Years ago, many more than I care to admit, I began developing an idea for a steampunkish novel. I eventually sent three sample chapters to my friend Marco Palmieri, editor extraordinaire, who gave me some great feedback. I started revising the chapters and outline to his notes, but kept letting the project be sidetracked for various reasons, some good and understandable, and others questionable and neurotic. I finished revising the first three chapters, but bogged down in the synopsis of the rest of the book. I began referring to the manuscript as “my long-suffering steampunk novel.”
Recently, as I’ve dedicated myself anew to my writing, I plunged back in, hoping to quickly finish the revised synopsis and then get some beta readers to make sure I was on the right track. Revisions got sidetracked again as my part-time day job and various freelance writing and editing gigs took up most of my time. It was all slipping away again. I stalled just a few chapters short of finishing this round of revisions.
As mentioned in my previous post, however, I’ve reduced my work hours and have gotten back to the novel. Once again I thought I would quickly finish the synopsis and move forward. Instead, I realized that all the cool changes I’d made to the current events of the novel had made a confusing mess of the back story. Characters’ comings and goings no longer made sense in the bigger picture. The causal relationship between the back story and the events that unfold in the novel were a complete hash.
I knew I had to get that stuff sorted out before continuing, but it was frustrating. When you’re moving forward in chapters, you have a sense of accomplishment. When I had to go back to my notes and chronology of events prior to chapter one, I felt like I was spinning in place at best, maybe even sliding backward, even though I knew it was important work in the long run. This would be the difference between a tightly constructed story and a manuscript full of plot holes.
Then something exciting happened. As I made the necessary changes to the pre-novel chronology, new plot points started popping up out of the blue. As I rearranged certain events, new connections appeared between the characters. The back story became more complex. Not only was I making sense of this novel, I was laying the groundwork for the next two! I’d always thought of this manuscript as the start of a world I’d like to revisit, and now I’ve got layers built into the back story that might not even come up in the first novel.
With this work done, I can now get back to the story at hand. After fixing whatever’s necessary to accommodate revised chronology, I can finally wrap up this synopsis!