My summer project* was to finish Aqualee’s Hero.
This was my NaNo novel in 2009. I wrote 50,000 words in November, and then another 30,000 in December. By January, I hated it. I’d spent two months doing nothing but staring at these characters. I wanted to burn them all and scrap the whole concept. Fortunately, my friends have wiser heads** and told me to shove it in a box until I could stand to work with the thing again.
This didn’t happen, not exactly. Aqualee’s Hero has the privilege (or curse) to be part of my Guardian Wars universe. I started inventing this place somewhere between the ages of 12 and 14***, meaning that at this time, the universe is over ten years old.
Aqualee’s Hero was supposed to be a once-off, set two hundred years after the main storyline. Naturally, this did not happen. I have velociraptors in my head, remember? It turned into a bridging novel, connecting the first series to a new series.
Last February, I spent a week staying with a friend and went to work with her several days. I curled up in a giant plush chair, facing the two-story windows in the library at Georgia Tech, and plotted. I took my original Guardian Wars book and broke it into a series of four books, and the project exploded from there. In eight hours, I went from three novels to eleven, spanning half a millennium. Nice one, brain. Or velociraptors. Take your pick.
I am finally discovering why real authors hate editing so much. It is frustrating. You are essentially picking apart your baby and trying to turn it into something worthwhile. The oddest things, little things, things that didn’t seem at all important when you were actually writing the book, suddenly become massively important.
I’m stuck on a single name.
When I created the Guardian Wars universe, I set up four star systems, each settled by a different branch of an alien race. Over the last ten years, I’ve accidentally created entire cultures, complete with mythologies and languages. I thought I was perfectly set up to finally WRITE these books.
And then I hit the name of the ship that my hero is on at the beginning of Aqualee’s Hero. I never named the ship while writing the book. It wasn’t important. Now I have decided that yes, it is important. You wouldn’t spend a year on a ship and never know the name.
It was at this point that I realized that while I had lovely three-dimensional pictures in my head of everything from Aqualee and Kerriana’asi…I’d somehow forgotten to create cultures for the other two planets. Well. I had created the cultures, back when I was 15. Do I remember the details now? Of course not. The ship whose name is turning into a giant problem? Comes from one of the two pencil-sketch planets. All of this means that I have to decide on ten thousand things from the planet’s culture before I can actually NAME THE STUPID SHIP.
And that, boys and girls, is why you should always keep notes.
*well, my project for the next three weeks. I have teaching-in-a-classroom-of-small-people starting on the 31st of January.
**or maybe just less crazy heads.
***12 was when I started reading Science Fiction, and by 14, the universe was well-established in my own head. Thus, timeline.