Fall, Freelancing, and Fixes: Update on “Syzygy”

I can’t believe November is almost over! Is everyone frantically pounding the keys for the final week of NaNoWriMo? I thought about signing up this year, but I wanted to dedicate myself to Syzygy, and working with a manuscript that’s already more than 20,000 words seemed like cheating!

Admittedly, the draft should be much longer by now. Summer’s end found me on a roll. At one point (in a fit of creative hubris) I thought if I can keep up this momentum, I might finish the draft by Christmas! Well, that’s not going to happen. In September I landed a freelance project for NASA–yes, the rocket people! How awesome is that?–and devoted much of autumn’s writing time to that effort. But now the work is nearly complete, so I can get back to my neglected novel.

A second, troubling reason also stalled my progress on The Darksider this fall: I was dissatisfied with my protagonist. He seemed like a dull pawn. Then a few weeks ago, Anela at the Amid the Imaginary book blog posted her review of Blue Karma. She commented that the characters were a bit too reactive. Things happened to them, but they weren’t inciting action themselves until later in the story. Upon considering this critique, I realized the same problem plagued the early chapters of The Darksider. Ash just had stuff happen to him. That was the root of his affliction.

So this weekend I’ve been making subtle but critical changes to the narrative. I restructured key plot elements so events result from Ash’s behavior, rather than things imposed on him. It solved two problems at once! My protagonist now exhibits more agency, and he’s also started coming alive as a unique personality. Thanks, Anela, for the observation that inspired this fix. Hopefully by the end of today I’ll be back where I left off, ready to write new material. A finished draft by December might be overly ambitious, but I can still be productive. Winter is my favorite season for writing: it’s a perfect hibernation activity!

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