The Evolution of a Novel

It’s hard to pinpoint when a novel begins in the writer’s mind. Our intrepid writer could be out with family to lunch, or perusing an antique shop when their hand brushes something and they have to stop.

It’s akin to magic sometimes, that initial spark where a new character comes to vivid life in a writer’s mind. They see something or hear something and suddenly there is this other personality with a grand story all their own and the writer finds themselves needing any sort of pen and paper to get the core of the idea down.

Sometimes a novel is born with just a great idea and no real character to go with it. The character comes later and what comes first is the murder mystery or the magic system or the haunting.

For my part, this has always been the most difficult kind of novel to create – the one that starts with an idea with no great character floating around it.

Primal, for example, was based on a great idea about how dragons get their magic from minerals in the earth. I had a political system in place for said dragons and all the magic figured out but every time I went to write it … I just couldn’t finish it.

The characters left something to be desired.

Now then, I know that the characters are a problem so you would think that by addressing said problem I would be able to write the book to its completion.

Apparently you would be wrong.

I’ve tried a writer’s “casting call” by putting different personalities into different places and …

Found myself writing an outline to a completely different novel.


Which I fell in love with and which will be written during National Novel Writing Month this year. (Yes! That’s just weeks away and I am excited for it.)

But let’s take a look at this evolution because I find it fascinating that I could go from 1920’s noire to urban fantasy to a completely new novel … and maybe I’ll see where it is I went wrong with Primal.

Primal started as 1920’s noire about a detective who is trying to solve a murder and stumbles into a dragon’s lair … literally. But I just didn’t love the time frame. So … I updated it to urban fantasy.

Ashton got downgraded from a detective to a taxi driver, who gets roped in by Pru (our dragon) who likes pretty things and thinks Ashton is too pretty to let go.

I found that funny but that humor could only last a few pages.

So … I swapped the genders.

Ashton was the dragon and the main female became a college student by the name of Tessa and I was in the middle of working on this one, using every cliche in the book, when all of a sudden …

I didn’t want to write it anymore.

I’m not sure if it was the cliche’s or that I was just tired of trying to fix this book, but I reached out to my writer friend (Brendon, you’re totally awesome) and we built a brand new book using only Tessa Pines.

… Nope. That didn’t help me figure out what I’d done wrong.

I’m sure I’ll finish Primal one day, but it won’t be this November/December. Because this November … I’m writing a romance-thriller-thing. And I’m going to have a blast doing it.

One thought on “The Evolution of a Novel

  1. I, too, use working titles. “Geek Games” was “New Aleyne Novel” and “Rob’s Rebellion” was “Rob’s Book” right up until the time I submitted it to my publisher.

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