I was going to write a blog post about this very problem, but my friend and fellow writer Jacob phrases it perfectly. Check out his blog!
So, I wrote this thing called a book. It took two and a half years of my life to complete the current draft, not to mention countless of hours put in over the years to build the world, magic system, flesh out the characters, and give it a working (semi) interesting setting. It’s around 140,000 words, which were trimmed down and edited from about 300,000. Basically, it’s a big-ass book that has pretty much dominated my free time the last two and a half years. And it’s still nowhere near complete.
See, that’s why writing sucks — that’s why being an author sucks sometimes.
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Research takes us writers into strange realms. This particular search was necessitated by my desire to make the initiation rituals of my nomadic desert barbarian culture as realistic as possible.
Anyone ever made weird internet searches for their writing? Wanna share?
The other day I sat down to brainstorm a title for “the epic saga.” I sprung the idea of a brainstorm on my family just after dinner, and they accepted with varying degrees of enthusiasm. I brought a sheet of paper, on which we wrote everything we could think of.
That’s about the only thing I know about a good brainstorm. There are no dumb ideas. Write everything down. Having done this and put the general gist of our brainstorm into a handy sketchnote, I’m surprised I get anything sensible done on my own.
Here’s a handy key to the sketchnote:
Green: my sensible relative with writing experience. Blue: my reluctant relative who’s trying to decide if this is cool or not. Yellow: myself, the reason I’m having so much difficulty coming up with a title that isn’t a facetious tip of the hat to a Broadway musical.
In general I have a lot of trouble naming things, especially in a fantasy setting. While I have no skill for coming up with names that sound legit for their setting, I’m quite gifted in creating ridiculous names that I hope and pray no one actually has. Some examples include: Margery Cyclist-Hopkins Miller, and Alfred Staple-Giraffe.
I think I have these people to blame:
And these people:
Several years ago I brought a sample chapter of my book to the writer’s group that meets at my house every month or so. After reading it, the first comment was, “This sounds a lot like the Bourne Identity to me.”
My initial thought: Damn.
“Whatever do you mean?” I asked, even though I could kind of see whatever they meant. Here are a few of the similarities pointed out to me:
“Well, the guy has amnesia.”
“He knows how to use a bunch of weapons. Killing is instinctual to him.”
I cannot deny it. This guy’s a freak of destruction.
“He’s part of a secretive military group, members of which may be trying to kill him.”
“What about the vague and unhelpful shaky-cam flashbacks?”
(Getting annoyed.) You didn’t need to take dramamine before reading my story, did you?
So, I resolved to make some changes. Granted, the premise is very Ludlum-esque, but it’s set in a fantasy world with a magic system and all sorts of freaky creatures, so I think I have a chance. Maybe. If someone can read past page one without saying, “Amnesia? I’ve read that one before.”
New marketing strategy: Target amnesiacs to read my book. It will be like nothing they remember experiencing before.
Five years later, I’m trying to write a log line for this book, so that when people ask me what my book’s about, I don’t have to say, “Uuuuummmm,” or, “It’s…complicated.” (I don’t have a gift for spoken words). I sent the log line to a trusted fellow writer, who’s first comment was, “It’s sounds a lot like the Bourne Identity.”
Five years. Nothing has changed.
The good news is, I now have a working log line!
“Hey, I hear you’re writing a book! What’s it about?”
“It’s basically the Bourne Identity in a fantasy setting.” (sigh).
Enjoy an honest trailer of the book I’m currently writing:
Since time immemorial, I have been writing a series of fantasy books. I have come to think of it as “The Epic Saga,” but more accurate description would probably be, “Flounderings of a fool who thinks a fantasy with multiple time-jumps back and forth isn’t too ambitious for first novel.”
Anyway, when you’re writing a fantasy, what you really need is a map! Firstly because maps are really cool, but also so you can remember where the hell everything is. I found myself getting confused, so on a train ride home from Chicago through a blizzard, I tested out my mad cartography skills and drew a rough representation of my “world” as I see it. Not my best artwork, I admit, but I swore to create something every day. I never said if had to be good!