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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Finding the Baby in the Bathwater

Sometimes, we have to know when to throw out the bathwater. For me, that time is now.

Throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
(Image from

I'm working on The Un-familiar, the next book in the Chupacabra Stories trilogy (Ye Gods! A Tale of Dogs and Demons, The Un-Familiar: A Tale of Cats and Gods, and Ye Goddess! A Tale of Dogs and Cats.) When I wrote Ye Gods!, I hadn't planned to write a sequel, or a trilogy for that matter. But when I finished and moved on, started writing a new novel, the characters from Ye Gods! kept interfering. Milagros and Carmen in particular, wouldn't stop whispering their stories in my ear.

Let me tell you how hard it is to write one thing with someone whispering something completely different the whole time.

I finally gave in. The Old Putters became a short story (for now) and appeared as Golf Goes On at Infective Ink and I got to work telling what happened to Milagros after the chupacabra, aka the god, aka Muggle, Paco, the dog, etc. went away.

The outlining process energized me. I know where this story is heading, I know the main plot points and how the characters interact, and I know all the returning characters really well. Some exciting and interesting new characters have entered the mix to stir things up, too.

My original outline for The Un-familiar.

I thought Marina Melee was complex, until I plotted out Ye Gods! I thought Ye Gods! was complex until I plotted The Un-Familiar. When I started writing, I knew this book would require me to move to a whole new level as an author. I felt up to the task.

I'm at about 50,000 words and have been for six months. I hit the wall of doubt. Is this working? Am I going in the right direction? Too much backstory? Not enough? I believe in my story wholeheartedly, but worry that it needs a more skilled writer to tell it properly. Can I become that writer?

Me, tearing my hair out in frustration over not being
able to capture on paper what I see in my head.
I've rewritten and revised these 50,000 words a few times now. I'm still excited by the story. I know, when finished, it's going to be my best work so far. I also know it isn't that right now. I haven't been able to put my finger on the flaw, and with 50,000 words invested, I hadn't been ready to call it quits just yet, but have been considering I might be better off starting over.

This weekend, I read Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. There it was--the magic I was missing. That's what I needed--to keep the magic and get rid of the rest. I now know what I have to do. I have to find the magic. I have to pull the baby out of the bathwater and get rid of the parts that are mucking it up.

I don't need to throw out my whole story. The magic is in there, but I've buried it in words and word counts, in explanations and backstory. Today, I'm going in search of the baby in all that bathwater. For the first time in months, I'm excited about The Un-Familiar again, thanks Neil Gaiman's magic.

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