May the Force be With Me
We’re well into December–or NaNoFiMo, the month in which I have to finish the giant novel I began in November. And I’ve had an epiphany.
The huge and sprawling story I conceived of had just gotten started in the 60,000 words I wrote in November. This was a bit alarming. How long would this thing get?
In search of some guidance, I check out James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure from the library so I could run some diagnostics. One thing I have learned about writing over the years is that a novel has to have a good structure. And this book told me to analyze my novel’s structure in terms of the Hero’s Journey.
Not familiar with the Hero’s Journey? I bet you are. Millions of people know everything about it–that is the millions of people who have watched the movie Star Wars. Back in the 70s, George Lucas, the director of Star Wars, borrowed that structure from a guy called Joseph Campbell. And this December, since I had just watched Star Wars for the first time since I was a teenager, I decided George Lucas was on to something, so I decided to borrow it too.
I went ahead and started plugging the outline of my book into the Star Wars structure. Was my hero crossing the threshold into adventure? Did a mentor appear? I went down the list and it turned out I had every single element I was supposed to have. I even had a talisman to aid my hero in battle–nice!
There was only one problem. The Star Wars structure only covered the first 30,ooo words of my book.
What did this mean? How could I have a complete Hero’s Journey that came to an end before the book even got going?
The answer was obvious. I wasn’t writing a single novel–I was writing a trilogy! All that backstory that I wasn’t sure why I was writing was really its own stand-alone story that needed to be told. And all that complicated stuff that I planned to write in the end? That was volume III.
Eureka. What a weight off my shoulders. Now, instead of having to finish a hefty book that was really three books in one, my work for December has become so much lighter. I’m concentrating on that first story, that little Hero’s Journey that needs to be explored and expanded a little to grow it into a full-sized novel.
Who knew that it was sitting there all along? Certainly not me, and that’s the kind of surprise you find along the way when you’re taking the writer’s journey.