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Documenting my odyssey into the wonderful world of fantasy writing and beyond. Can't promise I will always be on topic as the world is vast and full of such wonderous, and sometimes terrible, distractions. Email me: cassandra.jade.author@gmail.com

10 April, 2009

Pieces of the Puzzle

The Easter holiday is finally upon us, and this morning I have been making the most of this long and empty day that is stretching out before me. In my efforts to focus on absolutely nothing of import, for at least the next two days, I spent an hour piecing together the border of a jigsaw puzzle. Possibly I should have chosen a puzzle that had some colour or discernible pattern, as the black and grey flecks on a background of white proved more troubling than I originally suspected, and the jigsaw border is still incomplete. It doesn't really matter.

What is interesting about this, is that while I was putting the pieces together I was reflecting on the current novel I am working on. The working title is possible "Lost in Ladulce: The Lady", but to be perfectly honest, I change my mind about that every other hour as I continue to hack apart the convoluted story line and try to construct something readable from the various notes and drafts and outlines that I've pieced together over the last couple of months. This morning I've been dealing with the characters and their increasingly tangled relationships.

As far as novels go, this one has a long way to go before it will become, in any sense, reader friendly. Yet I have become more and more involved in the story, and more attached to characters (whom in all honesty aren't that likable) and am bordering on obsessed. It is nearly an all consuming project, because when I'm not working on it, I am thinking about it. Today, I was thinking about where the project began.

In front of me, I have the original character web I scribbled, when a flash of inspiration struck me at work one day. It is the back of an old exercise book and I only had a red pen, and nothing to lean on. It began with a simple connection. Lucinda and Danielle, who were sisters. Later, I have gone back and added a surname, Bellerose. I don't recall why, but at the time I decided that Lucinda was a lady and Danielle was a guard, and later I clarified that by deciding Lucinda would be The Lady (and the central character of the story) and Danielle would be an officer, though not the highest ranking officer.

From there the web expands. I connect Lucinda and Danielle to Lord Escada Randall, who murdered their mother. Lucinda is connected to Lewyn (The Lord), and that gives Lucinda her title and explains why she is a lady and Danielle is not, though it became more complicated then that once I started actually expanding the story. Lucinda and Lewyn have a child. There are servants and other guards and other lords and ladies, and the entire web became reasonably incoherent as dotted lines and arrows and slashes filled the page.

But I kept it.

There was something about the characters, as sketchy as they were, that kept drawing me in.

I wrote back stories for each of the characters and created a motivation for each, a goal that they were trying to achieve. Filling in the details, the stories crossed and interlaced as they characters came into conflict again and again. At first it was almost as though the story had been sitting in the back of my mind just waiting to be let out. The pieces fit together with ease and made beautiful patterns on the page. The first draft rolled off my fingers and into the computer with ease. Then came the reading.

The difference between putting a puzzle together, and putting a story together, seems that for most puzzles there is one clear solution. As a writer, I put my puzzle together, and it fit together, and it was good. Then I flipped it over and looked at it from the readers view point. Suddenly, the picture was not so clear.

If I thought the project was doomed, I would have thrown the whole thing back in the box and maybe scavenged bits and pieces for other projects, however that is not the case. Instead, I am trying to perform careful surgery on the whole. Cutting this piece out here and rearranging that section there. The end result should hopefully be something that resembles the original vision, while at the same time is accessible to those who don't live inside my head.

The puzzle this morning did get me thinking because I have been stuck for a time, staring at pieces that fit together in my mind. I had nearly a whole edge of the border put together, then realised that it was too long. There were three pieces, that seemed to fit, looked like they fit, that just did not belong. They had to be removed. It didn't matter how many times I insisted that they should go there, they had to be removed.

This journey I have been on, from writing for myself, to writing for others, has taught me one thing very clearly. I have to be objective about my writing. Creativity and inspiration are wonderful things, in formulating ideas and plans and even getting the first draft together. But they don't help when trying to turn that draft into something that might make it, as a published book.

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