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Progress at last

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been working on a second spec novel, once I decided that Only Superhuman might not be the best project to pitch to agents, but that I got stuck on it a while back.  I talked about my struggles with it back in December ’09 and mentioned last October that I’d done a major rethink of it and planned to pretty much redo the entire back half of the novel, even abandoning several chapters I’d already written.   The problem was that I hadn’t had a strong enough idea of what the story should be and I’d thrown in too many ideas I had sitting around in my (figurative) idea drawer.  That made the story too cluttered and made me skip over some of the character development in order to keep the length from getting out of hand.  In particular, I had trouble getting a handle on the lead character, making him interesting enough.  Some of the character relationships weren’t working out, and there were characters who didn’t really seem to be going anywhere.  Heck, I didn’t even like the working title I’d come up with, but I couldn’t think of a better one.

Once I figured out I could streamline it, tighten its focus, I realized I could finally make it work better. But actually putting together the new outline was daunting, since what I had was such a mess.  The manuscript had diverged considerably from my original rough outline, and the various iterations of rethinks I’d done left things rather scattered.  And I had other projects that took higher priorities.

But in the past week or so, I’ve applied myself to it again and have had a couple of insights that have really helped.  I’ve come up with a good title at last, one that not only sounds good but serendipitously has literary resonances that suggest a way to add a unifying thematic focus to the novel.  And I finally found a way to get more of a handle on the lead character and make him more engaging, I hope.  I actually changed my mind about how to address another issue, and once I’d just about committed to that decision, I realized it gave me the answer to the character problem as well.  So another helpful bit of serendipity there.

So with all these insights coming together, I finally felt ready to proceed with the new outline, even though there are a few problems I haven’t solved yet.  Up to now, it’s largely been a matter of adapting what I already have — either revising the original outline or simply summarizing the portions of manuscript that had already diverged too far for the original outline to be of any use.  But along the way I’ve worked in some new or revised elements to set up the new plot threads.  Anyway, I’ve now reached the point where I can no longer recap the existing manuscript with modifications, because from here on, the story has to proceed rather differently than it did before.  The overall plot arc is still basically the same, but from here until the end of the extant manuscript, the specifics are very different.  Characters and whole alien species have been replaced by others.  Entire settings become unnecessary.  Some of the main characters play different roles.  And although I now feel the main plot has fallen into place, there are several character arcs I haven’t yet worked out.  So it’s largely uncharted territory now.

Now, I’m not sure where this will go next.  Now that I’ve sold Only Superhuman, my situation is different.  I don’t know whether I’ll need to pitch this to agents.  Maybe I’ll just show it to my editor.  Either way, I’ll be glad if I can finally get this outline sorted out and have a blueprint for finishing this novel, even if I don’t know when I might actually get around to finishing it.

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