It was the end of October 2006. I was outlining a plot and creating characters for a story that didn’t have a title. It was a story about a prince who was regaining his throne, but nobody knew he was the prince. There were gryphons and talking wolves, and all of the heroes were between 14 and 17. I wrote 50,000 words in 31 days, and won my first Nanowrimo.
Whenever I look back on the story, I laugh. There were some good parts, but most of the characters are Mary Sue and it seems like your average pre-teen fantasy book, complete with “okay” and “yeah.”
Back then the characters were named Aiden, Dawn, and Phelan – some of you now know them as Andrew (once was Nathan), Riona, and Eunan. Yep. That story is now “Hope Victorious,” but it underwent about three re-writings and countless editings to get there.
It’s been 5 ½ years since I started developing my fantasy world. Back then, it was just one kingdom, Stargonia. Now it’s a whole world with nine kingdoms, maps, and a history of its own.
For Nanowrimo 2008, I wrote the first draft for Love Victorious. It was after that that I rewrote Hope Victorious, and then decided I wanted to write Faith Victorious, to complete “faith, hope, and love.” I wrote Faith Victorious throughout 2009.
In 2010, I decided 2011 was going to be my ‘editing year.’ I spent the 7 months of the year just working on Love Victorious. I spent the summer developing my world and my characters. In November and December 2011, I did a whirlwind edit and re-write of Hope Victorious, and in January 2012 I re-wrote Faith Victorious, and finished editing in early March.
On March 7, 2012, I put finishing touches on the Victorious Trilogy. That’s not to say they’re perfect. That’s one thing I hate about writing – even though you’re finished, there’s always ways you can make it better , expand, and go deeper. But they’re at a stage where I’d think about publishing them, which I’d love to do, even though I feel presumptuous every time the thought enters my head.
It’s been quite a journey. I don’t just mean my characters covered hundreds or maybe thousands of miles, though they did. I don’t just mean that I took so long to write and edit the trilogy (though I wrote another novel and a ton of short stories in there). I don’t just mean that they’re 80,000+ words each. All that is true – but I mean the journey of learning.
If I could go back and do it again, I’d tell myself to start at the beginning. I know it sounds obvious, but it really wasn’t to me.
I should have started by developing my world. What are the names of places? What are they like? What are the people and animals who live there like? I did a lot of that this summer. I asked “if this was a real country, what would its geography be? What would they say about it in the Atlas?” A big issue in Hope Victorious was all the cities and how far apart they were. I did that as I was writing it, as opposed to figuring it all out beforehand. So I had to go back and check for inconsistencies.
I should have started by developing my characters. I didn’t plan for whose point of view would be the main one, or what about the characters I wanted people to love, or what the characters themselves wanted or loved. I just wrote them. Now, developing characters is my favorite thing to do.
I should have started by writing the history. I mean the nitty-gritty details of timelines where you know the exact month or even day someone was born or something happened. There are times I had to be vague because I had no idea what month Fagan was born in, so was he 18 or 19 at the time something happened?
I should have started by figuring out my allegory. Allegory is hard. You have half of your plot already, but you have to work in the other half without ruining the first half. You can’t get all
especially when the allegory is with the Bible. Writing something a certain way could mean you’re toting about faulty theology without even realizing it (like Shelbie pointed out to me when I’d never said Adan was God). A friend named Hannah was the one who made me realize I needed the allegory (which became Love Victorious), though, since an alternate reality can’t have the same God or same plan of redemption. When I read my Bible, I keep thinking ‘oh, I need to add that in to the trilogy,’ but then I remind myself that I don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) try to fit in everything and make it a parallel to the life and ministry of Jesus. That wasn’t ever my intent, and it’d be impossible even if I had intended that. It’s not a perfect allegory, but I hope it draws readers – Christian and nonChristian – closer to knowing the reality the shadows of allegory are picturing.
After 5 ½ years, it feels great to have a stopping point. Part of me feels really accomplished; the other part is somewhat discouraged because there are still so many writing projects I have that I want to do. I have a hard time with the fact that I won’t ever get everything done. So what’s next? In April I’ll be editing the other novel mentioned above, from Nanowrimo 2007 (it’s also undergone multiple revisions; my writing back then was SO bad, especially when I was trying to crank out 2,000 words a day). I have a couple of other projects up my sleeve like a Naval story (inspired while watching Hornblower with Anna last summer). I have the short Victorious stories to edit and want to re-write the History of Edaled since I built the world more. And after the summer, I’m planning on finally getting to work on that musical I hinted at back in January 2011. … I still got enough to keep me busy for a while. And I need to remember that not everything I start writing needs to be finished, and that folder labeled “Lost interest in stories” can fill up and be used as a resource for other stories if I ever need to pull something out.
So I’m not done writing – but the pace at which I write may slow down for a while, especially over the summer. I’m looking forward to a break after I’ve been editing so much… even just a break from editing and starting some new characters is going to be marvelous. I’m really looking forward to introducing you to David Judson, Moses McAlister, and Valen Didius Rufus, hopefully in the near future.
And, if you’re interested in some other good characters – watch Cranford or the Barchester Chronicles. It’s worth a slow moving first few episodes to get to the intense parts later, because by then you know the characters so well that you don’t want to turn it off.