The Illusion Conundrum, Part II: A List

Well, folks. I finished reading the first (well, upteenth, but first for all intents and purposes of this project) draft of the novel I wrote in high school. Here’s the damage.

There is still a good narrative kernel here. The story is expansive, the characters fleshed out, backstories complete. I still love these characters and yearn for their narratives. I still am so smitten with the various love interests and still want to see their stories play out.

My main issue with it at this point – or the biggest issue that needs the most attention at this point, anyway – is that I absolutely tried to do too much, and almost all of it is blatantly derivative. Now, I know that YA fantasy tropes are pretty easy to spot and it’s acceptable to have one or two in your story. But I had alllllll the tropes. Every one of them. Fantasy fetch quest? Check. Parallel realm on the brink of destruction? Check. Elves, dragons, people with tails? Check. The list goes on.

So the first point of order is boiling it down to a workable YA fantasy novel with one or two predictable YA fantasy tropes, but with the unique kernel that I know is in there somewhere.

This is the short list of things I have to change/fix/figure out:

  • Magic system – Flesh out a little more. This will be the easy one, because I think I have already done this for another piece of defunct literature I wrote while in college. Just gotta find it.
  • Change beginning and initial conflict – The beginning of the first draft was definitely fantasy fetch-quest-esque, and decidedly boring. So I’m going to effectively chop the first eight chapters (see ya, 20k words) and put the characters in medias res (it took EIGHT EFFING CHAPTERS TO GET STARTED. Hello, Teenage Liz, get your SHIT together). I haven’t decided yet whether or not they will have met before the novel begins, or go through that awkward meeting phase with them.
  • Focus on one of the main characters instead of all three. There are, essentially, three “chosen ones” (hello, Trope #1) in this story. But that seems problematic especially for the first novel in a series. I will probably stick with my favorite of the three (because who doesn’t have a favorite character?) and see where it goes from there.
  • A lot of the plot is getting moved around. For instance, at one point some pretty influential people die. I’m thinking about moving that to the beginning to create some tension before we get started.
  • Character tweaking – They need some serious facelifts. Backstories are fine (for the most part) but for instance, one of them was 600 years old and the other was 16 and they became, like, teen best friends. Because I was a teen when I wrote this. So there are some things I need to take a look at to make their choices and backstories believable.
  • I’m probably going to change some genders of the characters, because I was A TEENAGER and so thought that putting a MILLION HOT GUYS in the book was going to be a selling point. So, uh, some of them are going to be hot girls now. Or maybe some hot non-gender-conforming people. Or maybe just some regular-looking people.

And this is just the short list. Woof. But I’m excited! I finally have a project to work on that I have clear direction for and something I can just jump right into. That’s not to say that I’m not still working on The Unmaking Machine. It’s just taking a back seat for now while I tinker around in my childhood.

~Liz

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