A disclaimer: This post contains no major spoilers for Book 06: THE SONG OF A LITTLE GHOST.
Well…nothing major at least. You can check it out here:
Book 06 took seven months, and that makes it the longest I’ve taken to finish a book. I initially planned to release it on mid-June, but I wasn’t satisfied with the story at all. Why? Here are the reasons, and how I solved the problems.
1. THE PROLOGUE FAILED TO SET THE BOOK’S TONE
To prospective writers out there, note this carefully: PROLOGUE IS CONSIDERED A TABOO BY MANY. This has become an unspoken rule by creative writers as many often uses it incorrectly. Here are the few ways of using a prologue wrongly:
- To introduce the novel’s world, universe, and the rules governing it through dumping information. This is a bad prologue; one that casual readers (read: most people) would definitely skip. Why? Because it doesn’t kick-start the plot, and the beginning chapter of a novel is supposed to be the hook, the one that grabs readers to the book from the very first sentence.
Example: Once upon a time, there was a school of magicians named Hogwarts. Many used wands to cast their magic, and the students were divided into four houses…
Imagine if that is the introduction to Harry Potter. No surprises. No capacity to awe the reader in the middle of the story. Dumped all the info in the beginning.You have to diffuse information about the world throughout the story. This is tricky to do for speculative fiction (Fantasy and Sci-Fi) because there’s a lot to explain about the world. Spec-Fiction readers are trained to be tolerant of long narratives, so info-dumping now and then is fine.
But even the placement within the narrative has to be in context such that readers won’t realise they’re being info-dumped by the author. Doing this in the prologue is just slapping it in the reader’s face.
- Just a plain replacement for Chapter 1. Why name it a prologue? Just make it Chapter 1.
- Doesn’t tie-in directly to the story. This is also a form of info-dumping I mentioned in 1). Unless a straight line of relevance can be drawn directly to the main story, then it is info-dumping of the worst kind: an unnecessary one.
- Doesn’t hook the readers.
My mistake in the initial draft is a combination of 3) and 4), but mostly the latter. It was only three pages and it was extremely rushed. I did not take my time to introduce the characters in the prologue and all that’s left after finishing the three pages was a weird after-taste. It was an attempt at hooking the readers, but I slung the hook so fast that the fishing line broke from the abrupt force.
Yeah, weird analogy there–but you get what I mean right? 😀
For those who’ve read my books would notice that I structure the series in Act, Book, Chapter, and Parts. 5 Acts of 5 books each, which has 5 chapters each. This is part of my mission to revive the Greek Tragedy, which is a powerful form of art and literature almost extinguished today by the mass commercialisation of entertainment. A Prologue is an integral part of a Greek Tragedy.
2. SEVERE LACKING IN EMOTIONALITY
The main objective of The Silent Assassin series is a not to escape out of our harsh reality, but to deep dive further into it. I find that a futuristic setting–Science Fiction–trumps other genre as a medium to provide a solid platform of, but the problem lies with the fact that Sci-Fi is a genre, that is, it’s subject to personal preference.
This is the reason why I invested so much in designing characters, and why I insisted that there be no aliens or fantastic creatures: every character has to be human, so that reader’s relatability can be jacked up to the absolute maximum. Don’t get me wrong, I love good alien characters (Garrus best Mass Effect buddy), but it is humans that I want to assess thoroughly in this series.
Even knowing the above, I wrote a completely lifeless first draft. There were twists and turns and drama, but it failed to capture the emotions of the character. I held back on the theme and made a story that’s “tame” enough as not to offend people.
Then I remembered the purpose of The Silent Assassin series, and in particular this Book 06:
A blatant challenge to the status quo’s morality.
So I decided to rewrite it and go all-out.
I had written the draft using an entirely mechanical method (which is partly responsible for the lifelessness of the end product), and thus, I relied on emotions to rewrite everything. Positive emotions. Negative emotions. Recollecting every memory I’ve had from past to present and paint them on the page using words.
Only then I was satisfied. The characters finally manifested themselves. Here are some excerpts from book 06 that I wrote during these “emotional overdrive”.
There are many others, but I can’t show them all here, can I? 😀
I have hard set date for Book 06 which was mid-June, but I delayed it to end of July because the initial draft didn’t feel right.
I’m slightly radical in this, but in literature (or any kind of art, really), a piece that you yourself don’t consider perfect should never be published. We are inherently biased towards our own work; so if we ourselves are unsatisfied with it, can you imagine how others would react?
Delay your work’s completion for as long as it takes if your goal isn’t commercialisation. A work is only complete when you truly feel it’s complete.
And always tell a story taken from the depth of your psyche. A writing is only as good as the amount of soul it has absorbed from its writer.