There's been a lot going on at the Z Compound the last few weeks and I'm trying to sort it all out. We got back from a mini-vacation to the Dutch Wonderland amusement park in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We had a great time, but this isn't going to be a John's family vacation post, it's going to be a writing post. It's a story really.
I finished my novella prequel idea back in June and was struggling with a new project, sort of. I had a decent idea but it wasn't coming together for me. It started as another medieval-esque fantasy about a scheming princess and her scheming suitors with a savage enemy threatening to destroy their way of life way back in January, but I couldn't get moving on it. It wasn't for a lack of trying.
I did some quick world building and even did an outline. It was going to be a big project. Multiple POVs including what I was calling interlude POVs peppered through the story. I was happy. But it didn't catch. It wasn't working for me. My good friend, Mike Winchell, loved the project and kept urging me to write it, even making the suggestion that I make it scifi. I didn't completely agree with him and decided to keep it fantasy but I decided I didn't want to do magic. I was kind of magicked out and didn't want to create another magic system. (Let's be honest, my magic systems are all kind of the same.) So I decided I was going to meet Mike part of the way.
I was up late one night and the movie The Great Race was on. What a great movie and it inspired me. What if my story took place in a world where the tech level was late 19th/early 20th century (trains, steamships, airships, telegraphs, etc.) but without gunpowder. Newspapers would be reporting on the competition between the suitors and I could play with genre a bit a la Sharon Draper's Tears of a Tiger. But I was adamant After a series of email exchanges with my agent, I was left with a pretty solid idea for a story and a decent explanation of WHY there were no guns (a secret society) and a solid threat for the heroes that necessitates the competition. But it still wasn't working for me, so I stalled and stalled. My agent suggested working on some short stuff. And I did. I'd created the framework for a really good world, but it didn't fit the story I was trying to tell. I finally listened to Mike's advice. Why not try scifi?
It started very space opera-y but that didn't feel right. It felt to fantasy-ish. I mean Star Wars is really just epic fantasy with space ships. I decided I needed to go in a different direction. I gave it a Firefly/ Battlestar:Galactica feel. Modern "look" but with star drives. I developed a "world" for these stories that was a direct reflection of those two works with a very rudimentary history that I could figure out as I wrote the story. It was going to be a commentary on reality competition shows (like MTV's The Challenge) and the celebrity news cycle. (Don't judge me, I happen to like MTV's The Challenge.) I pared down what the massive collection of POVs and plot threads, boiling it down to three main characters and a love triangle (Yes, I like playing with tropes too!). I could play with genres too with interlude chapters along the way (news scripts, interviews, government releases, gossip rag articles, etc). I was excited.
I started writing, deciding I was going to try and pants the novel a bit to see what I could do with it. But I was still struggling to get my feet under the project. I couldn't get into the project. It wasn't grabbing me. And if it's not grabbing me right now. Maybe not having a plan was hurting me and having that much freedom was a problem. Whatever it was, I wasn't making progress in what I was calling A TOURNAMENT OF PRINCES. I was at a crossroads for the project. A crossroads I'd been at several times in my life. Was it time to stop writing a project? The answer, unfortunately, was yes. But I'm not abandoning it quite yet. I need to study (tomorrow's blog post).
I wanted to write a novel this summer, but I didn't. So far. For now I'm trying something new: a contemporary YA called THE SEVEN LABORS OF... I've got one of two titles I'm messing with and I'm not saying until I decide on which one yet. Yes, it's a play on Heracles's Twelve Labors but it's only an allusion to mythology, it's very contemporary otherwise. I've done some planning on it and have a good idea where I'm going with it. It's a departure for me in many ways. I'm going to write in 1st person (I far prefer 3rd) and I'm going to write the first draft (I'm calling it Draft Zero) longhand in an old fashioned composition notebook. See, here's your picture.
So for now A TOURNAMENT OF PRINCES is mothballed. I'll return to it at some point, it's still in the official writing queue, but for now, the month of August is going to be dedicated to Draft Zero of THE SEVEN LABORS.