Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Random thoughts on writing a prequel

Wattpad cover art
As a way to get readers interested in my first novel, I decided to write a prequel to Circles to provide a "sneak peek" for those who haven't read it yet.

So I began this creative adventure to write a short story that introduced how Solus, a main character of Circles, came to be a demon. My goal was to write a chapter a week for the next five weeks and have it available through Wattpad for readers to read and comment. Once the short story was complete, I would rework the piece and publish it in its entirety and put it up for free.

Sounds easy, right? Well just like writing 50k words in the month of November is a major feat, so is coming up with a well-written chapter in one week. My fist chapter was a nightmare. On Sunday, I first had to come up with a basic story line to follow. Then I had to figure out how to start it. By Thursday, I had enough of the chapter to get help from fellow writers in my critique group. On Saturday afternoon the first chapter was up.

But once I re-read my live chapter, I had nagging thoughts that something wasn't right. So I skimmed through my original novel and, yep, two very glaring continuity errors right there. At first I was disappointed and upset about the errors, but my goal was to generate interest, not create a new novel. And my intent was to clean it up anyway when I'm finished and formally publish it. All the mistakes I made and will make will have a chance to be fixed later. No worries.

But I was worried. All evening Saturday and all day Sunday, I obsessed over these errors. So much so that I didn't start the next chapter until Monday afternoon. I was unhappy with my published work, all because a work in progress didn't fit perfectly within the timeline of that world. I felt terrible, and entertained the thought that I should stop writing.

What this exercise in writing has done is help me realize I do not like writing prequels. It makes me second-guess my original work and think "I should have changed this" or I should have done this with that scene." I nit-picked my novel for two years before finally saying "enough." Every novel ever written could have been "perfected" in any number of ways. There has to be a moment where a writer finally says, "It's done," takes what was learned and moves on. I needed to move on.

Writing is like life. Life happens, and when things happen that you don't like, you adjust and move on. What happened in the past is "published," what happens next is the "work in progress."  But, like prequels, life can linger on the past, making it difficult to write the future. It is okay to reminisce about the past, romanticize or politicize or dramatize it as much as you like. As long as you remember the past doesn't change, and only your present and future matter.

I say that I will never write another prequel, but maybe I will. Right now, my focus in on my future. I will finish this short story and move on to another. And I will nit-pick this new one to death before I finally say, "enough" and move on. In the meantime, please look for the second chapter to come out on Wattpad this coming Saturday!

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