novel” experiment. Let’s start with a quick update on my “Development Hell” novel, Ice Storm. Yesterday, I edited my 15,000th word of the second draft. I’m guessing I’ve got 75,000 words to go. The next 15,000 words should be a little tougher. Then things get really tough. Then a little easier. Then tough again.

From Development Hell to Development Heaven!

I’ve talked about Ice Storm’s development hell over the last few days. But to sum up, I wrote seven unfinished drafts over the course of four to five months. Finally, I got tired of spinning my wheels and combined the drafts, forming a story out of the various pieces. The result was less than good. However, the story had lots of potential. Last week, I spent three nights trying to pinpoint what was holding it back. I came up with two major problems and two minor ones.

  1. Scenic Confusion: The scenes felt strangely out of order. Sort of like I’d tossed them into a blender and let them splatter out over the pages.
  2. Passive Hero: Cy Reed was not driving the action. Instead, things sort of happened to him and he reacted accordingly. When he makes a fantastic discovery near the end of the novel, it felt unearned.
  3. Side Story Issues: Chaos was light on secondary characters. Ice Storm is far more ambitious. Several of the secondary characters have their own stories that unfold over the course of the novel. For the most part, I liked these side stories but felt I didn’t wrap them up well.
  4. Cartoonish Events: Cy Reed’s universe is supposed to be a little over-the-top. His world is filled with lost treasures, deadly monsters, and strange science. But it’s all grounded in reality. The mysterious artifact at the heart of Chaos, die Glocke, is fully explainable by modern science. Ice Storm was different. I strayed from reality and got a little too cartoonish at times. Hell, it strained even my credulity.

In retrospect, none of this surprises me. As I mentioned, I crafted Ice Storm out of multiple drafts. It was only natural that scenes get out of order, motivations get obscured, etc. Fortunately, these problems are manageable. Here’s what I did. I took a sheet of paper and divided it into six boxes. Then I divided Ice Storm into six sections, one for each box. In each section, I gave Cy an overall goal. By the end of the section, he either accomplishes the goal or fails and is forced to improvise. This leads to the next section and the next goal. It worked like magic for me. Cy is now driving the story rather than being driven by it.

Then I divided up my individual scenes and put them into the various sections. I had to throw a few away (hmm…maybe I’ll do a “Deleted Scenes” section after Ice Storm is published). And I’m going to have to create a few to replace them. But most of my scenes found a much better home. Now, it feels like there is a more logical progression of the story.

The division of sections also helped out with the side stories. I took each secondary character and figured out what part of their story would be told in each section. It also helped with the cartoonish elements. I was able to eliminate two particularly cartoonish elements merely by reordering the scenes. I also took the opportunity to reground the story based on the principles of Cy Reed’s world.

So, there you have it. Development Hell to (possible) Development Heaven all in a matter of three days!

Other Stuff

The link to buy Chaos at Diesel (see sidebar) is still broken. And the Chaos paperback is still on-sale for $13.25 at Amazon. Incidentally, that price may go up soon. I’m thinking about participating in Amazon’s Extended Distribution program. But the only way to make a decent profit off it is to raise the Amazon paperback to a higher price, say $17.95. I’ve been mulling this over for awhile. Still, if you’re thinking about buying a copy, now might not be a bad time to do it.

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