My laptop–and my novels-in-progress–are currently on their way to the HP Repair facility in Texas. The general estimate of how long I’ll be without them is about two weeks. While I’d rather not start a new novel before either of those are finished, the muses in my head have no problem forging ahead. I think the presence of those incomplete pieces prevented my imagination from taking the bit between its teeth and running.
I wrote Safe House several years ago. It ended up around 120,000 words. I knew it needed a heck of a lot of work, even when I finished it. The time between then and now has also allowed me to realize that the two stories within the novel should really amount to two novels.
So I have spent the past four years struggling with these novels. I’ve made a dozen or so false starts on both; I write the first few chapters before getting stuck. The main plot appears pretty easy to get onto paper, but complicating things enough for the novel to last 75,000 words is the problem.
I haven’t given up on it because of the characters. I love them. I love exploring their imperfections, putting them in difficult situations, and watching them struggle through adversity. I know them so well that they might as well be sitting in the room with me.
The muses in my head latched onto Safe House, specifically what would be the first of the two novels.
They started with gentle prodding: why not set it in Plymouth? I work close to the waterfront, so I know the area pretty well. Plus the charm of Main Street, Burial Hill, and the tourist shops at the shoreline will provide the an engaging setting for the reader. I even spent an hour on Saturday morning taking pictures of everything that sparked my imagination.
Then the muses became a bit more aggressive. I should start the novel in the middle of the action, with a car chase. The main character is already on the run, and she’s got the bad guys nipping at her bumper. I’ve never imagined the story starting this late. I’ll go with it, though. The best Chapter 1’s start with action that draws the reader into the story.
After getting me so agreeable, the muses sprung the biggest change on me. They wanted to make a strong, mysterious professional assassin voluntarily collaborate with my main character.
I almost shut the muses down and chocked the novel up to being put off forever. He wasn’t that kind of person, and I wasn’t sure I wanted him to even lean that way. He had his own code that wouldn’t let him do that. He’s a lone wolf through and through.
I went to bed thinking that the outlining and the planning I’d been doing had all been for nothing. I didn’t want to change that character so much. He wouldn’t resemble the man I’ve come to know over the past few years.
Funny how sleep resets the mind. It’s been four years since I finished that first draft of Safe House, and I’ve not done much with it since then. I need to get it written. I’ve spent too much time with it rattling around in my head. Maybe this is the push I need, and maybe I’ll actually like this new character. Who knows, maybe readers will too.
Have you struggled with whether or not to change a favorite part of your novel or story? Did you make the change? Or did you leave it as is?