|The Backburner Book|
|article courtesy of Time Warner Trade Publishing|
Nobody was more surprised than the author that Warchild came out the way it did. I was working on a fantasy novel when
a character's little voice propelled me to the computer one day and strung out what eventually became the opening paragraph to
a 40-page, second-person account of his trauma, which then led to a 400+ page narrative of how he dealt with it.
Maybe I shouldn't have been shocked; the story had been brewing on the backburner for years, with a dozen false starts, half-met plot points, and an entirely different protagonist point-of-view. But I'd known it wasn't ready to "be born" and instead developed a fantasy world that I peopled and plotted for over 100 pages, before it came to a screeching halt. I knew this fantasy world but felt somehow that maybe my skill level as a writer wasn't up yet to dealing with multiple points-of-view, entangled layers of dynasty and deity, and the real possibility of a sprawling trilogy. (Note to self: Will return to this series come hell or high water). My fantasy novel perhaps wasn't meant to be my first. I had never completed one and Andarixa seemed too complicated a child, too demanding, too darn long-term. I needed to finish something stand-alone. Now.
I had workshopped the first three chapters of Andarixa on the then-named Del Rey Online Writing Workshop and received a few helpful reviews, though the story was swamped beneath the weight of others' more professional prose. Not good enough; I wanted the editors' attention. I treated the workshop like a market sample; here was a place of a few thousand spec fic people, a slice of the readership I wished one day to have. If nobody was interested in my book maybe that was telling me something. At the same time and quite independently, the book was stuttering to a halt for all the reasons mentioned above.
I distinctly remember lying in bed one morning when the sentences to my backburner SF story started pouring through my mind, in second person, a point-of-view I never once thought to write in (Big No-No, all the rulebooks said), from a character I'd previously relegated to supporting star status. I had no idea who he really was, but I had an affection for him. I pounded out the first 20 pages or so, slapped a title on it (which was never changed), and subbed it to the workshop. Then I promptly forgot about it. I didn't expect it to gain much attention (in fact I expected What is this crap? to be the gist of the crits), since my fantasy novel hadn't.
Weeks later I popped back to the workshop and discovered it was an Editors' Choice and received a slew of comments, most of them quite positive. More than one person said they wanted to know what happened next.
Well, I thought. Let's see.
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