The Moment When I Saved a Novel

I write otherworld fantasy with spells and potions and this month I’m beginning to wonder if I’m under a spell. A good spell. One where the fragmented pieces of my writing begin to come together. Oh how unexpected! Oh how welcome.

Map: CA Hawthorne
Map: CA Hawthorne

Last week’s post was about finishing Riparia’s series at year’s end. That planning continues—five months ahead of schedule, which means it’s my side project.

Thus far, this year has been about revising the existing Carrdia novels and now only one remains. Following the Essence Stone. My headache. My scourge. It’s one of my oldest stories and has never worked.

Back in 2015, in the midst of reworking the worldbuilding to modernize Carrdia, I drafted a novel called, Bleeding Heritage, a novel linked to Riparia’s series that would resolve two historical mysteries and tell an unusual romance centered around a heroine who exists between societies and is accepted by neither.

It sounds great on the surface, which is why I’ve been so determined to make it work. You can’t cook with the wrong ingredients, though. Those ingredients?

  • It was rife with clichés.
  • The conflict was contrived.
  • Its structure was a mess.
  • I was still learning Deep 3rd.
  • It was a portal fantasy involving Earth that caused a planet’s worth of problems.

I scrapped it, though many elements still attracted me.

In 2018, I tried again, renaming the story Following the Essence Stone. Ametha’s background remained the same. I added a new element where she’d been kept safe on the Astral Plane for her entire childhood, but deprived of love and nurturing. The opening scenes tied to that were outstanding.

After that, though, it was worse than the story it was based on. It was a lessen in, if something doesn’t work, don’t add more of it to fix the problem. The result was more contrivances, more lack of conflict, and two love interests who share so few scenes that the romance was pointless.

In 2019, I removed the ridiculous portal element and the love interest. It didn’t go well.

In 2020, I simplified the story, hollowing it out and making it lifeless.

To sum up the disaster, each version had its own handful of scenes that were great, so great that I kept retaining the best ones for each new version and adding more.

It’d become a Frankenstein, a relic of my original worldbuilding. Meanwhile, I’d developed the modern society of Pannulus. That went splendidly. Riparia’s visionary quest to save and modernize Carrdia? Also going according to plan.

What was the problem? Why could I do nothing right when it came to Essence Stone? I kept changing her gift (her magic). I kept changing the Carrdia location where she appears after leaving the Astral Plane.

Nothing. Worked.

2021 was to be my last effort, yet I immediately fell into my old habits and tried to contort the original tale. The latest twist was itself a twist on an old twist.

Yes, when you poison the well, adding sugar doesn’t help. I was adding sugar.

Pannulus. ©2020 CA Hawthorne

I resurrected the love interest. His grandfather had been banished, not to Earth in this version, but to Pannulus (remember the historical mystery?). I was actually excited about it. He’d return to Carrdia from there for, well, some reason. He’d make the trip through the impassable Cataclysm Zone—somehow.

Outlining his start in Pannulus went well until he traveled. I gagged on the contrivance. Then, he arrived in Carrdia and it was the same Frankenstein novel. The lone difference was that I recognized what was happening.

That was it.

I’d had enough.

I gave myself one more day (April 17th) to truly reimagine the novel. If I couldn’t, then I’d scrap it for good. After, I’d go back through Riparia’s series and remove the historical mysteries.

The day didn’t start well. Brain freeze.

There were two prominent problems. The first was that I was letting the original story box in my ideas. The other was the love interest going to Carrdia. That was a problem according to my own magic rules. His grandfather had been banished via the Aperture, which requires a human life to power. Going back would require the same. Besides, who in Pannulus would want to go to dystopian Carrdia?

It was hopeless. I literally cried. Why couldn’t I conjure a fitting story for deserving characters? To think that I’d loved his life in Pannulus—


I’d already dropped her into multiple cities. What if she went to Pannulus instead? What if I used all the same backstory, but told their story in Pannulus?

*You may be wondering why people don’t travel via the Astral Plane. The reason, because of existing worldbuilding rules, is that it’s extremely dangerous for the traveler (her surviving is like surviving an airline crash). It also requires multiple witches or wizards to place someone there in the first place.

I was breathless and laughing (not a recommended combination). In an instant the ideas were a flash flood.

Poor, unloved Ametha born of mixed races is isolated for seventeen years. Ametha, who’s been schooled for her eventual return to Carrdia and is expecting a dystopian, Victorian-like society is instead thrust into a dynamic land of motorcars, jazz, and crime bosses. She then witnesses a murder tied to a deadly plot before she knows where she is.

Carrdia mysteries solved for the reader!

I’ll keep the historical backstory and her arrival from the Astral Plane. After that, it’s all new.

On day one I wrote over 4K in notes. Since then? All the plot points! A new character list and character sketches. A city map. A preliminary narrative. I’m almost halfway through a detailed narrative outline. I plan to draft Essence Stone in May, leaving Autumn for the last two Riparia novels.

This is it, folks.

This year I’ll tie-up my novel loose ends. The Ontyre Story Universe will consist of only viable drafts, stories worthy of revising.

What’s that look like?

For the first time I’ve created a graphic representation that I’ve shared below. Each novel is +100K, each novella +30K, and each novelette +10K. You can see how Ametha’s novel now bridges the gap between countries separated by the infamous Cataclysm Zone.

They’re all drafts except for Essence Stone and Riparia’s books 4&5, which I’m outlining. All those drafted have been revised at least once except for a couple of the novellas and Case of the Deadly Stroll (though I’ve read through them). There’s a lot to do, but when I have a plan I’m as powerful as the Astral Plane.

Graphic: CA Hawthorne, ©2021

About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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4 Responses to The Moment When I Saved a Novel

  1. Rick Ellrod says:

    Nothing like that moment when things suddenly start to fall into place!

  2. Pingback: Catching-up to My Subconscious | Christina Anne Hawthorne

  3. Pingback: Opening My OLD Novel Vault | Christina Anne Hawthorne

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