Writing Woes: Somebody’s Getting Axed

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Well, I think I’m realizing more and more how isolating an endeavour writing can be. Considering how many times I’ve fallen into writing angst in the past several months, I think it’s safe to say that I’m far from the image of the highly energetic, happy-go-lucky writer that I imagined myself to be while working on a fun, light-hearted adventure story. Clearly, I’m not have as much fun as my characters, that’s for sure.

And it seems as if several of them won’t be having fun any longer either.

Yep, that’s right. After dusting off the outline today and trying to formalize the ideas for the ending I had come up with two weeks ago, I realized that my story is a large, lumpy mess of a web. It was like somebody detonated a bomb of ideas that are now held together by flimsy ropes. Yes, I have to give myself some credit for actually connecting all the dots. As a matter of fact, the dots were so well connected each one has become a hairy tangle. Now that I want to actually streamline the plot, I keep running into scenarios where I can’t seem to remove a thread in the storyline without losing a lot of the characters’ motivations or, in some cases, losing the point of the story.

But I know, I really really know, that this is too messy. There’s too much going on, there are too many characters (who are wonderful and I want to write about them so much), but unless I want to spend the next 20 years writing a ten-volume epic, I can’t churn out this story. I just wouldn’t be able to package this story into what I want it to be.

So I’m making the hard decision to cut down and cut away. I say ‘hard’, because even though I know it’s the right thing to do, I just feel so disappointed that the things I came up with in the past year became basically useless. All those hours spent connecting the dots… it has come to this instead. I feel like I wasted SO much time. I wasted so much thinking (hey, thinking takes a lot of effort!) And in hindsight, it wasn’t even like I could have prevented this. Because I started out with such a simple plot, a really boring plot, and I needed that bomb of ideas to really get this story going. It’s only now that I have a clearer idea of the story and of the plot am I realizing that I’ve overcompensated. (To know how much, feel free to try and read my current outline.)

I honestly feel like crying right now. Ugh, just earlier today I resolved to stop whining about writing, and now I’m whining again. I’m really sorry. I’m sure the reason very few people follow my blog is because they don’t want to be privy to all this whining.

But my feelings about this story is similar to how I feel when I’ve developed a feature for a software and the product managers clarify it wasn’t what they wanted in the first place. It’s just… all this work, for nothing. I’ve set deadlines for myself, and the most crushing part about this is that I probably won’t meet any of them. (They’re silly deadlines that matter to nobody except myself.)

Now, there’s still a way I can meet my deadline, and that’s if I manage to clean up this story within the next few weeks or so, and then start all over. (Or continue where I left off with all the changes in mind, which is what I did back in January/February.)

So, who’s getting axed?

Aklin and Danihon are a pair of warriors that are trying to overcome the curse that has been placed on them by a goddess. In my opinion, they have one of the best character arcs, but their story (looking at how many times I mention them in my overall outline — that is to say, very little) runs obliquely to Sano and Anina’s story. I will pull them out and probably just write a short story or novella about them.

I think I’m reducing Datu Nakagamo and Hani, the two other major Gamhanan characters in my story into very, very minor characters. That means I’m losing pretty much all of my Gamhanan characters (Danihon is one too; that’s why he’s got the neat tattoos). It’s heartbreaking to do this, especially because I wanted to show at least how diverse this world is (in parallel to the Philippine’s ethnolinguistic group). But I’ve known from the beginning that trying to fit in so many different peoples probably wasn’t the best idea. I was hoping I could extract Nakagamo and Hani entirely, in much the same vein as Aklin and Danihon, but without Nakagamo kidnapping Sano’s mother, I lose the inciting event. So he has to be there at least to initiate Sano’s story. I’ll have to refine the role he plays in the rest of the story, however. Hani had an entire character arc, but I think I’ll disregard that.

I wanted to give Xiehun Tan the axe, but his storyline is so intertwined with Anina’s, that it’s hard to pull him out. And if I remove it, it would also mean I lose another dimension of my world, which is the connection of the archipelago with the mainland. There’s already a myth that the Philippines was an isolated area, and Spanish colonization “opened” them up to the rest of the world, which is simply not true. Removing Xiehun also removes the archipelago’s connection with the Hoken empire, and reinforces the idea of the islands’ hermit reputation. I don’t want that.

And because of that same reason, it’s with a heavy heart that all characters from the Kingdom of Gintohan is getting the axe. They were never major to begin with; they were just supposed to assist Xiehun Tan in discovering the illicit activities his father had been involved in. The Kingdom of Gintohan is inspired by the Kingdom of Butuan in its golden age, and I wanted so, so badly to have characters from all three regions of the archipelago, but… I just can’t. The story’s suffering for it already.

Now that I’ve said that, how much simpler is the story now? It seems as if I’ve gotten rid of a lot of characters. But looking at my outline, it’s barely changed. I feel like I’ve staged too many plot twists. Twists, however, are easier to fix than the actual threads in the story, because it all depends on what I reveal and when. I was planning on revealing Anina’s past as a twist, but perhaps I can just say that at the very beginning.

I still believe that the appearance of the Warlady of Pila *has* to be a twist. It reinforces many reiterating themes.

What I’m struggling with is the resolution. Now that I’ve managed to come up with a magic-enhancing mineral, a war, and a wind that roams the archipelago turning people into wood… how do I actually tie all these things together in a clean way? The connect-the-dots method I used resulted into magical resolution that felt way too illogical even for magic. Oh, and remember how I wanted Anina to sort of die, but come back? Well, I cannot seem to find a way to do so without doing some retcon gymnastics.

And with that, I end this Writing Woes post with this gif that hopefully conveys everything I feel about my story right now:

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3 thoughts on “Writing Woes: Somebody’s Getting Axed

  1. Oh, Leng, I read this and my heart breaks for you and your characters.

    I was originally going to suggest creating a sequel or trilogy, but it seems you have already addressed that. Do make sure you keep everything – your idea of having a novella is a good one – if this takes off and you get rich and famous, you will need additional material to pull from.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself for deadlines – it’s great that you set them so you can’t slack off (like I do), but be kind to yourself – and extend them when necessary – like having to come up with new directions to take your story.

    I really like your analogy that at the beginning, you needed all those spider web like points to add to your story – and the thing is, at the time, you couldn’t tell which would go far and which wouldn’t. Everything I’ve read about writing says it’s good to know even your side characters as well as your main characters – and the added bonus is having story material for down the road.

    I know how much of Filipino culture you want to include – but remember, you don’t have to do it all in this book. When this one is done, you can do another, and get to include other parts of the culture that didn’t make it into this one.

    As far as plot twists – you can always be like MWT – and only give us the barest minimum of information to go on – or drop hints of it all along. Maybe that’s how you could handle Anina’s past? Drop hints of it all along, so that at some point you can just say “remember all those things I pointed out? Well, this is why it’s so important”.

    Just trying to throw some things back at you and hope they help work through it so that the pillow can go back on the chair, and not be hiding muffled screaming. *hugs* *offers magic vanilla custard cake*

    1. Oh Bookworm, thanks so much for your replies. I kinda feel bad about having to unload this on my blog, because you always stumble across it and have to pick me up. I’m so grateful that you can find time to encourage me, but sometimes I worry if you’re getting tired of all this whining? Lol! In all seriousness, you’re such a great friend.

      I know how much of Filipino culture you want to include – but remember, you don’t have to do it all in this book. When this one is done, you can do another, and get to include other parts of the culture that didn’t make it into this one.

      This is such a great point, Bookworm! It’s hard to see myself writing more books, only because writing one is already hard enough! Hehe. But it’s very true.

      To be honest, I don’t strive to be like MWT at all, because I know I would never pull those twists as well as she did. If anything, I think the large, sprawling world with lots of characters with their own arcs was inspired by FMA. I have to remind myself that Hiromu Arakawa created FMA in a span of ten years.

      *hugs back* *eats magic vanilla custard cake* Thanks Bookworm! I definitely feel a lot better now.

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