Over the past month or so, I’ve been making a lot of progress on my next project, Stargazer, and I’m being a lot more cautious. This time, I’m trying to outline the entire thing before I even get started writing it. Which probably sounds like a no-brainer but I had a much different approach with Wayfinder. I had such a strong connection to my protag that it felt as if I could hear her speaking to me and see the things she saw. She was the storyteller and I was just the conduit for it.
But with this one, I’m the protag. It actually feels like me in the story and I don’t feel constrained at all. It’s not hard for me to wonder what he’ll think and say or how he’ll react because I know exactly what I would do in these situations, or I at least have a pretty good idea.
I wish I had started with this OwnVoices novel to be honest, but I’m weirdly really glad that I didn’t. I learned so much from writing Wayfinder. I built this entire alternate reality with magic and gods and now it’s a part of me. And since they’re in the same universe, it laid the groundwork for Stargazer.
Of course I was a little bummed that I had trouble finding an agent for Wayfinder, but it didn’t kill my dedication to it. I got a peek into the industry and got to see what agents are looking for. Not to mention the experience of writing a monster of a novel. That focus and drive that it took can’t be taught.
One of my biggest shortcomings was that I was so unwilling to change anything about Wayfinder. Sometimes I was so stubborn that I wouldn’t change even the smallest detail even if there was a better alternative. To me, doing that would have felt like I wasn’t being true to Hai. It made me feel awful to read back over what I had written and find mistakes and such, then even worse to have to spend more time to fix them. It felt like I had to start over every time I got a critique in the beginning or even one chapter back.
With Wayfinder, I knew the beginning. I knew the ending. But I just let Hai show me all the stuff in the middle, and I know now that that was a mistake in the grand scheme of things. And I don’t necessarily mean having the connection I had with my protag, but my blind, stubborn belief in it. I was letting Hai tell the story but I wasn’t really writing it, if that makes sense.
But part of growing is learning from your mistakes, so this time I’m a lot more confident. I’m very excited to work on this project. I know exactly where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. I’m even trying to get feedback on it from some friends before I even start writing it. And because this really is my story, it’s really therapeutic for me to air out some of things that even one-year-ago me would’ve rather kept to myself. And that’s big for me.
This one is going to be set during and after Wayfinder. In the pursuit of Octavia Butler’s Patternist series, on which this work is loosely based, it seems kind of appropriate to tell the end before the beginning. There are some obvious advantages to telling the story this way and I really think that it’s in my best interest to pursue this structure. At any rate, I think I need to stick with this voice for awhile. I still have a lot to learn and I think holding onto this character, watching his voice gradually change into something not entirely me, is really going to help me as a writer. And I don’t think I can perfectly articulate how exciting that is for me.