On Pressure and Story Scope


This is a great blue heron, who happened to pose right next to us on Anhinga Trail.

Same heron, even closer. Isn’t he beautiful? And just a tad of a show-off?

And on to writing news!

I’ve had a couple days off work this past week, which has given me a chance to focus on writing. I’ve got two more days off, so I’m hoping to speed through my planned changes. If I can manage it, that will leave only the polish/line-edits. I got an actual deadline yesterday (instead of the fake ones I keep setting myself) of March 16, which is when I need to get it to my father for his comments before he leaves the country. I always work better with an externally set deadline, so I’m very hopeful.

I’ve also had some time to work on Thieves of Moirai, and I ran the first two chapters through critique group yesterday. I received some good feedback from the Wordslingers. So far, it’s pretty encouraging. Also, they gave me some stuff to work on – which is, of course, the point. Thieves is in first person present tense, which is completely opposite of King’s Mark. There are some limitations that come from this, one I’m still struggling with is fitting description in without screwing up the narrative.

In reality, the biggest challenge I’m facing right now is myself. For some reason, I’m feeling the pressure to write Thieves well. I never really felt this for King’s Mark, probably because I just wanted to make it all the way through the story.

I set out to keep King’s Mark small (although small is a relative term, and applying it to KM is somewhat debatable). I kept the history to a minimum, although it is there. Cultures and geography are simple, and rather than spend tons of time world-building I used existing cultures and places as a base. The magic system was contained. I wanted it to be a stand-alone book, with room for a second, and by the time I finish revising that’s what it will be. I’ll admit, having 4 POVs did not make for a “simple” book, although I started off with a very simple plan for each of my 3 main characters. That part grew beyond my expectations, but still. Overall, small.

Thieves is a much larger undertaking, although it only has one POV (which I haven’t worked with much before now) and takes place in one city. The world is completely my own, with predatory plants of my devising and a completely alien culture. The magic is common and widely used, and has complicated applications (although the rules are simple enough). My main character knows about things I don’t and has a personality vastly different than my own. By the second chapter, she’s already wrapped up in family problems, the criminal world, and politics. She’s lying to everyone, the very setting is hostile toward her, and she’s just discovered murder victims. And I’m pretty sure this is a trilogy, at least. So… bigger.

Thieves is my second attempt, and for some reason it seems important to do it right. Not to mention, I’m extremely excited about the story idea, and I’m a little afraid to screw it up. As silly as it is, I’m nervous that the general approval King’s Mark received was a fluke, or beginner’s luck. And for some reason, the positive feedback on the first couple chapters of Thieves intensified this feeling rather than diffused it.

So I have to keep reminding myself that I can’t write it perfectly. That’s what revisions are for. Plus, I’m a discovery writer, so if I don’t give myself leeway to play with the story, it will never grow into something I can shape. I have to have faith that I will make good decisions or be able to fix problems when the time comes. And I should remember all those other common writing gems – ideas are cheap! The story in your head is always idealized! Give yourself permission to suck!

Next week, I hope to have made significant progress on revisions AND Thieves, and I will definitely have a video of a Roseate Spoonbill foraging. In the meantime, here’s another pretty ocean shot.


2 thoughts on “On Pressure and Story Scope

  1. A writer's biggest enemy is themself, or rather the part of yourself that tells you: I'm not good enough.

    Push past it, thumb your nose at it, ignore it. It isn't the real part of yourself, it's just an obstacle that's made of fear of success.

    Writers are lousy judges of their own work. Don't take it too seriously. Have fun with writing Thieves. Try not to worry.

    You're a good writer, Stephanie. Remember that and keep going 🙂

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