The Truth About Scope Creep

(This post originally appeared on my secondary blog, Alchemist of the Arch, on May 29, 2013. I’m now merging that blog with this one for more consistent upkeep.)

I keep trying to write a romance novel.

Nice, simple, overly-dramatic drivel with lots of breathless swooning and smooching that I don’t even plan to put my name on at the end of the day.

The Alchemist of the Arch series, at its humblest beginnings, was going to be as trashy a fantasy romance as I could possibly muster up. I was out of work, trying to pay the bills, and I thought, “Meh, a nice terribad romance might do the trick.”

Somewhere along the relatively few stages of development, though, I got attached. My first mistake was reaching for easy inspiration with something I already held dear–Celtic mythology. “Aw yeah, Handsome-Guy is gonna be a Druid. With cool ram’s horns. Deal with it, History.”

My next mistake was bestowing on my female protagonist a name I’d been holding in reserve for over three years, waiting for a good time to use it. In a fit of malaise, I pulled it out of the deck. “Real authorship may never happen, anyway. May as well use it while I can.”

Perhaps the felling blow came when I sat down to describe the story to my friend, Maya. As I went through the outline, I recognized several plot holes and even more moments where we both questioned why the characters would react in such unnatural ways simply to propel the plot line to a satisfactorily swoonful-smoochful end.

OCD got the better of me and I began to smooth out the edges. My sister, who was all for me cranking out a potential bill-payer (“I’m never reading it,” she told me, “because…ya know…I don’t wanna know. But it sounds like it could at least help with bills”), almost lost her mind when she heard I was rethinking the plot and scope. “No, No, No. You need to just finish it and sell it. I know it will sell.” It was the weirdest mixture of encouragement and dire exasperation one could hope to encounter.

So it went on in this manner until the rough outline of a gooey romance became the tragic prequel to a trilogy that would follow the current protagonist’s daughter through five worlds and into the mindless vacuum of death. At its heart, however, it is still a romance. Just a little less woefully gooey.

It’s become a study in alchemy and mythology from all over the world, and even though my bills may not forgive me until development has yielded something promising, I’m feeling pretty groovy about it.

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