My work in progress is coming along nicely, but it isn't the story I thought I was writing.
This story has been around for a long time. Rewriting it was not going to fix it, so I took one plot line and did a very simple outline for it. As I wrote, the plot shifted. It's still heading in the direction I wanted it to, but I'm going to arrive from a different starting point.
All of the previous writing I did has been invaluable. I know the galaxy and the politics of the different planets. I have backstories on all of the characters. I know them intimately. But this time around they are surprising me. I'm letting them run.
Instead of info dumping, I am building the information into the story. It's a lot of fun. And it is so much more organic to the growth of the world. It's a big world and there is a lot to know about it. But tossing all that information at the reader is overwhelming and at this point, useless.
The world grows as the characters move through it. There are 20 planets in my world. But not all of them are involved in the beginning of the story. It's like writing a novel based in Bangor, Maine, but spending time talking about the other 49 states. The reader doesn't need to know any of that right away, or maybe at all.
In one of the previous versions, one of my beta readers said she couldn't keep track of the places and people. I know I had way too many characters, but I couldn't understand why the places were confusing. Partly I think it's because I made it too complicated. Every stopover had an incident, politics and new species. Those things might have enriched the world, but they didn't move the plot forward. I was heaping whipped cream and fudge sauce on top of a tiny sliver of ice cream. The window dressing took over.
As I write out the bare bones for this story I am enjoying the new freedom my characters have. They are acting like people now that I have removed the strictures of the previous plot requirements. And some new skills I've picked up in the last few novels are helping make it into a much more interesting story.