All right, confession time here. Sometimes, I get to the end of a piece of writing and I know it didn’t work. I don’t always have to reread it to know either. There are times when I just feel it.
I’ve been going through that with Unmasked and Cayle pretty much since I finished it. Something felt wrong. I even had hints of it while I was writing. But this was something bigger than what I thought the problem was initially. I could feel that too. On a very deep level, the story wasn’t working. I just didn’t know why or what to do about it. I didn’t even know what wasn’t working. There were times in the first few days after writing “The End” where I thought maybe I was just being critical and that it would seem better when I went back to it after a break, but mostly, I knew better. I could feel the jarring notes, the discord of a story that isn’t what it should be.
So I did the best thing I could. I walked away from it without a backward glance. I went off to play with Reah and Viz, deciding to worry about Cayle another day.
Why? Because I knew I wouldn’t figure it out by staring at it. If that was going to work, I’d have had the answer by the time I finished Unmasked. I didn’t. I needed time away, to let the whole thing cool, before I could see what had gone wrong, so I did that.
I have to say, I don’t think I ever entirely stopped thinking about the problem. The longer I live, the more I realize that my brain works on more things simultaneously in the background than I even want to know about. Seriously. I think it’s been trying to cook that story into what it’s supposed to be for weeks now. Today, the timer must have dinged.
The whisper came as I reached the door of my apartment. I’d just walked home from work through a beautiful sunny day and really wasn’t thinking about anything in particular. Then Cayle made the most amazing suggestion. It took me a minute to unlock my door. I just stood there and turned this idea over and over, looking for flaws. It was just about perfect.
It’ll reshape almost everything. I’ll almost certainly junk the entire draft I have now, or at least 90% of it. Yes, the 120,735 word draft. No, that doesn’t bother me. I did it with Bound when that book’s first draft was irretrievably broken and it turned out wonderfully. It’s hard to be scared or bothered by the idea of throwing out a draft when you have that track record. Besides, the current incarnation of Unmasked is so dysfunctional in my head that I can’t bring myself to think about book 2 of that trilogy. That’s a sign right there. I’m always thinking about the next book. Trust me on that.
This is why it was so nice to be carried away by What Lies Beneath, because I was smarting badly by the feeling that I might have made a royal mess of Unmasked. I won’t lie, I had nights where it was personal and it went well beyond just the one book. I wondered if I was any good at this writing thing after all, or if I just got lucky with a couple of stories that came together in spite of me, not because of. I needed WLB, and Reah and Viz. They reminded me that one story failing to work immediately doesn’t make me a bad writer. Hard to remember that when you’re frustrated though.
So now I’m making notes on, essentially, 3 different books. At once. Yes, we all already know I’m crazy, so I don’t buy any of those shocked expressions. Unless it’s sarcastic shock. I always love a good snarky pretend shock. I’m still going to go through the rest of the Spire trilogy before I go back to rewrite Unmasked. It’s just nice to have a way forward with that one. I like Cayle and I didn’t want to lose him or that world.