Progress for Deep in Trouble

It’s been a while since I last wrote about Deep in Trouble, Cesi’s sequel to Bury’em Deep. A friend of mine inhaled Bury’em Deep recently, and her enthusiasm has reinvigorated mine. It’s also prompted me to revisit the setting and my ideas for how Deep in Trouble would work, and I’ve started making progress again!

For a long while, my work on the sequel to Bury’em Deep has been sluggish. There’s been churn, beneath the surface, but precious little progress that I’m willing to call such. Multiple attempts to write my way into the start of the story or skip past the places where I was struggling in hopes of finding a new way in have foundered on the rocks of “meh.”

Part of that is no doubt due to my lack of active early readers for the project—plenty of reasons for that, but that’s not what this post is about.

Without people pushing me and telling me that they want to read the next bit, it’s easy for me to see all the ways the story isn’t doing what I want without finding anything to be excited about. I feed on others’ enthusiasm. Having someone be loudly excited at me about the story, the setting, and be hungry for more… that helps a lot.

But I’d been stuck with Deep in Trouble for long enough that I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t like the various lines of story or scenes that I’d written for myself. So I tried redirecting my eagerness to a route that would make good use of it and (I hoped) preserve it.

So far, it’s worked. Turns out that writing background material, the bits and bobs of the setting and the world around Cesi and the other Deeps, is both engaging and rewarding. I’m able to write this background stuff and then immediately turn around and see how it might reshape the little details I’ve been struggling with in Cesi’s story. That, in turn, makes me excited to return to the main plot that I’ve had so much trouble with previously.

I know I’ve written myself into a corner before. It’s like I dig up background material until I’m stuck in a hole and I don’t know how to escape. I’m not trapped in the background material, I just see that somewhere along the way I’ve written something that makes the larger story I want to tell not-work. That, of course, is a shitty experience. Whenever I do that, I have to pore back over all the work I’ve done until I can find a way to either delete the key piece in my way or thread the Scylla and Charybdis that I’ve made for myself.

But so far I haven’t done that this time! I certainly have found previous words I wrote which I now disagree with, and I’ve struck those out. My hope is that I can write enough new background material to push myself forward, and not so much that I get in my own way.

The biggest changes I’ve made so far have been tied to reimagining how Rhea chooses candidates for the school in which Cesi is trapped. Those aren’t the biggest contributions I’ve made to the setting (that would probably be developing more backstory for the power players in Jupiter’s orbit), but they’ve had the biggest impact on my writing and my ideas. The key piece was recognizing that no one in the school could be merely mediocre. There would be other important reasons for the students’ selection as attendees, but the academy would only take the best and brightest within those other parameters.

This change seems obvious to me now. But for some reason, I hadn’t thought that part through previously. I really like the way it changes the dynamics between Cesi and her classmates.

I had previously written scenes in which Cesi not only judged her classmates but was correct in her judgments: she was more talented than they were. She had skills they didn’t, and they didn’t have skills that she would recognize as comparable to her own. It was pretty toxic.

It certainly didn’t give those other students as much agency when they pushed Cesi out of her comfort zone. Before, Cesi was uncomfortable because she was stuck with strangers—but she could protect herself with disdain. Now, with the little bits I’ve written so far, Cesi is uncomfortable because she’s stuck with strangers and because those strangers are forcing her to question her own skill by demanding that she keep up or quit (though quitting isn’t actually an option for any of them, whether or not they know that).

Giving up isn’t precisely Cesi’s strong suit. Nor is acknowledging her defeat by someone else, especially a baddie. She’s grown up in an environment where she can either get things right or risk the lives of everyone she knows and loves, and she’s managed to keep those people alive so far. In other words, this change feels really good. It feels like it gives Cesi more and bigger challenges, more to struggle with and more forces that will demand she change or grow.


Yeah, I’m excited about working on this story again.


3 responses to “Progress for Deep in Trouble

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