The trials and travails of writing travel fantasy novels

Photo by ironmanixs -
Varanasi, India - part of the basis of the fictional city in my novel. Photo by ironmanixs

If my pen were a match, it would be wet

This is not a day where I’m fired up to write a new scene, delve deep into a character, or get into the mystery and nuance of the plot, all the while subtly laying groundwork for the crucial twist at the end of the story.

This is the kind of day where I want to curl up in my favorite chair with a cuppa coffee and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. (Which I’m halfway through, as of this writing. It’s feckin awesome. I can hardly focus on my own story because this one is so compelling.)

This is the kind of day that is just damn hard to be an author.

Which brings us to the end of Act I

Over 30,000 words later, I’ve roughed out the novel’s first act of three. I can feel the book is in transition. Relationships are set, villains and heroes are established, major and minor characters are in play. Complexities have begun forming.

Now what?

Now what is what I feel I’ve been putting off: reviewing the first act, and filling in some major blanks:

  • More color and sensory detail. The novel is set in a fictional city by a fictional river in India. I want the novel to appeal to people who like travel. To support that, India needs to come alive on the page. The noise and vibrancy of the culture needs to be in the reader’s face, because India is always in a person’s face. Every moment is every sense on overload. I need to establish that more, and that means filling in good detail.
  • Surrounding narrative. My rough drafting tends to focus heavy on dialogue and action. My brain sees scenes in vivid detail, but when drafting I take for granted that I need to present that vivid detail to the reader. I get caught up in speech and movement, plot progression and narrative unfoldings, and forget to fill in visual blanks. Now it’s time to enhance conversations and action with a better sense of place and setting.
  • More travel. The world of this novel is a world for people who like travel. While keeping things relevant to plot and story progression, I need to weave in more actual traveling. Meeting people, seeing sights, doing the things that you would never do back home but can’t wait to talk about when you get back.

Yeah. That’s all. And I’m still just in the rough draft stage. Coffee and The Hunger Games is looking mighty appealing again…

But not yet.

Touch up. Fill in. Move on.

Even more important is what I must make sure not to do: over-revise. I want to touch up the first act to help me be better prepared for the drafting of the second act. That doesn’t mean the first act needs to be ready for typesetting. There still will be big revisions to come once the full draft is written.

That is my mission: touch up, fill in, and move on. There’s writing galore to do — probably about 60,000 more words, for a rough draft totaling about 90,000 words, equal to about 360 pages.

Time to fire up the printer, the legal pad, and both the drafting and editing pens.

Act I, I’m coming for you.

Act II, you’re next, buddy.

Now I’m fired up. Hunger Games will just have to wait till lunch.

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