This story has many problems. First and foremost is the dislike-ability of the protagonist. Normally when people say they hate author inserts it is because the author insert is a Mary Sue type character, not because they are so dislikeable that people have a hard time reading it. Elie is based off of me. Not me as I am now, thankfully, but how I was for a short period of time around three or four years ago. I was a jerk to many people during that time, then they called me out on it, and I stopped. My view of them didn’t change, it was more that I didn’t want to be mean anymore. I also was a lot less brash and independent than Elie is. I think that adds to her being dislikeable, since she is independent and takes the initiative in some ways but in others relies completely on her friends. After the first time she persuaded them to go stealing I’ve tried to lay off her attitude a little, at least in regards to her friends, so she seems to be getting nicer. At least that is my intent. The characters that I like, that could be abrasive and cocky, are generally both good enough to back up the cockiness and successful with their heart ultimately in the right place. Elie doesn’t have either of these aspects yet, though I am working on growing them.
I am bored of her and the whole story at this point. I’ve written over seventy thousand words of it, which is much more than I’d ever written on one project in my life, and the plot is going nowhere. The lack of direction of the plot is completely my fault, even more than any character flaws of Elie are. She develops somewhat naturally as a character, almost has a mind of her own, but the plot just slouches along, directionless. This is because I had no plot planned when I started. I basically conceived this based on what I thought was cool and wanted to read. Teenage girl with ambiguous sexuality runs a mini thievery ring. They steal stuff from people’s houses. To provide motivation for this, I came up with the quarantine. That was not my best idea. It caused way more problems than it solved in terms of plot and setting. I plan one chapter ahead, and sometimes not even that. I have a general idea of where I want to go in the future in terms of interpersonal relationships and a macro level plot, but once I’m there I have no idea where to go.
That is also why I think the story has taken much longer than it should have to reach this point. I should have maybe thirty thousand less words than I do. That is partially due to the fact that when I write, I put on music with headphones and zone out. Basically, what comes out comes out. Like that thing with the diagram on her fathers’ computer in the last chapter, or Janine intervening then kissing Elie in the locker room, or basically any of their interactions, or anything in class, just comes out. Like I know that I want characters to talk, and if I “see” one of them, I’ll talk to them. The conversations also meander and go off on tangents that aren’t where I wanted them to go.
I think my prose stands well enough on its own. It is not excellent by any means, might not even qualify as above average, but I think if I have an interesting plot and characters, it is good enough. Those other aspects were not present or not developed well enough is this case.
For next time, I need to have a plot sketched out in advance. Specific things I want to happen in each chapter. Foreshadowing, cliffhangers, Chekov Guns, anything. I need to make my characters more likeable. Elie isn’t awesome enough to justify how much of a bitch she is. Know what is going to happen instead of letting the story run. I’m debating whether to continue this story currently. If I do continue, I know I want this break-in, then a shake-up within the group concerning motivation, then another break-in, then a lifting of the quarantine. That shouldn’t take me more than 30k words, which is less than a month writing full-pace. From there, the plot becomes wide open, and I only have vague ideas. I don’t feel like I have a solid enough framework as it is to build a plot after the quarantine is lifted. I don’t want to write this section and then be lost or worse, run out into the rainforest of possibilities and end up drowning in a river.
At this point I think I would rather start something new. I don’t know what, but something. At some point soon. I really don’t like abandoning stuff, but I don’t like my own story well enough to continue writing it. It has too many deep-rooted flaws that would take too much effort to excise. Instead, I shall start with a clean slate. I might resume this story at some point since I like the concept and the characters, but the setting and plot need some major adjustment. Attached are all the story notes I have.