I have been working on a fantasy novel for quite awhile now but it seems to be getting stuck. At first I thought that this was a fault of the protagonist in that his character had not seemed to form in the way that I had expected. I did a review of him and quite naturally found some improvements that I could make. Having done this I went back to work on the writing again but once more I found myself being dissuaded by yet another blockage in the creative process. I decided to take yet another break from this book and think it over, again.
Curiously, the thought of abandoning the book has not occurred to me. I like the basic story and I have enjoyed creating a fictional reality for it to take place in. It is not a question of the amount of work that has already gone into this project. I believe that I instinctively know when an idea has run out of steam and I do not think that this one had. While distracting myself with learning how to paint in 3D I had an idea that the problem with this book is that there are too many sub-plots going on.
Actually, that is not quite right, as a quick review of my notes revealed, it is really a questing of the book’s plotting; it is all wrong!
Of all my books so far this one has the most going on. Not only is there the main story but there are various sub-plots as well. I wanted to include these for the sake of giving the book depth, which in turn, I believe, gives the fantasy world more validity. That is just my approach to writing. The main plot is working at a higher level, involving important people, kings, priests, diplomats, and the protagonist. Below that are several more stories that concern more everyday characters. I used this technique successfully in the Sorrow Song Trilogy. In 1066 the main story follows the struggles of King Harold of England, King Hardrada of Norway, and Duke Guillaume of Normandy. Running alongside this is the stories of people lower down the hierarchy, Mildryth, Wolfhere, Edwin the Shield Bearer, and such. However, with the Sorrow Song Trilogy the pacing was relatively easy as each book is driven by the approach of a battle. I have found with the fantasy story that although there is the inevitable conflict it does not tie all of the sub-plots up in the same way. This is why, I believe, the pacing is off.
I have decided to go back to the beginning of the creative process and plot out the book in much greater detail than I had originally. This can be a little frustrating as it means suspending the writing again but it is also an opportunity to do other practical things as well. It offers me a chance to do some editing, I have already removed one sub-plot altogether, to question the need for some of the more superfluous characters, and to focus more attention on those that remain, to define and develop them more.
Different people do the same thing in different ways. For myself, I like to plot my books using a spreadsheet. How I lay out the plot seems to differ with each book, however. For Eugenica I had two main plots that ran parallel to each other and then collided to form the conclusion. For Mesozoic there was only one plot that was diverted by character actions rather than sub-plots. For the fantasy book I discovered that I needed something that put everything into a chronological order first and then highlighted where the various plot threads impacted upon each other. I am already beginning to see some benefits from this work. As mentioned earlier I have removed an entire sub-plot already. This little story obviously had interest to me or else I would not have written it but when I reviewed it I decided that it did not really contribute much to the story and slowed the pace down. Plotting can seem like an unattractive task but like most other things associated with writing it can aid the creative process. In relation to a book that is intentionally complicated by the various themes it looks to draw upon then I think proper plotting is absolutely essential.