Novel development

With the help of NaNoWriMo and the 3DayNovel I have finished four novels, but after a year and a half on my current main WIP, I’m still stuck.

If you don’t mind, I’m going to have a discussion with myself, using you as the audience.


It’s a big challenge. The character now has far more elements to her than any other character that I’ve written—the result of having danced with her for longer than any other character—but the biggest problem is that the story doesn’t fit a structure easily. It also doesn’t fit any genre easily, which is another problem, one that keeps coming up for the local writing group that is being bashed over their heads with it.

And another issue is that it’s two stories in one. Actually, many stories in one if you consider the three backstories that are thrown in, and in one case I really mean thrown in. One breaks in and is titled ‘Memoir’, and the narrator meanders through some of her early history. Fine. Another comes from another character, but is told to the narrator as they sit in a car killing time. Really fine; that’s how backstory should be naturally slotted in, but the third appears out of nowhere and it jumps into 3rd person for the first and only time in the novel, and the central character’s name is never given. The reader has to assume at some point that it is a 3rd person retelling of the narrator’s backstory.

All of this is melded into a telling of the current situation of the narrator.

But what genre are we in? Lit? Fake memoir? Coming of age?

It’s really closest to a fake memoir.

Maybe that means that I should write it like a memoir, selecting incidents from a plethora of situations that will best collectively tell the overall story that I want to tell. If she is now five, ten years older and reflecting on her youth, on how she began in the business, how would she write her story?

That in and of itself wouldn’t be the worst thing, but the problem is that the second half of the novel is a mystery/detective story because that’s what the narrator is becoming; a PI. See, the entire story is kind of a prequel, showing where she came from and how she became the PI she would be in subsequent novels; a prequel to a novel that hasn’t been written yet. So to finish the novel I have to write her first mystery, but the problem is that the first half of the novel is not a mystery.

On top of this, I feel that the mystery part has to parallel, mirror, yet also be the opposite of her own personal history, which really constricts how the mystery itself can unravel.


After writing to this point, I caused a minor epiphany, and took a break before coming back to this post.

I realized that it would be entirely possible to write this novel as a stock detective genre novel. All I need to do is start with the end, run the story in two timelines, and let the history catch up to the beginning of the novel. A stock format. One that tricks the reader into the story by starting with excitement. If I did this I would prune the first scenes of the story down to bare minimums, just enough to set up the characters and to play out the parallel back stories, but that means two things: 1) the ending mystery better be good; something that can stand on its own, and 2) I”m ‘selling out’, turning my prequel into a genre novel.

That last thing disconcerted me. It doesn’t really matter whether I am selling out or not, only that I feel as if I am doing so.

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