And Then That Castle Sank into the Swamp

Bodiam Castle (Photo credit: Mark Seton CC)

I feel like the king from Monty Python who kept building castles in a swamp. The first one sank, so he built a second. That one sank. He built a third, which burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp.

But the fourth one stood up.

I think I’ve been going in the wrong direction with Featherfolk. I recently wrote a few flash fiction pieces and pared them down to their essence so they could squeeze into the 150 word limit. (Like playing limbo: “How low can you go? How low can you go?”)

Those experiences helped me realize I’m losing the essence of the story I really want to tell in Featherfolk. It’s getting buried. I want to pull it out into the light where it can shine. I still love it and think it’s an important story.

This of course will require starting over. Again. I’ve brainstormed and jotted notes and mulled it over for a week or so. My fingers want to get typing, but now I’m jittery.

Should I start it yet? Should I wait until I pin down all the details?

If I don’t lay all the groundwork, will it just sink into the swamp again?

Is that why it sank before–because I started writing too early?

Even if I lay all the groundwork, will it sink anyway?

Jitter jitter jitter.

What do you do when you begin a new draft/new project? How much do you plot and plan and write notes? What’s your process? I need some advice here.

Happy Yarning!


5 thoughts on “And Then That Castle Sank into the Swamp

  1. It often takes me three drafts before I figure out what I meant to say in the first place. I’ve experimented with both outlining and painting. However I do it, the best thing is to get it all out, then I can look at the entire thing outside of my head and shape it in revision.

    If a draft fails, it doesn’t sink into the swamp. You’re moving sand into your sandbox in order to build castles, as Shannon hale says.

  2. Julia, I really feel for you. Topaas has been a real struggle where I keep feeling like something’s missing. Now I’ve reached a point where I know what’s missing but I don’t fully know how to work the missing stuff into the early parts of the novel. That’s why I’m working on Sapphyre right now because I know as long as I write something each day, I’ll get to the point where I can figure out how to work things out for Topaas. Having the 2 to go back and forth between makes things easier for me so I can plan for one while working on the other.

  3. Well, I’ve tried the “go back and start from the beginning” and I’m trying the “plow through and fix later” right now (in multiple of my current WIPs), and I think both have merits and pitfalls.

    I think it depends on how well you know the story you want. If you don’t know yet, finish so you have an idea what you’re building towards. If you do but feel like you’re wobbling, like you’re building a tower with a blueprint but the current foundation is unsteady, that’s probably when it’s okay to go back to the beginning and start over. Or use the “shore up and move on” method, retroactively spot-fixing the foundation so you can move on, since unlike actual builders we don’t need to get the foundation right first time.

    In other news, I apparently don’t say “pros and cons” any more.

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