Learning From Phantom Hearts

Writing is a difficult process, but it’s a valuable tool to learn from. Fantasy author Chris Michaels tells what he learned from writing his novel, Phantom Hearts.

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I have finished another draft Phantom Hearts, my intimate/epic steampunk-fantasy with a love story twist. This is a project that has a special love-hate place in my heart. I wrote my first draft several years ago while taking it through an excellent writer’s group ten pages at a time. It was my first writer’s group and one of my first (serious) attempts at a marketable novel. I was in love with the idea, characters, world, and plot, but I hadn’t yet found my voice, my style, or my process.

Needless to say I wrote 80,000 words and learned 100,000 things.

Now I’m getting ready to take Phantom Hearts back to the drawing board. Back to square two (or three) from what I had once thought was a finished/polished manuscript. What happened? I stepped away from it to write Allyson Darke (which actually is entering its polish phase) and a couple other projects. Now that I am opening it back up, I struggled with a lot of things that just didn’t seem to set right with me. More importantly, I gave it to a few objective readers and they had a lot of the same sort of feedback. My first reaction was to be depressed, quit writing, and throw the manuscript away.

Thank God for wives who believe in you 😉

I put it away again, this time for a few weeks. I thought long and hard about what the feedback was saying and what I was feeling. I came to several conclusions about the story, and more importantly about me and my writing.

I wanted to share those lessons.

1. Write Something You Would Read

At some point in the first drafts, I started immersing myself into markets. That’s not to say that I was trying to ride the wave of some fad, but I wanted to know what core elements were working, what weren’t, and where my story fit. Unfortunately, I got so carried away with it that I subconsciously changed my story, shoving in more and more elements from disparate sources to make it more “marketable.” I pulled a lot of elements from stories I wouldn’t even read myself!

Bottom line: if you wouldn’t read it, you won’t write it well.

Read the other two lessons at Learning From Phantom Hearts on Chris Michaels’s website.

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