On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, I typed the final words to the first draft of The Queen of Imagination, my slice-of-life middle grade novel exploring friendship, the adventures of childhood, and what it means to start growing up. It is the ninth book I’ve completed a full draft of. Loosely based off of my own childhood experiences, Melody Pine (the main character) is a highly satirized version of my own ten to thirteen year old self that learns many of the same lessons I learned for myself while living in Oklahoma, the best years of my childhood.
Though it’s difficult to date the book idea’s conception, I believe I started actively pursuing it circa summer of 2014, if not earlier. I completed an outline and wrote a good chunk of the first half before abandoning it in favor of working on other projects. However, the idea stuck around and appeared in various forms. I considered writing it as a stage play or musical, even compiling a list of potential songs I wanted to write for it. I have an outline for a very trimmed down version of the story with a more focused narrative arc. I debated transforming it into a prequel to Our Company of Fools, substituting Melody for Leah (the main character of OCoF). Ultimately, none of those ideas came to fruition and I forgot about the story for a couple of years. This fall, as I started thinking about what I wanted to write, I came across the document of the almost-half written draft and started skimming it. I fell back in love with the story and the narrative voice, and decided to finish it as my next novel project. It’s certainly unique among my stories as the only completed contemporary slice-of-life novel I’ve written among a string of mainly fantasy works.
Returning to this novel helped me regain some discipline in my writing habits and learn how to celebrate the small progresses. The book is currently split into 64 small chapters, each one about a thousand words or less. Before college, I used to write at least 2K words or more a day, something I haven’t managed to regain since. Through writing one short chapter a day of The Queen of Imagination, I discovered the power of writing small amounts daily. It was easier for me to muster up the energy to type a few hundred words than to gear up to write or edit a few thousand. In this season of my life, even though I perhaps have the time to write a ton, I still found it more effective to focus on the small. It takes baby steps to rebuild discipline, even if I once had the habit in the past. Moving forward to my next project, I’m determined to set more flexible goals for myself. This will allow me to write with more freedom instead of feeling pressured to produce words. It makes writing a joy instead of a job.
I learn a lot about my characters from writing my initial drafts than I do from creating character profiles beforehand. When I turn around to a first round of edits, I’m eager to apply the character-developing skills I’ve been trying to hone lately (as characterization tends to be a weakness of mine), but I do feel like I have several standout characters already. One character who surprised me most in this book was Herby, who is a completely original character in this story (as opposed to being based off of someone I know). As I wrote the story, my outline didn’t have much of an arc planned for Herby, but one organically appeared. The further I got into the story, the more he emerged on his own personal journey. It was neat to see that, because I don’t often find myself straying from my outline while I’m writing. I look forward to shaping his character arc more in future drafts.
The best part of writing this book was the narrator, who is a character in of itself. The book is written in omniscient third with a narrative voice who makes its presence known, often breaking the fourth wall, commenting upon dialogue or people, going on a few tangents, and explaining things to the reader. I know as I edit that I may have to tone back this narrative voice (or improve it in other places), but it certainly is something that makes the book special and probably what convinced me to pick it up again as a writing project. It’s quirky and charming and, I think, adds to the story immensely.
For now, The Queen of Imagination must take a rest as I move on to work on edits for the sixth draft of Our Company of Fools, which will be followed by the writing of a revamped sequel in the Fools’ Saga, Onward to Tryon (though plans do change). But I’m not finished with The Queen of Imagination yet, and look forward to whatever God has for her in the coming years. It’s a beautiful story that I hope to share with the world someday. I’m so, so grateful for this writing victory and thankful that God has created me to be a writer. To Him be the glory for this achievement!