Starting From Scratch

I drafted my first novel last fall. I spent the summer reviewing notes and outlining, and in the process, wrote little notes to my future self. I meant for these to make writing the next book a smoother process, but now I see that every book is a different beast.

I’ve got a new story in mind. It follows the same epistolary format as the last one but on a different topic. I compiled notes from my research library over the last week. But when I sat down to review them, I felt like a complete novice. There were enough notes to fill a 1″ binder, but my mind felt all over the place.

Last year’s novel was a war story. This year is about society trying to rebuild after a period of decline, but not only from war. A war story has a clear beginning, middle, and end. You have the threat of war and firing shots, battles making up the bulk of the conflict, and the peace treaty to end it. These were the basis for the novel’s structure.

Writing the new novel feels more like the Fall of Rome where you have a series of failures over a long period of time. Even then, those failures overlap. It’s not like I can say, “Here’s where the economy tanked. Here’s where a technological glitch caused shipping to collapse. This is the part where a natural disaster made things worse.” These are concurrent events.

But as I’m writing this, imposing clear distinctions might be the answer. I’m trying to serve the reader the whole pot of chili. Instead, it might be better to break things down to the original ingredients. That way, it becomes clearer how one event affects another.

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