Okay, now I feel old.
Working through a plot problem that is blocking me has always been my bane, and the cause of many of my long writing pauses. I will get stuck on something, and then stop writing while I mentally try to puzzle through it (but really, sort of wait for inspiration to strike).
AQATWW is better outlined than any of my previous books, but there are still events I haven't been able to properly arrange yet in a smooth, linear fashion, and questions that need to be answered (mostly of the "Why don't they....?" and "How does she get away with...?" variety). I tucked away the AQATWW manuscript for a little bit to work on another stab at an original novel, but now I am sort of dividing my time between them.
I've tried many methods to work my way through plot holes and story outlines. I've tried mind maps, corkboards, various software, little moleskin notebooks with nice fountain pens to make the tactile experience of writing by hand more pleasant, but I always end up with a scramble of ideas, some of which eventually get pulled into the narrative and some of which get discarded. Or literally forgotten. More than once, I have browsed one of my old notebooks and thought "Really? I don't even remember that I was going to do that, that would have been... different."
As I've said before, I'm sort of a cross between a pantser and a plotter. So I will probably never be able to get everything nicely outlined in advance. Sometimes it's when I just sit down and start typing out words that I make progress, even if the story abruptly veers in an unplanned direction. And sometimes that direction doesn't make sense and I have to cut it, which is frustrating.
To be clear, I do not believe that stories "take on a life of their own" or that characters "tell you what they're going to do." That has always struck me as a pretentious writer affection, that your creations are "alive" and exist independently of you. Alexandra is near and dear to me, and as beloved a fictional character as any I've ever read, and I do actually feel sad when I make bad things happen to her. But I don't have conversations with her, she doesn't decide what she's going to do and surprise me with what happens on the page. She does what I've decided she's going to do. When writers say that their characters are "alive," what they really mean is that they start writing and they aren't really sure what they're going to write next, but they write some dialog, and then have the character respond, and think up something that makes sense in response to that, and maybe a new idea strikes them and they start writing that, and by the end of the writing session, you may have written a new chapter that bears no resemblance to anything you had planned and surprises you at the new direction you have taken. But that wasn't your characters doing that. It wasn't a muse suddenly controlling your fingers. It was you, making a whole bunch of spontaneous decisions one after another. It's all on you to guide and control this process, or at least, to edit it afterwards into something that makes sense.
Sometimes this process is productive for me, more productive than sweating over an outline in a notebook and deciding what happens next before I write it. And sometimes it makes a mess.
Anyway, over the last two weeks I've only managed one more chapter, for 22 out of 43 outlined, and a total of 121K words.
Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle print manuscript
In the meantime, I have been wrangling with Affinity Publisher some more. I decided that I needed to increase the margins, and it turns out that reflowing text when you have multiple master templates (to handle recto and verso pages) doesn't just happen automatically, so I pretty much have had to remaster entire chapters multiple times.
The latest PDF preview file is still here. A few people have asked how they actually go about turning this into a print copy for themselves, so I will point to a post I made on the AQ subreddit: Please help me print the book.
And speaking of print copies, here's a preview of the color cover. Which I will still need to turn into an actual cover with my meager Photoshop skills to try to duplicate the AQ logo in the same way I duplicated the interior format of the HP books.
And speaking of AQ art, ankhes did two more lovely pieces of fan art, of Julia and her mother.
Finally, JackBeThimble has begun posting an AQ fanfic. It's a fanfic of a fanfic, and to make it even more meta, it's a sequel to my other fanfic, Hogwarts Houses Divided as well. Alexandra Quick and the Order of the Phoenix is an AU book five, where Alexandra goes to Hogwarts. I have given no input on this story, and was not a beta, but so far three chapters are posted and I'm enjoying it, even if I have to remind myself that this is not my Alexandra, it's Jack's.