I cannot tell you when exactly I started writing on Elementals this year. I know I thought of the original idea during my first year of college. I have half a dozen sketches and finished pictures of the characters. I had half a dozen scenes written when I pulled it out of the file. I knew exactly where it was going.
Except I didn't.
Turns out, I'm quite a different person than I was my first year of college. I like to think the essentials are the same, but the knowledge base has broadened significantly. Things that seemed very simple in 1990 are not so simple when viewed in 2009.
I planned a story about two sisters, a story about elemental forces of fire, water, wind and earth. Turns out I'm writing a story about elemental forces of good and evil, light and darkness, forgiveness and anger, plus all that other stuff.
I have fought with this story since I pulled it out of the file cabinet. I've yelled at the computer. I've wrestled with viewpoint. I've gotten so stuck I paced my living room wondering who I could call to tell me what to do (there is no one like that, by the way. I'm the author, so it's all on my shoulders, curse it).
I complained to a dear friend. "I don't understand. Star of Justice wasn't like this. Star of Justice was so easy. Why can't Elementals be easy? The story is all there. I know what's going to happen. Why can't I write it?"
She gave me the best writing advice I may have ever heard. "Stop treating them like the same book. It's your second book. It's going to be different."
I argued of course. What frustrated parent hasn't argued when someone points out the obvious, especially when that someone is a layman? She doesn't write. She couldn't possibly know anything about the process.
She was right anyway. I stopped comparing the two books. I stopped trying to rewrite my first book. I decided to let Elementals be what it would be. Once I did that, something strange happened. I could write again.
One other thing I realized only after I stopped yelling at my book.
If you'd asked me anytime before this year how I like to write, I would have told you I'm a "plotter." That's someone who plots out everything in advance. I thought that because I wrote scenes that could theoretically be strung together.
Turns out I'm a "pantser." That's someone who has a general direction and flies by the seat of her pants to get there. If I write ahead, I stop writing because I've fulfilled my need to get to "the important stuff."
See, I've been plotting Elementals. I should have been pantsing. I've stopped being worried about including all of those scenes I wrote once upon a time (some of which should be served with wine and crackers, they're so cheesy) and I'm letting the story go where it wants to go.
It's going to be different. It's hopefully going to be better. Since I'm the only one who's ever read those original scenes, only I will really know.
I hope I'm right.