Edelwiess - The Jigsaw Puzzle
There is a quote somewhere out there by a very famous author, and for the life of me I haven't been able to find it since I read it... so answers in the comments, please!
Anyway, this quote compared writing a novel to completing a jigsaw puzzle. The difference is that you don't have all of the pieces when you start your book, and you have lost the box and don't know what the picture looks like in the end. Also; all of the pieces are blank, and you have to paint them on individually, by yourself, while simultaneously trying to find out how they fit with the other pieces. It might be the best comparison I have ever heard, because writing Edelweiss was exactly like a jigsaw puzzle for me.
Although technically what I do is spec-fiction (and I know there are critics out there who still resist it as a genuinely worthy category of writing) there is an ancient argument in the literary world over where exactly the novel should start. I don't mean in terms of time and space; I mean in terms of idea. Fully half of my University class worked a story out by developing the scenario they wanted to write about. The other half (myself included) always started with characters over plot. We designed a character we wanted to write about, and let the plot sort of develop around their antics. Thus you now know that the great majority of my fictional work starts with a character, and not a story. That's how it was with Edelweiss, and the mad scientist Abigail Jones.
A long time ago I was an actress. I was never a particularly good actress, and I only ever got into it because I loved to tell stories. At University I put my focus into screen and script writing, and it's only been in the last few years that I have turned to much more descriptive writing and the novel form. Edelwiess was my first jigsaw, and I wrote it while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee in the bathroom of my room in halls of Residence... in pen. Why the bathroom? Well I realise its weird, but the extractor fan made it the only safe place to smoke in the non-smoking building. We used to take chairs in there and study.
What I wrote was based on a fictional character I once played in a Live Action Role-play event a few years before that. I had all of these ideas in my head about what I wanted the character to do but the physical act of LRP left me dissatisfied. It depended upon other people – and while of them were so brilliant that their characters remain in the story today (see Asa Lupine (formerly Lupas) and Captain Charles Echan, formerly Captain Echan Nievers) – most of them got in the way of what I wanted Abigail to be able to do. Edelweiss was first written as a two page character background for Abigail Jones. Eventually I tried to write the two pages into an interesting short story and from then on it just never felt properly finished. I wrote something like 250,000 words in that first hand-written version (while I really should have been writing my dissertation) and more than half of that was dropped from the version you know now and may have read. Between then and publishing I lost a whole race and replaced them with the Reavers, decided against adding the extra island I had written in to house said race and redesigned the entire plot to make it a lot less science fiction and a little more horror. As it stands I don't think Edelweiss is a scary book, but it has just enough weird darkness to make it not-quite-high-fantasy either.
After four or five years of having this document on file and doing nothing with it (Edelweiss was still called Manuscript 1 back then) I opened it up and read it. I liked it. It wasn't the best book I'd ever read, but I liked it. I wrote Manuscript 2 and liked it a lot more than I liked the first one. I powered on and wrote a third, while simultaneously approaching a handful of literary agents to ask if they would take me on. Naturally I got nowhere, and then, in 2015 disaster struck... in the form of Windows 10.
I was working on Manuscript 4 at the time, I wasn't very far in but I figured I had about another 200,000 words before the magic actually left the world... and then my computer updated. I worked on, pulled my 'Bad Brain' folder to the desktop so I wouldn't lose it and typed away. The next day the temporary profile I had been unknowingly using was gone – and with it was my folder. 'Bad Brain' had all of the work I have ever written in it. It had poetry, at least four short stories and three full novels worth of work. All gone. I uninstalled the upgrade but that just made it worse. I called windows and cried down the phone, then I called my best friend to come and pick me up and take me somewhere where I couldn't smash my house up. If there was ever a point in my life that I could point to and say “There, that's when I was at my lowest.” it would be then. I mourned the loss like a grieving widow, I stayed in bed for weeks without sleeping. I don't know how the spell broke but eventually it did. After maybe a month I realised that there were two choices ahead of me: give up or start over.
My older brother (who also happens to be Captain Charles Echan and my proofreader) told me something interesting one day. He said that Terry Pratchett always wrote the first draft just for himself, so that he knew how the story would go. After that he would start again, this time writing for everyone else. It gave me enough drive to go back to the beginning and start again... Because when you're a writer what else is there? Other people have TV or computer games, I have this. It's just who I am.
A year later Edelweiss was good to go, but this time I wasn't going to repeat my last mistake. As soon as it was presentable I self-published – because I would rather that than have to build the jigsaw for a fourth time. I just want to tell stories. I don't want to be famous and I don't have designs on one day writing a masterpiece. I just want to do what I love, like every other person on the planet.
When I released Edelweiss I didn't experience the profound sense of relief that I was hoping for... only the unchanged anxiety in my chest because I haven't told the rest of the story yet. However; at least it was done, it was out there, and something in my life had started and hasn't stopped since. After Edelweiss I realised just how many untold stories are in my brain, and it got me seriously perplexed about Multi-verse theory and the human imagination... but that's another story altogether... In the meantime there's Edelwiess; possibly the most worthwhile thing I have ever done with my life.
Just an additional to say that I have not included links to my work since this is a blog and not an attempt to sell the book, however, if you are interested you can find me via my website.