That Novel I’m Not Writing

ThatNovelThis post has been prompted by a chat with Meg Cowley (if you’re not following her on Twitter, let me fix that for you: @meg_cowley). We shared our experience of being immersed in the worlds we create and jumping between them, and the conversation steered toward one of my projects. Meg got curious, and I somewhat promised her more information on it.

“Spirit’s Anchor”, a supposed book 1 of Spirit Speakers, got its title only recently as I didn’t really consider myself working seriously on that project. It was supposed to be a single scene written to get over a writer’s block that hit me in the autumn last year, but it secretly grew into a semi-developed world, jagged plot line and a fat 30,000 words of half-polished scenes. At this point I not only had to admit that it might become a novel one day, but I also had to take a break, realizing that even though I had some story in mind, I wasn’t exactly sure where it was going. I don’t think I will ever pass as what Stephen King calls “a gardener” (and other writers often refer to as “pantser”).

At the moment I’m not only searching for my story’s ending to put the characters on the right path, but also revisiting what I’ve wrote so far. The world’s foundations are set, but since some of its aspects might seem a bit similar to my other fantasy novel, “By His Will” (I do have a soft spot for dual worlds or planes of existence: one belonging to humans and the other—to some creatures like demons or spirits), I want to work hard to give both stories a distinct flavor. And while “By His Will” comes across as a light-hearted fantasy with a bit of an epic flare, “Spirit’s Anchor” had an autumn flavor to it, and would pass as dark fantasy. To draw a line between the two projects I do ponder in making it even a bit darker than it is now.

So what’s it all about?

“Spirit’s Anchor” is set in a world where some people are capable of contacting the spirits from the other plane. Witches speak with elemental spirits to convince them to help or infuse healing salves with them, while sorcerers just bend them to their will to conjure magic spells like fireballs or mists. There are also spirit speakers: the ones, who can summon and communicate with the sentient non-elemental spirits. Some of the speakers, especially the ones born to the civilized world, never even know of their abilities, while others become shamans for their tribes, seeking wisdom and counsel from the spirits.

Mayven is a witch, but since she also possesses speaker abilities, she often helps the aging shaman of her tribe in his duties. One night, when their tribe’s plight forces them into a desperate act, they perform a summoning which ends in a disaster. To avert the tragedy, Mayven agrees to become an anchor to a spirit, not only allowing him to travel freely between both planes of existence, but also giving her own life to his disposal. And spirits can feed on both people’s emotion and pain, as well as on their living energy.

This, as you can guess, is only the beginning of a story (which I promise I have somewhat developed!) and when the spirit forces Mayven to abandon her tribe and venture into the world beyond the woods she lived in, her fate is entwined with the fate of Steel Claw jyav, a mercenary group that also got involved in a sinister plot that encompasses both of the worlds.

Sounds interesting enough?

I almost hope it doesn’t, because I’m still in the mindset that I’m not really writing this novel. Not yet. All I do is add words and scenes, but to be able to honestly say I’m working on the “Spirit’s Anchor” would mean starting over, with a proper outline and main plot points down, and only then recycling what I’ve already have into the new structure, and I still treat that novel as an escape exit helping me to circumvent the writer’s block. You know: no plot, no structure, no obligations, just write on!

And then, every once a while, I see a potential within the story and I want to work on it as I should. I still develop pieces of the world and its lore, I come up with plots and intrigues, and I’m most definitely not able to stash it away and I come back to it every once a while. I can’t help wondering myself what will become of that story, and I do admit I actually might make it into something worthwhile. Into a “proper novel”. Into a series. But just in case, don’t ask me about the progress “Spirit’s Anchor” is going.

After all, you know, it’s still that novel I’m not writing.

7 thoughts on “That Novel I’m Not Writing”

  1. I have a wip that I couldn’t find the ending for for years, it gradually came to me in bits and pieces. It’ll get there in its own sweet time 🙂
    Although mayhaps you’ll find that ending in mythology, I often find inspiration in folk tales or little legend, sometimes even an old sayings can spark something. Just a thought anyhoo.

    1. Thank you for the tip, JR :).
      It’s the first time I have this problem, because usually I let the story develop before I write it (and just like in your case, it might take years), so any advice is useful. I’ll also have to work through the several plots and see if they lead into any place that makes sense.

  2. Mayven sounds like a great character 🙂 I would love to get to know her so please, take your decision rather sooner than later!

    1. Thanks, Ana 🙂 I like Mayven (she’s quite modest and level-headed), and her spirit is “fun” too. Well, kind of fun, I guess, not really someone you’d want to have around.
      The decision will be made when I have the ending (at least for the book 1), otherwise I can’t really start writing.

  3. It sounds like a really intriguing, interesting world and you’ve clearly got a defined character. Would it help to ask your character what she really wants? I often find that helps to shift a logjam

    Failing that, having it cooking in your backbrain is no bad strategy. I’ve been musing over a whodunit series I’m going to start writing next year, but I’ve taken the last 2/3 years to work out the main plotpoints for the first couple of books… Good luck!

    1. Great advice, Sarah! I asked the question and realized it wouldn’t work, because she can’t get what she wants and it’s not her goal, but it made me think of what OTHERS want since Mayven and her friends have to stop them. I guess the answer would be “she wants to make sure other people won’t get what they want” ;). I still have a bunch of questions to answer, but it does push me forward.

      And I can relate to the slow-cooking provess. “By His Will” took a year to stew, but then it was quite easy to write, no major roadblocks or plot holes, so I consider it worth it :).

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