In the years since I first wrote Sea of Dreams, I have come back to it from time to time with thoughts of revising it, or even rewriting it completely. I have learned a great deal about the business of novel writing, as well as the craft behind it and see how it could benefit from a tighter focus.
Yet… I have never managed to bring myself to rewrite the book. In part this has to do with wanting to move on and not spend forever perfecting what can never be perfected. A book is a snapshot of a moment in time and once that moment is gone, the attempt to recapture it rings hollow, like trying to recapture one’s youth.
Another reason I have resisted touching the book is the fact when I started it, I actually had no plan to write a novel. In fact, I had no plan at all. I simply wrote the first paragraph one day, liked it and kept writing. It wasn’t until I had tens of thousands of words that the idea came that this would be a novel. Up to that point, I had been following my imagination and building a world. With a bit of rewriting and luck, I managed to shape what I had into a story.
While the title had come to me rather early in the process, the subtitle “A book of beginnings” only appeared once I had started editing. It was originally meant to indicate that this was the first book in a series. It set the stage for everything else that followed. Since then, I have realized that it is also the beginning of a whole world. Over the past few years, I have written hundreds of thousands of words about the characters and situations that emerged in Sea of Dreams. Some of these stories reach back to events that occurred before the book, some after. I have also elaborated stories and sketches about characters and scenes in the book itself. All of these circling around a few themes that animated the book: the confrontation with the unknown, the nature of life and evolution. Yet somehow, I have not managed to shape these words into the planned second novel, or any other complete form, for that matter. It is as if there is too much to explore. Every time I start down one path, another emerges that looks even more intriguing.
It had gotten to the point where I had given up writing anything. I was paralyzed by the vast array of choices open before me. At a certain point, I realized that was exactly how I lived my life, flitting from one interest to another. I had never given myself a focus, saying this is what I want to do and be. Instead, there was a constant reaction to each new solicitation. I would read something about a new technology and want to do that. The next day, I wanted to give it all up and become an author, then I wanted to make money as an investor then I…
It was really thanks to work that I have been doing for years on being more self-aware and present in life that I saw all this and have started to take steps toward having a focus for my life. I have come back to the world of Sea of Dreams again, using some of the tools that other writers have suggested to create story arcs and emotional journeys to shape a new novel continuing the adventures of Wong Anming, Ling Xaomin and the taikonauts.
It is an interesting process, saying “no” to things, no matter how good they are because they do not fit into the arc that I am working on. This is a process of redefining discipline, moving away from the negative, coercive idea that has dominated my life up to this point and towards the idea that moving ahead requires steps in a defined direction. The key shift that come about is that the old definition was based on someone, or something, outside me setting the direction as opposed to me setting it for myself. I look forward to the new journey.