TSF: First Re-Read

Happily, though I took many days off in a row, I finished my first full read-through of The Stars Fall. I can hardly believe it. I started an edit of it years ago but then, for one reason or another, put it aside. It had loomed in the background ever since, and I’m proud of myself for tackling it again.

For those who don’t know, I have drafted two books in my character Besnik’s series, and TSF is the first one. I wrote it during NaNoWriMo 2017, and it became the first year that I won NaNo. I rushed to get the story done by November 30th and made word count by a hair. I knew the story had gaps and needed a lot of cleaning up, but I had finished my first-ever draft of a novel!

Now, it’s important to know that I have always sat on the fence when it came to whether or not I would actually publish Besnik’s series.

First, my friend was the one who originally came up with one of the main characters, as her roleplay character. She created the framework of the culture; and when I created Besnik to play alongside her character, I helped craft a few more elements. But by and large, though we played the characters for a few years before life got in the way, it still felt predominantly like her culture, that I should run all ideas by her. So that was the first reason I was hesitant to publish the stories: were they mine, now that I had developed the culture even further, or were the ideas still too much hers for me to claim any credit?

My friend ad I had also talked about, together, writing their backstory, present, and future story all out in a series. However, that didn’t go far, however. Yet I still wanted to write the story out. I love backstories, and I already knew key points in Besnik’s tale. I wanted to flesh it out, delve deeper into who he is and what his culture is like. So I took it upon myself to start the series. My friend could beta read it, could later write her character’s version of the story–all sorts of things. And, if nothing else, she would appreciate the two of us having even a moderately well-written copy of the novels.

Which brings me to my second reason for my hesitance towards publishing: these were initially going to be just for us. My main goal still is that it’s just a personal series. It’s good writing and editing practice that way, and I get the confidence boost of having completed projects (something I’m pretty bad at doing), but it still remains for my eyes only.

A third and related reason for keeping the series to myself are little holes in the backstory. The characters were made for a roleplay site, and we focused on them primarily in that setting. Anything mentioned about their backstory was given less thought. The culture, yes. The technicalities of how that would play out in the wider society, not as much. If I publish the series, I’m worried that I’ll have to change so much stuff that it would alter Besnik and his culture so radically that it wouldn’t be recognizable anymore and the book would fall apart.

For these reasons and surely others, I have hesitated to say even to myself whether or not I would publish this series. And there’s no rush to do so. I figure, I can write and edit all the books to what I feel would be publishable standards but keep them for myself; then, if I wanted to publish them in the future, I could do that.

All that is to say that the only hurry I have been in with this series (and why I went ahead with Book 2 last year instead of fully editing Book 1 first) is personal only.  I wanted to write TOA because I was excited for it, and I also wanted to use it as an opportunity to hash out more cultural details. And boy, did it! In re-reading TSF, I found places that refreshed my memory on things that TOA had allowed me to forget, but I also found spots that TOA has made necessary to now edit.

Naturally, those edits weren’t the only issues I ran into while rereading The Stars Fall. Although I hit a few scenes that were beautiful to me, in both writing and content, by and large I was disappointed with the novel.  Why?

    • The pacing was terrible. The book spans years, which was hard to manage, especially when trying to make word count for NaNo.
    • Because of the pacing, certain character arcs were greatly developed in one spot then suddenly skipped forward in others.
    • The POV was back-and-forth. I’m still a little torn about how to do the POV, but I think I’ve come to a solution.
    • Because of the POV being off, I have a lot of phrasings that need changed and sections that probably need cut or drastically re-written.
    • Also likely because of the POV, a lot of the writing sounds more explanatory than descriptive–and unnecessarily so at times.
    • My descriptions of locations wasn’t great, but that’s always been the case.
    • I do a lot of internal thoughts when I write, which I don’t mind, but I can’t tell if I’ve done that too much for Besnik in this novel or not. Some of that could be answered by solving the POV issue.

Those were the main problems I saw. I got to the point in the last few pages where I didn’t even mark trouble areas–or, if I did, I simply started writing, “UUUGH! Show this instead!”

On top of all of that, I’m now left with the question of splitting the book into two novels. Currently, the book is 129 pages in Microsoft Word, but I know it’s well under-written. I like the start and end points of Besnik’s character arc as the novel currently stands, but I also see good start and end points if I split the book. I even like the line I currently have written for the scene I would end at if I went that route. I’d have to re-write a lot of the novel, but I would have to do that anyway. I would have to add a plethora of new scenes to New Book 1, and for New Book 2, I only have some end scenes, so it would all have to get written.

The perks of splitting the novel might outweigh the cons and questions, though. It had slipped my mind that the book spanned twice as much time as TOA did. The division makes sense when I look at the original starting and ending points that I had chosen in Besnik’s timeline. They are significant moments in his life, and the arc between them makes sense. I just executed it poorly. With editing, I could keep the book as one and make that arc smoother.

Or, I could cut the book at a midway point, which is also a notable moment in Besnik’s life. Then I could have the larger character arc shown in even more detail. It all still fits within his arc throughout the series. That wouldn’t change whether I divided TSF up or not. So it’s a matter of two things: how much editing and re-writing do I want to do, and would I prefer to show Besnik’s arc as is or in more detail over two books?

That is where I am. Rather, that’s where I am when it comes to Besnik’s series and with TSF in particular. I’m burnt out on it again. I’m disgusted with myself because of much of the writing. I mainly marked spots to edit later. I deleted a few parts or rewrote some words and lines, but I didn’t cut almost anything, and I didn’t add any major elements. This was a cursory first read with notes to give myself options when I went through a second re-read.

I can’t do that second read-through anytime soon, though. I need something different, and I need space from the series. So I’m looking to Camp NaNo here in a couple of days. More on that in another blog post, though. For now, I’ve finished The Stars Fall for the time being, and that’s what matters.

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