I recently declared my intention of resurrecting the Lance Eliot saga. With that announcement out of the way, I was free to sit back, swallow a feeling of rising panic, and ask myself, “Now what?”
I won’t begin working on a new manuscript for The Trials of Lance Eliot until after this blog bites the dust later this year, but I have plenty of groundwork to lay in the meantime. Not much research or planning went into my previous attempts to tell Lance Eliot’s story. This time, as I prepare for one last do-or-die effort, I want to give it a solid foundation.
In case anyone is interested in getting a glimpse into my creative process, here are some of my early preparations for reviving Lance Eliot.
Reading is often a deceptively vast part of the writing process. Before returning to Lance Eliot’s story, I want to revisit some of the works that influenced it. One of these is Dante’s Divine Comedy, upon which the Lance Eliot saga is (very) loosely based. Another is Reading for Redemption, a book by one of my college professors. It posits a theory of literary criticism that informed the Lance Eliot character.
I also need to do some research. In previous drafts of the story, the setting is simplistic: a kingdom tucked between two empires, quietly minding its own business. I want to create a more precarious political situation by making the kingdom a reluctant player in a rivalry between its neighbors. When I explained this idea to my dad, he suggested I look into the history of Uruguay, which was apparently caught in a conflict between Brazil and Argentina. I clearly have some reading to do.
I’ll also have to reread the latest version of The Trials of Lance Eliot because, honestly, I’ve forgotten most of it. There was a character called Tsurugi, wasn’t there? I’m pretty sure there was. And Lancelot came into it somehow? I could use a review.
I need to begin fitting together the pieces of the story long before I start writing. Some writers are able to get away with making things up as they go along, but when I do that, I generally end up with a lot of fluff.
I want to streamline the story this time, making sure every scene and character contributes something meaningful. That will take a lot of careful planning. I’m not yet sure how I’ll keep track of everything—a notebook? Index cards? Desk graffiti?—but I’ll try to craft a more focused story.
In previous attempts to write Lance Eliot’s story, I felt too impatient to do any more world-building than absolutely necessary. If Lance Eliot doesn’t see it, I thought, the reader won’t see it, and I won’t have to make it up.
Sadly, my apathy toward the world I had created made it a bland, generic place. I need to start asking myself more questions. What’s the history of my fictional kingdom? What sort of holidays does it celebrate? What are its cultural influences? How high are its tables? I need to answer these kinds of questions even though some of my answers won’t make it into the story.
The reader’s image of the world I create will be much vaguer than my own. If I have only a faint concept of Lance Eliot’s world, how much fainter will the reader’s be!
The Trials of Lance Eliot has been rattling around in my head for so many years that my view of it is deeply subjective. I could use some objective views from other people. What works in the story? What doesn’t? What needs to change?
If you’ve read the book, and if you can offer any feedback, please feel free to send it my way!
These early preparations for writing a story are, for me, the fun part. It’s when the writing starts, and I have to put my ideas onto paper, that things get tough.
I suppose I’ll worry about that when I get there.