Novel #31

Okay, final one for now.

Voyage Home is a young adult fantasy story that clocks in at about 70k words. In it, a young man and his girlfriend are transported to a world created and ruled by a witch. But because the young man has wounded her, her sister now has the opportunity to destroy the world, and it is up to him to save it. However, he wants to find the girlfriend first. He hooks up with a couple of part-elves, and eventually the battle is joined.

It is the proposed first part of a trilogy. Voyage North is next, with a new, internal antagonist, and Voyage Out is last, culminating is a battle in our world.

Now, this story…

It has had the most amazing, long gestation of anything I have ever written. It was started in 1987, even before I started Into The Crystal. A lot of the elements that later appeared in Into The Crystal are started here – teenagers thrust into a fantasy world, fighting evil, that sort of thing. But this one was a meandering nothing and so when …Crystal took off, it was rejected at about 3k words.

A few years later I revisited it and started to flesh out especially the main character a bit more, but like so many of my later characters, he was a whiny emo-lite and I just didn’t like him. I created over-complicated situations and, again, stopped. I was writing myself into a corner.

I finished my first uni degree and started working with teenagers, and had a slightly better grasp of what normal teenagers wanted (having worked out I was probably not ‘normal’) and decided that this story would be perfect as a story for teenagers. So I rewrote chunks of it, discarded bigger chunks and tried again. But I still fell into the same hole of making my world not make sense.

Fast forward a decade and I was at uni again, doing my second degree. One of the subjects was children’s literature, and so out this came again, and yet again I tried to work it. By now Harry Potter books were the big sellers and I tried to fit into that world of modified and borrowed mythologies, but it just didn’t feel right. The story had blown out to around 30k words and I was reluctant to let so much work go away, but I did.

A few years later I was teaching and, as a major assignment, got the class to write a big story. I used the opening page of this tale as a starting point for those who were struggling. One of the ideas that came out was that the girlfriend was an evil witch. But it still didn’t help.

Three years ago I pulled it out again and rejected a lot of the changes, reducing it by about 10k words and tried again. I worked out the ending and completely changed the bad guys/monsters. It was going okay, but other stories got in the way and distracted me, and so it fell by the wayside yet again.

So now we reach February of 2013. I found an online entry for a competition looking for young adult fiction that I had previously entered (and been short-listed for). I wanted to try again, but none of my completed young adult stories were young enough, and they had increased the minimum word length to 42k (max 80k).

So I went through the incomplete stories and found this.

Then came TAFE and the novel I decided to write for that, so for another few weeks it was again on the back-burner.

But finally I reached it. After 26 years I worked out what to do with this story. I think the only part I have kept is the opening 2 paragraphs, the names and the basic set-up. Everything else has changed completely. So in this latest incarnation I rewrote everything from chapter 6 on  after modifying chapters 1 to 5. I changed the bad guys and monsters again. I upped the blood. I increased the feelings of being in the wrong place in the main character. I actually drew a detailed map of my new world. I decided that if the world had not had a war in centuries they would not know how to wage one, so even someone with the limited experience of the main character would be a military genius in that situation. In short, I finally worked out how to make everything make sense, as much as anything can make sense in a fantasy world populated by elves, dwarves and anthropomorphic man-beasts.

I re-read it over the past few days and, you know something?, it’s actually not horrendous or anything. Sure, it’s still not brilliant, but nothing a good edit couldn’t fix once the story’s gone from my memory. It was entered in the competition, so we shall wait to see if it is yet another rejection or not.

If I had the time I would have run it past a teenager first – something I have done before. I still might, though.

So that was a long and strange birth for this story. It’s a reason why I never throw any of my writing stuff away – you never know when it will become something worth working on.

Still, 26 years. That’s a long time.


EXCERPT (part of a fight scene from ch 27)

I saw it coming and stepped out of the way as it landed, its claws striking me in the chest. I looked down at my torn shirt and the blood flowing from the gashes, and then back at the creature. It grinned at me and I punched as hard as I could, somehow catching it in the eye. It stumbled back a few steps, then rushed me. I had no idea what to do, so I jumped to meet it in mid-rush, but it seemed to anticipate my move and slid to the side. I turned to face it, but it was already waiting and its fist slammed into the side of my head. I felt the eye swell immediately.

I staggered back and it punched me again, then opened its mouth wide. I kicked it between the legs as hard as I could, but all it did was shut its mouth and stare at me, then shake its head. I somehow dodged its own kick, but did not see the tail coming, which struck me in the stomach and doubled me over. The animal hooked my head under its arm and used its other claw to lift me into the air, then drop me across the nearest branch of the tree. All the air was knocked out of me and I sort of rolled off to land heavily on my back on the ground.

Hyla screamed again, but her voice and the buzzing sound in my head had taken a back seat to the blood thumping through my brain. One of the clawed hands picked me up by the hair and then both hands grabbed me around the neck. I was hefted off the ground and swung in a semi-circle. The hands let go of me and I felt like I hung in mid-air for a moment before I landed on my stomach once again, this time flat on the ground. Breathing became a little more difficult and I had trouble feeling my legs.

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Author Alice J. Black blogs

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