How I Broke My Novel (and then fixed it)

Broken Book

When I tell people I broke my novel, the most common reaction I get is: Huh? How do you break a novel?

Easily, it turns out. One of my characters was kind of cool. She was from Eustace’s past, and she had the power to see a person’s destiny. But when she looked at Calder, his destiny was muddled because of the fight between the narrator and the author. And I thought that was just awesome.

But then I started following her down paths I hadn’t anticipated. Saydie was (understandably) jealous of her — which set up a character arc I didn’t find interesting in the slightest. Eustace had trouble dealing with her because of that past issue I mentioned — I didn’t want to give that secret away yet, but Eustace was too angry and frightened to make holding his tongue believable.

Calder was the worst of the three. He started acting like Jack from Lost — and every single fan of Lost I know hates Jack with a fiery passion. You think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. When he started yelling for the cool character to tell him his destiny (just like Jack did in one terrible episode), I realized something was very very wrong.

But this was the story, darn it! I pushed forward. I made it as far as the next scene, when the minstrels showed up. (Yup, I saw a chance to throw them in for a short cameo. I really should stop doing that.)

I decided this cool character had to go. She was dragging down my characters and my plot. She could keep her interaction with Eustace in the past, but she wouldn’t be allowed anywhere in the current story. Then I spent an unexpected snow day rewinding the story until right before that character showed up, and figuring out where to take the plot instead.

(If you’re curious, that involved writing down where my characters were emotionally/mentally and then brainstorming how to get them from Point A to Point B. Literally, I mean, since I needed to get them from an inn to a castle.)

Anyway, I’d lost almost a full weekend of writing, unfortunately, but I managed to make up most of that in a day because the words practically flew off the page. Er, screen. I think I came up with a decent replacement for the cool character’s arc, but only time will tell.

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.