Travelers Postmortem: What Went Wrong

On Saturday I talked about what went right while writing Travelers. Today I have some things that went wrong.

Not Enough Planning
This is controversial. Some writers prefer to just write and see what happens, fixing it later. I'm not one of them. My goal is to streamline my writing process until there are 5 steps: plan, write, revise, peer review, sell - each performed but once. Unrealistic? Perhaps. I won't beat myself over the head if I have to revise more than once, but I will figure out what went wrong to avoid it in the future.

That said, I didn't plan Travelers well enough. Characters popped up from nowhere. Necessity dictated their existence, but when I started thinking about their backgrounds I began to like them better than my protagonists.

That's part of the fun of writing, I know. But it only served to highlight how little I developed my protagonists. I just didn't care about them. In the beginning they weren't even characters, they were just points of view, giving me an excuse to explain this strange, decrepit future to the reader. I tried to fix it in revision, but I think the problem still shows. That could've been prevented if I had planned the characters and the plot out in more detail before I started writing.

The lack of planning also reared its head in certain climactic moments. I'd throw characters into a crisis and, in the outline, I'd write the ever-helpful "They escape" or "They fight and protag wins" without ever thinking about how they win. It wrote me into a corner a couple of times, and I don't like corners. When I write, I wanna run.

No Thought for Theme Until the End
This has happened to me more times than I'd like to admit. I get to the end of a story (short or long) and find myself asking, "How do I end this? What's this story about anyway?" I was just writing a bunch of cool stuff that happens, like an action movie. But like an action movie, it lacked any punch or purpose.

I never really understood theme back in highschool. I'm only starting to get it now, and realizing that it's something I should think about before I outline the plot, and then again everytime I write anything.

Useless Statistics
When I started Travelers, I didn't know what would be important. I chose to keep track of word count, # of pages, # of scenes, and dates of drafted chapters and revised chapters. The word count and dates were good, like I said, but # of pages was meaningless (being based on my personal writing format, which is very different from manuscript format) as was # of scenes.

Another problem was that I counted words only at the end of every chapter, and my chapters were really long. It would've been better to keep track of word count per week or month, in addition to chapter dates and word counts.

No Deadlines for Beta Readers
I had two beta readers. One finished reading the manuscript in 3 weeks, the other took 9 months. At the time, it honestly didn't bother me. The feedback was more important to me, and I figured it didn't cost me any time because I just worked on my next book while I waited.

In retrospect, with 35 rejections and no requests of any kind, it didn't cost me anything to wait, and it taught me a valuable lesson. Next time the beta readers are getting a deadline, and I'm moving on without them if I have to.


Unknown Blogger said...

Good stuff Adam. I admire your honesty and willingness to share your shortcomings. I don't have plans to write a novel soon, but I like seeing your thought process.

Take Care!

Adam Heine said...

Thanks, Andy. I'm glad to know people are enjoying it, even folks who aren't writing.