Digging Up the Past

icture by Jessy Dior

icture by Jessy Dior

My first novel was a great learning experience. Titled Between the Shadows, it was a novel written in three months, almost hit my goal of 80k (was 22 words shy, in fact), and was a sloppy mess. I say was, I should probably correct myself and say is. Even after four revisions, which I felt were pretty harsh at the time, I still had a unfocused novel that I was never quite sure where it fell. All I knew was that it was a dystopian, which usually falls in sci-fi, but without any science underpinnings or straight up technology that doesn't exist today, I am now compelled to call it urban fantasy - since it is fantasy set in a city. It was dark, desolate, had an undefined antagonist who got his thrills from being completely and utterly mysterious and brutal.

This character would later have a name (for the entire first novel, none could be found) and turn out to be my Trickster god, Theon. He's a favorite character of mine now, but for the time he was ill-defined and bit of a pig. He hasn't gotten any better, but at least now I know him and what he will and won't do.

Anyway, I am now in the process after years of re-configuring The Faithful, I am faced with what my next project will be. I've spent a considerable amount of time mulling what to do with my first novel and, essentially I'm going to set it in a different setting with different characters, but the same essential premise. Since I wrote the first novel I've created a whole world of disparate cities that all revolve around each other, if not in the same time period.

The problem is that the first novel is a sprawling mess. I have two major landmarks that are owned by the same entity, are intrinsically linked, but I wasn't able to differentiate them enough to put a clear picture in my reader's head. It then expands past this city, into yet another unclear section of darkness, which then leads to another city that is nothing but slums, then outside all of these cities to the countryside, then back in.

As you can see, it was unfocused.

So my new setting, as its jumping around inside my head, will fix most of these problems. The biggest thing that I will be coming up against is that it's been eight years since I started writing that first draft of Between the Shadows, but even as I go through and start building up this new city, I'm running into the memories of the first book, the time I took to develop it and its ideas (which obviously wasn't that much time initially, though the book did blow up by an additional 13k words after a few rewrites). I'm running smack into a wall as I remember and try to avoid anything from the first story.

It's a daunting task if I am going to be completely honest.

And the kicker: this may not be a novel I'm even able to write anymore. If it comes down to that, I will try to revise and fix the previous story, but as I think about it now, I think it's too far gone.

Maybe I am too.

For those of you interested in reading the first chapter, you can either browse the Between the Shadows page, or click here to read it.

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Justin D. Herd

Justin D. Herd is a purveyor of the weird and strange. He occasionally squawks at friends and family, but does so only under the cover of night. Okay, that's not true. He squawks in full daylight. Drinking games have been built around his peculiarities, but the truth of it is this: he is a loving husband, with two wonderful dem--children. One growls at things he likes, including pretty women. The other has started to learn hand-eye coordination. Neither had made it to the tender age of three. From there, things will only get more interesting. He spends most of his writing time either at a coffee shop or sitting at one of his many desks around his house. Any other place makes it nearly impossible for him to write. He uses horror movies and rock music to help get the juices flowing. His favorite authors are Jeremy Robert Johnson, Alan Campbell, Terry Pratchett, Justin Cronin, and Patrick Rothfuss. He consumes most of his books through audiobooks, but still loves his personal library and getting lost in the printed word.