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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » A genuine dilema

   
Author Topic: A genuine dilema
wrenbird
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I am not sure whether to post this here or in Open Discussions, so I opened in both. *sheepish grin* I really want advice.
So, here is my true dilema.
I am working on a YA fantasy novel, and I am about 100 pages(21,000 words) in, and I am pretty pleased with it. It is mainly a character piece, with a love story. Not a milieu story.
To describe what is written so far, in brief, the MC in my story posesses a magical gift, but he doesn't know about it yet. He doesn't think he is magic, barely believes it exists. Then, leaders of the magical realm find him and tell him all about it. So, for these first 100 pages in my story, I have been trying to weave in the explainations of his gift, and the rules of magic in this world. I have been trying to do it through dialogue, and spread out in several different scenes, but it still reads kinda like an info dump. The scenes have been REALLY unpleasant to write.
And then *sigh* four days ago I had the unwelcomed epiphany that the MC should know he is magic and know about the gift from the beginning. Scrap all the lengthy explanation. Trouble is, this would mean starting ALL OVER AGAIN. From scratch. I shudder at the very thought.

I need advice. What should I do? Are several scenes (3-5 pages long) filled with info dump conversations such a bad thing? Do you think explanations of the magical rules need to be explained carefully? Am I just getting impaitent and need to ride them out? Or, would such scenes only clutter a story that is not a milieu story?
Help me. I really REALLY don't want to flush 100 pages (that I have been working on since April) down the tubes. BUT, I will if it will make the story stronger.


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Christine
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Without reading the story, it's hard to know for sure, but here's the thing: Tell the story you want to tell. A boy who doesn't know he has a magical power vs a boy who does will lead to two very different stories. Which one are you passionate about? If the former, then write the story, do the best you can with laying down the rules, and get some detailed feedback from some people you trust to help you decide if you've done well with it. If the latter, then scrap and rewrite. It's always a hard balance to know when to make changes and when you've changed enough. I tend to think, though, that if you've got a sweeping, story-level change that you really want to do that you probably need to make it.
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Balthasar
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Perhaps you're thinking about the writing process in the wrong way. Maybe you needed to write 100 pages to understand things you wouldn't have if you hadn't written them.

I've come to see that the less I'm focused on getting a story finished, the more I can focus on writing a good story.

From what you said in your post, if I were you, I'd start over.


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Snorri Sturluson
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I have to agree with Christine; if you have to scrap 100 pages in order to write what you want to write, do it.

I am curious, however, why did you spend so much time describing the rules of magic and the like? The Chronicles of Narnia and LOTR both use magic and we are never given more than a hint about how those magics work. We also see terribly few limitations in Harry Potter. Heck, even works like Eragon spend precious little time telling the reader about magic's limitations.

As you will presumably be working with the same magic system, you might be weaving the same limitations back into your story. I would just recommend being careful (if you choose to rewrite) in judging what truly needs to be included.

~Joel


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annepin
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I agree with Christine and Snorli here. Go with your gut on what sort of story you want to tell. I don't know what made you decide you character had to know he was magic from the beginning, but nothing in writing is unchangeable. You can make the story whatever you want, but do go with the story that excites you most.

None of your explanations are wasted, even if you decide not to use them in your story. Now you know what they are; you might not otherwise have formed such a concrete or detailed understanding if you hadn't gone through this exercise. (As an aside, even in a mileu story, I don't think it's necessary to explain the magic of the limitations--this is brought about simply by the characters doing, and not being able to do, certain things and how they approach the world. So yes, multiple pages of info dumping is generally difficult to pull off).

About the rewriting 100 pages... that's really nothing, in the large scheme of things. You're a writer, which means you write, and you rewrite, and you rewrite again. Currently I've got a manuscript of 1400 pages on my desk, a half of which I'm probably going to end up editing out or rewriting.


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debhoag
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Tolkien had the Silmarilian, though, so he did have the huge backstory that he worked off of, which made LOTR so consistent. I like to have the backstory worked out, even if it doesn't make it into the story proper, because it's good to know everythign is consistent. It's still a good thing to have, even if you don't put every detail in the novel.
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rstegman
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Write the one where he has the magic from the begining. See how it goes. You could end up with two great stories.

As to the info dump, it would be better to show him trying to use his magic, doing training exercizes, and showing how they are failing or working, rather than explaining it.

The master took the boy by the shoulders, looking him in the eye. "Relax, think only of your task. Concentrate on what you do, but let your body relax. Try it again."
The boy stared at the brass ball on the floor. his forehead scrunched up. The ball seemed as if it wanted to shake, ready to move. The smile across his face streached from ear to rear.
Now was the hard part. he counted to himself and, pushed his mind out, hit the ball with all his force. The ball stayed still.
Finally the boy looked to the master. "Why didn't the ball move, what am I doing wrong?
The master smiled, threw his harm around the boy's shoulder. "You did very well. I felt the power you gave off. That was a learning exercize. I had to show you that levitation does not work."
The next moment, the ball caught fire explosively, and was instantly a pile of ashes.
"I also had to show you what pure concentrated magic can do to objects.

An action scene showing the limits and powers of the magic is far more effective than someone telling it, even though my example is not great.


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JeffBarton
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Tackle it, wrenbird. Do it the way that makes the story come out right.

I have a start on a novel at about 38000 words. It needs a major rewrite already and the reason for the rewrite requires that I re-do EVERYTHING. The point is that I understand the frustration and the desire to salvage what you can from what you've done. I feel the same way. I may let that persuade me that a few scenes can be copied over, but name changes will have me re-working even those.



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mfreivald
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I was 59,894 words (208 pages) into my novel knowing full well that the rewrite would be pretty harrowing--but expecting to retain most of it. However, when I got to that point, I realized some things and learned a few others. Although the main storyline will remain largely intact, the four chapters would require a complete rewrite.

I started from scratch, and the result--so far--is much better.

I think this is what writers *do*. So don't get discouraged about it. Get excited about it! Your work has graduated to a new level. Be a writer and do what writers do.

(On the other hand--if you have more worthy projects, don't be afraid to move on.)

ciao,
Mark


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franc li
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I love rewriting from scratch. It's so freeing. Though sometimes I start to be afraid I will never actually finish anything.
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Robert Nowall
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Well, I generally make a printout and then rewrite what I've written in a new file---it's my old habit from the days of dinosaurs and typewriters, and at least it gives me the benefit of reconsidering everything I've written, word by word.

I've tried some rewriting from scratch, but it never works out---usually it's just other tries at things that died off before getting very far, usually dying before the rewrite gets too far, as well. I have written and discarded---my last finished novel started in final draft at what had been about Chapter Seventeen of the first draft, and I put the previous chapters aside, shoehorning a couple in later on in the narrative but discarding the rest. (Mostly it was a matter of changing concepts.)


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wrenbird
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Thank you guys for your answers/encouragment. I actually feel a sense of clarity after reading your responses. I went through the text and realized that the scenes I felt good about (and will probably keep with some reworking) were scenes where the characters were shining. So, I like my characters. And that is good, because they are staying. The story just needs a new starting point.
*deep breath* Well, thanks again, guys. I needed to hear you confirm what I've known all along.

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Zero
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never be afraid to start over
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Antinomy
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“Scrap” is not in my vocabulary and is the bane of all writers. I'd sooner pull out my fingernails and shove them up my nose, but revisiting and refining are welcome tasks.

Your MC with special abilities reminds me of a book I read on Sylvia Browne, the renowned psychic. Early on she realized she had powers others didn’t. In the beginning it scared her making her feel abnormal, but she had a wise consoling granny who guided her. Slowly, and with patience she began using her abilities wisely applying controls where needed, yet experiencing astonishing revelations as she grew.
Perhaps your MC could do likewise. Just a thought.

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