If you’ve ever played D&D, you’ll be familiar with the joke. Terrible things happen when you split the party — and your perfectly balanced team can’t take advantage of all its cool bonuses when the members are spread out across the fictional countryside. For example, the wizard is awesome at magic, as long as the fighters keep enemies from punching him out while he casts the spell. But if the fighters are across town, well…that wizard’s SOL.
Now, in writing a novel, I didn’t think I had to worry about this. My characters are going to run into problems whether they’re together or not.
But of course, I didn’t think about my problems. As soon as my characters split up for the chapter, I got stuck.
On every. Single. Storyline.
Calder’s part for this chapter is really cool — but I hadn’t yet figured out why it was happening. So that took some brainstorming. I’m on the right track, but I still have some things that need to get resolved.
For Eustace, I had already written the meat of his portion, but I got stuck on how to end it. My original ending was pretty dumb, so hopefully the new ending where he meets everyone’s favorite character is better. He’s done for this chapter, but I already know I’m going to have a re-entry problem when he catches up to Calder. What does he conceal? What does he reveal? I don’t think even he knows.
I knew how to end Saydie’s section, but beginning it? Sheesh. That went off the rails real fast. While trying to get un-stuck, I brainstormed about Pennington’s plan and the novel’s structure. Ended up learning something cool about Saydie’s history with Pennington, but I’m still stuck.
Then there’s Arianna. To be fair, she was already separate from the others, so my getting stuck on her storyline was for a different reason. I had over-complicated the crap out of her storyline. It took a while to figure out what I could throw out and what was actually necessary for where I wanted Narrator to end up. (And also so that I didn’t have to throw out everything I’d written. Because yikes.)
So…now I know where to go with everyone’s storyline, I just have to actually do it — and trying to write these next scenes is like when I was depressed. I know what I want to write but I can’t make my hand spell out the words. Hopefully I can manage to write this week, get Calder’s party back together, and move on.
Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.