The Gelfling Gathering – A Dark Crystal Prequel
Posted by Dave
As those who follow me on Facebook or Twitter may already know, I have suspended work on my next book set in the world of the Warden to write a prequel to The Dark Crystal. I did not take this action without some hesitation. My Warden novels have received excellent reviews and I can even boast of having a fan or two. I am eager to complete the next one, but I have long been an admirer of Jim Henson’s work, so when my oldest daughter told me that the Jim Henson Company had just announced a call for submissions for a Dark Crystal prequel, I checked it out.
This open call for submissions is technically a contest, although I suppose all are when you get right down to it. This one has three distinct stages. In the first round, entrants will submit 7,500 to 10,000 words (about 27 to 36 double spaced pages), which can be “the first chapters, final chapters, a collection of middle chapters, or a short piece that would form the inspiration for a novel-length story.” These will be reviewed by the contest sponsors and five will be selected to go on to the next stage in which the authors will provide detailed outlines for their proposed novels. The one winner of this stage will receive a $10,000 contract with Penguin to provide a 50,000 word Young Adult novel.
I decided to go for it, although it does present some challenges. The first is that the submission period is between 1 October and 31 December 2013. That is not a lot of time to write a full novel.
But, I hear you ask, why write a complete novel when all that is required for the first round is what amounts to a couple of chapters?
That’s a good question, and the answer boils down to how I go about building my novels. They always begin with a rough idea from which I write an initial sketch of the major plot elements, settings and characters. Then I do an outline for the complete story that will be told in the novel. Once I have this, I begin work on the first chapter and go on to write the initial draft of the complete novel. After this comes revision, editing, and creating the final draft. But these steps are not as strictly sequential as they may appear. Each stage in the process inevitably necessitates changes to those that came before. I may not have an accurate outline, for example, until the final draft of the novel is complete. In order to have the best possible sample chapters and outline of the work I will submit, I must have at least a complete first draft of the entire novel.
I can see that several people are now questioning my sanity. I am, after all, committing myself to several months of intensive effort on a slim chance of earning not a lot of money. When you calculate the first prize value against the hours that go into creating the novel, you would be better off financially spending that time smiling and asking customers if they want fries with their burgers— and that’s if you win.
There is one other thing you may not have considered that will convince you of my madness.
The novel I submit will be considered a derivative work dependent on the copyright of the Dark Crystal, so if it does not win, I cannot publish it anywhere, ever. Discounting the experience and what I may have learned from writing it, all the months of intensive work will have been wasted.
Another challenge for me personally is that this is a work of Fantasy set in a world created by others. My previous novels are set in a world of my own imagination and they are Science Fiction , albeit in a setting more typical of Fantasy, but I have never written a story in which magic plays a central role. Also, at 50,000 words, the final novel required by the contract is shorter than the more epic stories I’ve written to date. My shortest, which is intended for a YA audience, is Amy’s Pendant, which has about 76,000 words. The time spent working on this Dark Crystal novel also delays the completion of my next Warden book, and I do not wish to disappoint my current fan base.
So, why am I doing it?
Well, I’ve asked myself that. The first prize contract is not terribly large. It’s certainly not feed for metaphorical chickens, but the money is not a motivator. The selfishly rational part of me says that winning this would be good publicity, and I believe it would be. I would love to have my name associated with that of Jim Henson and the Dark Crystal. This, I think, gets down to the real reason I’m taking a chance at this. I have always loved the things Jim Henson produced. In the media of film, no one could create thought provoking, insightful, and uplifting fantasy worlds that are as believable and intricate. I would like to see his work appreciated for generations to come. Extending what he began to original and well written new novels can help do this.
So, how am I coming along?
After researching all available information, I completed a sketch and initial outline for the story I have in mind. Some of the characters and details of the setting already exist, so I do not have to recreate these, although I do have to be faithful to them and have taken copious notes to help ensure that I do. The sponsors of the contest say they will be providing additional information, a kind of Dark Crystal encyclopedia, which should fill in some of the existing gaps. I look forward to seeing that, although it may lead to some revision of the work I have already done.
As for my first draft, I completed Chapter 7 last night. This brings the total word count to over 26,000, which is about the midpoint of the story. In other words, I’m on target to have it completed before the end of the submission period (and which is why I have time to write this post.)
If you share my insanity and you also wish to try your hand at this, a link to the Dark Crystal Author Quest site is provided below, or you can click on the image at the start of this post to see the Dark Crystal Facebook page. It also provides applicable links.