We Didn’t Start The Fire #IWSG

IWSG Question of the Month – How are things in your world?

If the title did it’s job, then you probably have Billy Joel stuck in your head now. I discussed with my husband the other night about how COVID-19 would make it into a revised version of that song, likely rhymed with quarantine. I’d personally add earthquakes into the mix, considering Idaho got one yesterday (6.5 up by Challis), and it’s the first one I’ve felt in my life. It freaked my daughter out, and it took some coaxing to ensure her it was okay to go to bed last night.

Working from Home has been interesting. My office, which my husband built for me some years back, is in the garage, so the kids know not to bother Mama when she’s working. Unfortunately, this has led to an increased amount of screen usage, which undermines my goal of reducing screens over this year to only weekends. Combine that with my only productive writing time was at work… well, my book is certainly taking damage from this coronavirus.

That leads me into today’s post, which is for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! (This happens the first Wednesday of every month.) I ended my exchange with brutal-honesty guy mentioned in last month’s post. I’d felt I’d missed an opportunity to increase the dramatic tension by not endangering the character’s daughter. Acknowledging this led to me pulling back my book from my beta readers and changing things around.

But that’s not all, folks! For a while now, a looooooong while, I’ve had an uneasy feeling about my main character’s subplot in this book. The book is called Isto, which reflects the mythical monsters who have arrived to kill everyone. Three of the four POVs have direct conflict with these monsters and it’s the primary focus of their POVs. My main character? Not so much. He’s dealing with an illness affecting his daughter and then ends up on some islands and then he’s exploding… all the while not circling back to the illness for the rest of the book. I’ve ignored this little niggle because the book works. I’ve indirectly tied the illness to the monsters. Except… it still hasn’t sat well with me.

Imagine how unimpressed my husband was when I told him I was going to rewrite the first half of my book.

I’ve laid out a complete scene-by-scene plan on how to accomplish the rewrite. There are certain things that must happen in this book in order for future books to work. The illness isn’t one of them. My biggest fear is that by taking out the illness, I’ll lose some of the compassion and reader sympathy I built up. One beta reader had specifically told me she liked a side character that’s in the illness subplot… and he’ll be cut in the rewrite. Sure, he can pop back up in a side story that has to do with the illness and my main character dealing with that, but he won’t be in Isto.

What will I lose by doing what I feel is right for the story?

That’s my big insecurity for the month. I know, I know. It’s like my husband says “at this rate, you’ll be working on it forever.” I’m just a hobby writer and I don’t plan on making writing full-time a career, so I can afford the time to get this book just how I want it. And, yes, I am aware that books will never be done and you’ve just gotta stop messing with it, because otherwise you’ll spend your life in pursuit of “perfect”, which doesn’t exist. I assure it, this isn’t that. The illness had been added in the early drafts as a “how do we get this character away from the others” scenario? I’ve decided that shifting the timeline so that he ends up on the islands from the beginning will accomplish what I need.

Though, with my writing time gone, who knows when I’ll accomplish any writing.

How is life for you? Have you experienced an earthquake before? Are you under quarantine?

I might be a bit slow to repay visits due to lack of personal computer time with the kids around.

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You can find the sign up for the IWSG here. We owe Alex J Cavanaugh a huge thank you for thinking this blog hop up.

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

25 thoughts on “We Didn’t Start The Fire #IWSG

  1. What will you gain by doing what you feel is right for the story? When I’m in that situation, I find at least nine times out of ten, the cuts/changes/rewrites are for the better. Even if it’s going to take me that much longer to write the book. I cut a ton of words from my WIP last month, including some storylines I was sad to lose, but the story is much, much stronger for it. There’s another storyline that’s inching ever closer to the chopping block, and I do hope I find a way to save it, but if it’s gotta go, then it’s gotta go. Or evolve. Or whatever.

    I’d wondered if you felt that earthquake. I have felt a few earthquakes when I lived in New England that had originated out of New York or thereabouts, but nothing too bad.

    Hope you and your family are well.

  2. I hope the rewrite is the magic your story needs.
    Earthquakes are freaky, aren’t they?

  3. You have to do what feels right for the story–even if it hurts to do so.

  4. C. Lee McKenzie

    It’s hard to shred and re-assemble, but I’m sure once you do it, you’ll find the story you want. Good luck.

  5. We had an earthquake when I was a kid, but it was so gentle I slept through it! I can only imagine how scary it must be.

    I think you have to do what works for you. If you have the fortitude to rewrite your book again, go for it. Having something to focus on could help right now.

    And yes, screen time is at an all-time high. You’re not alone there.

    Be well, my friend.

  6. The earthquake sounds scary. I don’t blame your daughter for being scared!

    Hope you all are hanging in there.

  7. I think if it feels right, then it has to be done, even if it’s hard and certain plot lines and characters have to get cut. Knowing you have to start over on something is never easy. When I knew I had to completely scratch and rewrite the last third of my book, it definitely wasn’t easy and I’m STILL working on it. But sometimes it takes a lot of time to get it right.

  8. You have to write your story as your muse demands. If you’re dissatisfied with the way things are, you can bet your readers will be unhappy too.
    Earthquake? On top of the virus? That’s truly scary.

  9. I’m sure you’ll find another way to build compassion for your main character. Just think about what they need, and then take it away from them.. Have them help other people out. That’s a great way to add empathy.

    And if you think your new storyline makes the book better, then do it. I’ve rewritten large sections of my story when I realized a certain twist would make the story better. Go for it!

  10. It’s better to get the story right. I set aside my novel when I realized it wasn’t having the impact I had intended. I asked my writers group, and they weren’t getting what I thought I wrote, so I knew I had to start over. Sometimes that’s the only way. And you’ll find it going quicker once you get back to it, I’m sure.

    Ah, earthquakes. Glad you made it through. They can be jarring.

  11. If you know exactly what to change and take out to make it better, do so. Better now than have a reader tell you the illness didn’t work for him/her and derailed the story.

    My half-brother lives in Lewiston, ID – did they feel the earthquake all the way down there?

    • Looking at the affected map, I don’t think he would’ve felt it.

  12. Anna

    Question: Can’t you just link the illness to the monsters as a lead into your next book? Now they know something they didn’t before, and they can use this info to work toward the monster’s demise.

    I know I don’t know the story, but this came to me as I was reading your post. Ignore me if I’m out of line.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

    • Not out of line. 🙂

      As it stands, the illness does get linked to the monsters. But halfway through the book, the whole illness bit goes to the background as the character’s adventure takes him to the islands where he’s got a new set of trouble unrelated to the illness. He gives the sick people a functioning tincture just before he gets pulled to the islands, so there’s no stakes if he doesn’t return to them (which he doesn’t except for glossing over that everyone is healed in the very last chapter). The illness doesn’t play a major role in the final battle (he is able to make some mental associations to say hey, the monsters caused the illness and this plant might help), but that same plant is used in a paint that plays a bigger role in the final battle, so he’d come to the same conclusion without the illness to bring that to light.

      I’ve thought long and hard about it and decided I can take him to the islands in the beginning and not drop part of the plot halfway through.

  13. I think it’s good that you revise your book until it’s the way you want it. Non-writers don’t understand how long that can take. And when you have another job, it can take longer. I’m not nearly as productive in my writing because I’m also a contract writer and it takes a lot of my time.

  14. Like you, I’m a hobby writer and can afford the apparent eternity it will take to see my book in print. I’ve had a similar issue with my first revision. Some characters have to be axed or rewritten to make the story work. The only thing we have to lose by writing the story to our satisfaction is the time it takes to do it. I think the time will be well-spent.

  15. My first reply didn’t go through for some reason…

    I write as a hobby too. I say go with your gut. You’ll be so much happier with the finished product! I love being able to finish whenever we want. The earthquakes I’ve been through were so mild, I’m not sure they even count as earthquakes.

    Stay healthy and safe,

  16. Christie

    I see what you mean about how Derek really isn’t involved with the isto until the end…but I did like the illness scene (s)! The mystery was quite interesting.

  17. I am definitely not trying to be a weirdo/downer, and I don’t know what you have planned in the books, but can the illness maybe just lead to the death? That way you’ve resolved it, and you don’t have to endure massive cuts if you don’t want to. Unless it *really* is sitting that unwell with you. I don’t know – just throwing it out as a suggestion 🙂

    Sorry the writing time has limited now that you’re at home. But you’re at home with your favorite people! Yay! And hopefully ample amounts of toilet paper!

    • “Lead to the death?” I’m not quite sure which death you’re referring to here, but his daughter, who is the one at risk with this illness, is important to the future books, so she has to stay alive. Also, she’s with him on the islands, so it wouldn’t quite work out to kill her in the first half. 🙂

      I’ve already started in on my rewrites. I’ve gotten about 18K transferred from old story to new. Only 170K more to go. 😀

  18. I think the fact that the book isn’t feeling right to you means it’s not right. It would drive me nuts to feel that way about my story. I wouldn’t be able to stop messing with it until it felt right. It might take a lot of work, but you’ve already got your new chapters outlined, and that’s half the battle right there. You need to be happy with the story. Otherwise, what’s the point of writing it in the first place? I hope you can squeeze in time to work on it!

    I’m glad you’re all safe and managing to adjust to the new normal. I felt an earthquake once when I was a kid. It was very faint and didn’t last long. It shook enough for us to recognize that it was an earthquake but that’s about it, which is a good thing. It could have been a lot worse. Stay well out there!

  19. Earthquake? That sounds scary.
    Plus everything is upside-down with the virus… everything is in limbo… neither here nor there… the global tailspin is crazy. Actually, it’s surreal.
    Stay safe in your corner of the world.

  20. Wishing you the best with the rewrite. A good way to stay busy at home too. Stay healthy. Belated IWSG!

  21. Making those kinds of decisions is never easy. But if you’re gut is nagging at you, it’s best to listen. Jami Gold has some free, save-the-cat style plotting worksheets on her blog. They’re good for romances, but I’m not sure how they’d work for epic fantasy, since it has more characters and a more complex plot. In any case, those always help me stay on track and fix plot problems.

    Good luck! I hope the shutdown ends soon, so we can get back to a semi-normal life.

  22. *your* gut LOL

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