Crafting an Epic – Perils and Pitfalls
There are many traps that can scupper your chances of completing an epic. Here are some that are bothering me at the mo.
Some of these issues I’ve touched upon before, but it’s good to occasionally round up your writing anxieties in one place (preferably round the back of the barn, where you can give them both barrels in the back of the head).
This project scares me. The scale and scope is way larger than anything I’ve written before, and I have concerns I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.
Part of it is the investment of time, effort and energy. When writing a longer piece of work (especially if it’s going to span several books – which translates into several years) then your writing can become very much like a relationship, even a marriage. You have to offer up a core piece of yourself to your project, the highs and the lows, and really make the effort to ensure it works.
You also have to love it.
I’m going to be perfectly honest – I suck at relationships. Maybe it’s a fear of commitment, I don’t know. But before this turns into some kind of therapy session, this is one of the things that scares me. I know I have to commit time and personal resources to this, but I’m not sure where it’s going, how it’s going to turn out, and whether – honestly – I’m wasting my time with it.
Sometimes relationships are doomed from the start, and you have to be able to recognise that fact.
Related to that are the other writing projects; the ones I managed to get all the way through (at least several drafts through as well) but left fallow for a while. Wasp Whisperer in particular. I re-read the opening chapters to that a few weeks back and I was alarmed by how… satisfied… I was with them. Sure they need a bit of a nip and a tuck, but I was happy overall.
This project is far more complete than my current project (which I don’t even have a proper title for!) and I feel like I abandoned it. Not permanently, but, well, I feel like it requires less attention. There is part of my brain that keeps telling me that I should go back to that, because it’s smaller and more manageable.
Now, I’ve made no secret that I’m more of a seat-of-the-pants kinda guy, and I’ve managed to get away with it for longer than I should have. But even I will admit, when writing a piece of epic fiction that spans several volumes, you can’t just wing it.
This one isn’t entirely my fault. When I started this project, it wasn’t actually so big. It was probably around the same scale as Wasp Whisperer. However, as I wrote more, and got more in depth with the characters and what they were doing and where they were going, it became bigger and bigger, and got a little out of control.
I pushed it way beyond my comfort zone.
This can be advantageous. It’s not good to get stuck in your comfort zone. Sometimes you have to challenge yourself, push yourself beyond your safety limits and so fourth.
However, without realising it, this got way beyond my control, which adds to the fear.
Metaphor time again. I’ve equated writing a book to being similar to running a marathon before. Well writing an epic is more than that. It’s like a triathlon. Or one of those Iron Man events. It’s something you have to totally prepare yourself for, both physically and mentally. You can’t just show up on the day and hope to do as well as the guys who’ve been training for the past year.
Even the best laid plans can go dramatically wrong if you don’t execute them properly. This is a particular bugbear of mine as I often develop the best prose ever to grace the society of man in my head, but somewhere along the brain/fingers/screen transfer it goes tits up. As you can tell.
Yes, I get disheartened when the sparkling prose that’s rattling around my brain-space turns to toxic goop on screen, but the key is to not give up. In fact, use it to your advantage. Of course there will be times when you write a line of dialogue so bad it should be cast into the lowest circle of hell (I have a particular line of dialogue that I wrote that I shall never forget – which will NEVER see the light of day) but take heart in the knowledge that no matter how bad things get, you will already have the worst thing you could possibly write out of your system.
Even a substandard first draft will shine like Dickens in comparison!
So over to you readers.
Lets have a group therapy session and share our woes and anxieties below. Remember, once they’re written down and out of your system, they can no longer hurt you…