It WILL Get Better If You Pick At It

Not in my novel

I have this novel. BIG novel. One of those Big Fat Fantasy Novels that sprawl all over the furniture and spill magic potions on the carpet and spit rainbows into the bathroom sink and don’t rinse it out. HUGE novel. More characters than WAR AND PEACE. I have a two-page character list and three pages of genealogy.

Is it any wonder I’ve been repeatedly told (except by #4 daughter) to dial it back? (#4 daughter grew up with my reading this to her. She doesn’t want to lose a word of it. Cutting anything out of it is like Sophie’s choice for her.) (Note to Urban Dictionary: “Buy Sophie’s Choice mugs and t-shirts”? Seriously?)

I’ve been futzing around, trying to steel myself to the deed without much success. Then I went looking for an outlining program, mostly to help me plan 2012’s NaNoWriMo, and found and started messing with yWriter5. This is not a commercial, because the program is free. But you knew that, when I said I’m using it, didn’t you?

It’s pretty complex to my brain, which it needs to be in order to be as flexible as it is, but I think I’m figuring it out, between the detailed help files and some fearless pressing of random keys.

THE POINT IS, I’ve been picking the Big Fat Fantasy apart, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. Just going through it in this level of detail is forcing me to think about my characters — who they are and why they are — and the movement and use of each. When I’m done — and maybe before I’m done — I’ll have a better feel for what, if anything, can be pulled for other use or how I can tighten everything so nothing is lost but everything is shorter and better.

It feels good to actually dig back into this novel. I love it dearly, and want it to succeed. And to move out of my attic and get a job.

WRITING PROMPT: A character makes an impossibly difficult choice.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “It WILL Get Better If You Pick At It

  1. Red

    December 31, 2011 at 8:27am

    Great post. Love it. I haven’t written anything as old-school epic. I wonder, could you slice it into parts & publish the parts? Sort of episodically? Or would that just be profane?

    Also, UrbanDictionary is the douchebag of the Internet!

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      December 31, 2011 at 8:56am

      I can split it into three, but I still need to tighten it up. Nothing will be lost. Anything taken out will be a short story. 🙂 Or a companion volume. Or something. 😉

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  2. Gwen Perkins

    December 31, 2011 at 2:34pm

    Oh, how I know this feeling right now. My own novel in progress seems to be taking on a life of its own in terms of size and scope. (I mean it to be much shorter than I think it’ll end up being.)

    But you’re right–keep with it! It will come together and I’m sure, beautifully. I’d like to read more about it…please keep posting!

    And thank you so much for the yWriter link! I’m trying Scrivener at the moment and was wondering what other options existed in case I didn’t want to go that route.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      December 31, 2011 at 6:45pm

      Gwen, so far, I really like yWriter5. I think it’s going to be invaluable for this project. I’m also using it for a series I need to do a “bible” on: I’m calling the whole series a Book, each Chapter is a book or story in the series.

      The Big Fat Fantasy is called SAGE, and it was SO much fun to write!

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  3. Jane

    December 31, 2011 at 6:35pm

    Hi. I actually liked War and Peace. I read it closely and loved a PBS dramatization. That’s just me, I guess. Love the big and sprawly stuff.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      December 31, 2011 at 6:47pm

      I love War and Peace, too! In fact, I’ll see your War and Peace and raise you Moby Dick. And the Gormenghast trilogy. The first two books, anyway.

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
      • Jane

        January 1, 2012 at 11:31am

        Yikes! I surrender immediately. Ghastly Gormenghast, if you ask me. Though, if one omits the last book, it might get a better score….I’ll have to think about that one. Confession time: never read Moby Dick. I tend to duck classics in favor of genre; i.e., I am a philistine.

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        • Author

          Marian Allen

          January 1, 2012 at 5:30pm

          YOU’RE the one who got ME interested in Gormenghast!

          Moby Dick rocks! Crazy-ass book! CRAZY!

          Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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