There are times when I rue the day I decided to write a sequel to A Study In Magic. If only I stopped where I did. If only I didn’t make any promises. If only, if only, if only…
Writing A Study in Magic: The Application is hard. Over this past year, I tried to figure out why. I had a master list of required scenes and events. I had an ending. The characters knew the drill and told me what needed to happen, not the other way around. A good sign of character development, I knew. I just had to write it all out. So why so difficult?
Inspiration From Source Material: Nill
I knew part of the problem was that for A Study in Magic: The Application, I’m covering material in books six and seven. I’ve read the Order of the Phoenix, the Half-blood Prince, and the Deathly Hallows once each, and never picked them up again. When I wrote chapters 69 to 82 of A Study In Magic, I just googled the required passages rather than sift through OOTP. Every time I thought about reading the Order of the Phoenix again, I’d remember what was waiting for me and I’d shy away. On my bookshelf of beloved books, the Sorcerer’s Stone, the Chamber of Secrets, the Prisoner of Azkaban and the Goblet of Fire stand proudly next to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes. The Order of the Phoenix, the Half-blood Prince, and the Deathly Hallows are notable in their absence. They will likely not see the light of day again.
In short, while I enjoyed certain individual elements of the last three Harry Potter books, I have no love for those books as a whole.
But that’s not the main problem. I’ve worked through difficult and unpleasant parts before. The bread and butter of my paying career rely on the fact I can do things others find deeply unpleasant and difficult, and do it well. No, it wasn’t the source material that gave me pause. It was the story itself.
When You Realize You Must Grow As Writer
As of the end of A Study In Magic, I had a sense the story entered the strange border between fanfiction and original story. The safety net I once had is no longer there. A Study In Magic always had the original source I could anchor the plot on. A Study in Magic: The Application had three immovables, which are: the canon characters, the Horcruxes, and the Hallows. Harry Potter is now Harry Watson and all that entails. With some judicious alterations, I could perhaps turn it into a coming-of-age Young Adult novel about a teenaged wizard a modern-day Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson raised as their own.
This terrified me more than I can say. What makes me think I could write something that does justice to the first four Harry Potter books? I have a fraction of JK Rowlings’ resources and talent. I’ve never written a full-blown original novel before. I took the bare minimum necessary writing courses to obtain my computer science degree, and none of them were creative writing. I even used loopholes to skip learning English grammar, for crying out loud! Conceited doesn’t even begin to cover this attempt!
I have a habit of stalling when I think failure is imminent and inevitable. With this kind of dread churning in my subconscious, no wonder I’ve been stalling. Also, whenever I’m dissatisfied with my level of competency, or the lack thereof, I go and study like crazy. This time was no different. I read books on writing. I tried my hand at writing an original novella (52k words; more on it later). I lost many nights of sleep researching the current publishing landscape and readers. I’m eyeing a master’s class on writing by James Patterson. The most shocking of all, I’m teaching myself proper grammar and style. (The things you do to get better…)
I also read books on originality, rapid learning and gaining mastery in a craft. This past Monday night I read “The Dip” by Seth Godin. It talked about the moment when things get difficult; when you’re plagued with the desire to quit. The titular “Dip”. Godin advocated the only way for you to become number one in a world is to push through the Dip when everyone else is quitting. And you have to strive to be number one. We live in a winner-gets-all society. We rarely, if ever, look for average when the number one is easy to find and readily available with six clicks of a mouse.
Well, I’m not too concerned about being number one. But the process of learning, striving against difficulty, and pushing forward when everyone else is cutting loose, that I am interested in. I also learned the hard way I shouldn’t quit just because I’m afraid. Everything about my reluctance to write A Study in Magic: The Application stinks of fear … fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of the unknown. It won’t do.
The New Goal
So what now? The challenge still intimidates me. I fear A Study in Magic: The Application will never be as good as A Study In Magic. I’m not sure I have the ingenuity and wherewithal to write something worth anyone’s time, and telling myself I won’t know until I try doesn’t help. But I want to write it. I don’t like leaving things unfinished, and I hate incomplete stories as much as the next person.
So the goal: I going to use everything I’ve learned over these past six months to write A Study in Magic: The Application. If nothing else, I’ll finish the story and share all the awesome things I learned. Speaking of which…
Some Excellent Resources for Writers and Inspiring Authors
- If you have any desire to write a good story, run, not walk, to Helping Writers Become Authors. The Site does as their URL promises. K.M.’s “How to Structure a Story” and “How to Write Character Arcs” are absolute gems, and K.M. is a gifted teacher.
- Building a Believable Chain of Events in Your Novel is an excellent blog post on creating a logical chain of events. I thought I knew what I was doing until I read this.
- https://janefriedman.com/ is an excellent place to learn about the current state of affairs with publishing. I’m reading through The Future of Reading and Writing at the moment.
- 40 Exercises and Resources Every Author Needs. What the title says. The rest of the blog has good content, too, and https://www.standoutbooks.com/ offers editorial services. I’m collecting a list of good editors and agents. I going to share them for those who are wondering how in the world do you find such people…
- Finally, How to Balance Writing, Family, Work, and Life: An Unhelpful Guide for the Perplexed. It made me chuckle and wish I had a TV to throw out of a window.