A new child...
Done. Gestation period, nine months. I wrote the final sentence to the first full draft of Jaysin’s Song today: 108,000 words. That’s the easy part finished. Now I begin the first full edit.
The last month of this project, representing probably around 10,000 words of writing, has proven difficult, moreso because it demanded time to read back over parts of the growing manuscript and reference further back to the previous two books leading to this one. I mentioned that part of the editing process about to commence will be ensuring consistency of all aspects of the story across all three books now. Reaching a conclusion in the third book forced me to do more work on the consistency and linking process than I planned to do, but I should have expected it because this will be the fourth fantasy series I’ve written, and every series demands the care in ensuring characters and places and languages retain accuracy across the series.
But, for now, the first draft exists, and I’m satisfied.
The editing begins almost immediately – well, maybe in a couple of days. Apart from factual consistency and spelling and grammar, what will I be looking for? The far from exhaustive list includes:
I’m laughing, reading the above, because it makes me want to walk away and not do the hard work ahead, but that’s the key part of moving writing from a creative escape exercise into a crafting process, taking the detailed palette sketch and refining it to move it toward a full painting – 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration.
Once the first raw edit is done, it will be on to some trusted beta readers who will let me know what extra editing and work is required.
Okay. I have work today.
"We are such stuff as dreams are made on:"
Last night I woke from an incredibly sad dream, about loss and loneliness. I’ll spare you the depressive details, but the impact of dreams in our lives for me has to translate into the lives and experiences of characters whose stories I tell. In fact, I insert dreams in stories to give readers greater insight into the subconscious matters affecting and influencing characters for deeper understanding of those characters.
In the current project, Jaysin is challenged on several matters as the story draws to a conclusion. He wants power and identity. He wants to become his ‘best self’, to stand apart and be recognised for who he can be. He feels his siblings overshadow him and hold him back, while his new mentor offers him opportunities to grow. But there is a double cost involved.
First, there are ethical dilemmas for Jaysin in serving the Empire – the determined will of the rulers to subjugate those who do not want to be ruled. The parallels with protest marchers over COVID restrictions is a prime current example of how the ruling class have to use ‘force’ to keep the population safe against a population that believes it is being oppressed by the ruling class. Who is morally right? Is there any ‘right’ in the clash? In order to stay with his mentor and grow in his magical prowess, Jaysin must be willing to become involved in politics and social order imposed by the Imperial laws and leaders, and that means dealing harshly with ordinary people who fight for their version of freedom. In almost every scenario in life, choosing to follow a mentor means changing your perspective of the world and human behaviours. When I was mentored to become a better teacher, I had to alter my perspective of the classroom, my practices, and my understanding of the nature of what teachers and students are in that environment. When my volleyball mentor set a goal for our team to enter National competitions, I had to change my perspective of what playing a game meant and my practices to be a better contributor in a team role. To become something different, you cannot remain the same.
Second, to accept his mentor and the law of the Empire, Jaysin must become increasingly estranged from his family. This is partly a physical separation – Tam and Chasse are hiding in the western mountains, Jaysin is in the Imperial capital. It is partly a political separation – Jaysin must choose between serving the Empire or rebelling against it, and his family are outlaws by default. It is also partly an emotional separation because they are family and the siblings struggled together to survive the collapse of their home village and loss of its culture. Jaysin was nurtured into beginning his journey into magic by Tamesan, and he admires his brother’s physical prowess even though he, personally, was never destined to become a Harbin dragonwarrior.
To draw Jaysin away from his family, his mentor offers growth in magical knowledge and power. She offers comfort and status. She offers a broader understanding of the wider world – at least from her point of view. Every day, worldwide, people leave families behind to pursue careers and passions – children leaving parents, spouses leaving partners and families. We must acknowledge and remember and reflect upon the fact that some of the most revered and successful individuals in human history only achieved success by severing ties with family or abandoning family to chase their dreams.
And so to dreams. The complex psychology that makes us dream of the things deeply concerning us – sense of loss, abandonment, injustice, confusion, loneliness, fear, frustration and anger – is a valuable vehicle in opening and explaining characters in stories. In itself, a creative story is a form of dreaming because it allows readers to journey with characters and share their experiences and wake from the end perhaps wiser or more confused, but awake nevertheless. Revealing character’s dreams reveals the character’s deepest struggles that cannot be easily revealed in waking action and interaction.
Jaysin’s Song is at 90,000 words – just over – with approximately four chapters to write. Today, having finished this blog, I enter one of Jaysin’s dreams to start a new chapter.
The Source of Magic
Jaysin’s Song is at 80,000 words – roughly with nine chapters remaining to write. I can see the end – it’s just within my grasp, though I’m not entirely sure what it will look like when I reach it. So, let’s talk a little about magic.
I have, from the outset, way back in 1990 when Guardians was barely ten chapters in draft and a concept proposal on its way to Roxarne Burns at Pan MacMillan, wrestled with the ‘science’ of the magic that would permeate my fantasy novels. I was caught between magic emerging from certain beings understanding and manipulating the auras and energies at the core of all things, and an alien intervention – a source of magic that falls from the stars. In the end I combined both, allowing a character I named A Ahmud Ki to explore and become adept at what were called the five Kis – each school of magic understood, and misunderstood, by some but not by others. The oldest form of magic was born from the Elvenaar and the Aelendyell who learned how to manipulate the energies residual in all matter. To warm a rock, the secret was to learn the phrases that would cause the rock to resonate, its energy being released as warmth. To that, they added the ability to affect and control the mind, allowing illusion and similar magic to be applied. But then I introduced to the world history of my works a cataclysmic event – a meteor shower that brought with it the alien magic of amber – not amber as we know it, but a material that could amplify the energies and illusions of the older magic and make it many times more powerful. In the Andrakis trilogy, the power of amber is mentioned, but not truly understood by all. However, in the Ashuak Chronicles, amber is recognised as the conduit for and source of powerful magic, and by the Dreaming in Amber quatrology it is understood for what it is.
The Last Wizard novels slowly embrace the amber and energy magics because they are set in a separate part of the same world as Andrakis, Ashua and Amber, though at a different time. The Herbal Man and his dragon companion, Claryssa, from the first book, were survivors of a past age when wizards and dragons made their powerful but flawed pact and infused their beings with the amber in the same way as dragons were infused with it millennia before by the Elvenaar. Tam inherits this ancient legacy through her union with the dragon, Harmi. I will unfold the dragon evolution in another blog because it is the background of the fourth (unwritten) book in The Last Wizard series.
The Last Wizard novels are ‘coming of age’ tales for the four characters – Tamesan, Chasse, Jaysin and Harmi the dragon – and the Harbin community from which they originate had little understanding of the wider world beyond the mountains and the ocean surrounding it. Each book takes our characters further and deeper into a world where politics and social fabrics are increasingly more complex and fraught. So it is with the magic that they discover, especially Jaysin. The section I’m writing now in Jaysin’s Song has Jaysin stumbling upon the oldest forms of magic from the Elvenaar and Aelendyell, the ones who eventually transformed large forest lizards into dragons using the alien amber and became the Dragonlords. I write in circles along a background and history planned thirty years ago. It’s fun.
Starting a new chapter today reminded me of the constant challenge of beginnings. In a universe far, far away, when I taught classes at TAFE, WEA and SA Writers, I would work with writers on beginnings, using examples of famous novel openings like the following:
“It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.” – Paul Auster, City of Glass
“Call me Ishmael.” – Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
“Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.” – Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups
“You better not never tell nobody but God.” – Alice Walker, The Color Purple
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” – George Orwell, 1984
“Mother died today.” – Albert Camus, The Stranger
“At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin.” – Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life Of Bees
“All this happened, more or less.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
“Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you’re dead.” – Laura Whitcomb, A Certain Slant of Light
So, openings to novels and chapters, for me, must have something for the reader, something enticing, informative, mood creative. Out of curiosity, today I went back over the three manuscripts in this series and grabbed the existing opening lines to compare:
“Marc rubbed his thick stubble, his fingers tracing the long white scar running from his left eye to his collarbone.” – Tamesan’s Song
“Kevan limped onto the jetty, scars pulling against his skin, reminding him the past was close.” – Chasse’s Song
“Masha saw the shape appear against the white peak of Jenjaka Mountain and rose from his chair, his knees complaining at being made to move.” – Jaysin’s Song
The openings are deliberately designed to link the writing style and mirror similar content. All three men are watching, anticipating arrivals or changes. There are references to scars and arthritic or damaged knees, perhaps to suggest worlds with a history or trouble or war. All three characters are not central characters (Marc and Masha are very minor players in the stories). Each suggests a world in motion, one where the characters are living before the reader arrives. The sentences/paragraph that follow each opening line establish time, place and mood.
I also thought it would be interesting to grab the unedited opening lines to the last four chapters I’ve written in the current project to see what I’m doing:
“‘We are foreigners and women,’ Laseen reminded Jaysin.”
“Jaysin trailed in the wake of the black garbed Karudarteta along a wide corridor that penetrated deeper into the Imperial Palace.”
“He focused, whispering the phrase Tam taught him.”
“Two black robed servants and eight Kermakk soldiers marched across the dock toward the barge in the dawn light and crisp air.”
Each opening line leads the reader into the events taking place. In the first, as Jaysin prepares to use a disguise to reach the leader of the Kermakk Empire he is reminded of the oppression of women and strangers. In the second, he is being led into a sacred unknown. The third is a reminder of his magical skill and capacity to learn. The fourth sets a situation that is to unfold in the chapter. Yes, all four will be edited and change by the time the project is done.
Although not strictly true for every opening I create, I like to take the reader directly into action, an event, a conversation so the reader is immersed and wants to know what is happening or will happen as a result. Where appropriate or useful, the chapter opening will offer connections with events in the previous chapter, as does each example from Jaysin’s Song.
Story openings and chapters are reader hooks and connectors. If effective, they keep the reader engaged and/or remind them of what has happened so far and hint at what might happen next. They can establish action, plot, character, mood and setting succinctly.
The project is now at 73,000 words – almost three-quarters done. I was aiming at 10,000 words of writing or more this week, and made 8,000, but it’s a fortnight filled with family birthdays, so maybe I was being overly ambitious. Either way, it’s been a good week.
What's your preference?
Today is always my Dad’s birthday. It feels strange to remember it is now thirty-one years since he passed. The older I get, the more I wish I was able to have the chats an adult me could have had with Dad. In all honesty, I never knew him enough to know how he felt about growing up, or the changes in himself and in the world he lived through. That saddens me.
Jaysin’s Song hit 65,000 words this past week and I’m facing a week off work which might allow me to add more words than usual.
Over the last fortnight, I’ve wrestled with plot and character. Jaysin has offered himself in exchange for his brother Chasse’s freedom. Of course, he intends to escape as soon as he knows his brother is safe, but the story demands he remains in the Kermakk Empire where he grows in stature and ability as a sorcerer, so it has been an interesting exercise to determine how to ‘lure’ him to stay. In response, I’ve created a mentor, a person who can show him how to become more powerful and able than he currently is, someone a lot like himself.
Determining character sexuality is, in itself, always a fascinating process in writing. Although I have mapped Jaysin’s sexuality, along with his siblings and other characters, it becomes interesting when sexuality forms a part of understanding characters and their relationships and motivations.
Tam, in Tamesan’s Song, is portrayed as heterosexual, given the interest the male characters have in her, and her own responses to events. However, as we learn by the story’s end, and definitely into the second book, Tam’s life is intertwined with Harmi the dragon, and she has no portrayed desire to seek a human partner, leaving her sexuality either subsumed entirely by her commitment to Harmi, or dormant, or asexual. Her story begins with her aged fifteen, on the cusp of being chosen as a wife in the Harbin community. By Book Three, she is twenty, but in a very different relationship with Harmi and Book Four (not yet started), Harmi’s Song, will reveal more of this aspect of her character.
Chasse is developed as a sixteen-year-old heterosexual male in book one and during Book Two – Chasse’s Song – he establishes an unrequited romantic relationship with Banni, a widowed village woman. In Jaysin’s Song, at age twenty-one, he is betrothed to a fellow and female warrior, but since his enslavement as a prisoner that relationship is yet to be developed further.
And then we have Jaysin. As described in previous entries, Jaysin is the odd child out, a loner, and circumstances and his passion for learning magic have isolated him from potentially romantic relationships. He is, after all, just fifteen by the opening of Book Three – naïve and inexperienced in matters of love and sexuality. What Jaysin hasn’t faced yet, but what is true about him, is that his sexual fascination is with males. In Jaysin’s birthplace, Harbin, no one even considered sexuality being non-heterosexual because the society was based entirely on a heterosexual tradition. The place all four escape to, Machutzka, sexual orientation is not questioned. People partner as they choose, and when they have chosen a life-mate the relationship is formalised and celebrated. To a degree, this is also true of the Kermakk Empire where Chasse and Jaysin are imprisoned (at this point). The Kermakk ruler, the Karudar Marfek, is a female with a female partner, and Jaysin is only about to learn the extent of this relationship, which will spark his exploration of his own ‘need’ for a lover and understanding of his sexuality.
The subject of sexuality is a very minor sub-theme across this series, neither included to titillate, challenge or shock (I leave that to my darker fantasy novels), nor to make statements. It exists to flesh out the characters as being multi-faceted within the context of their world and their social groups. It’s fascinating to determine a character’s sexuality, however, in line with how it affects the way they respond to other characters and to situations. It cannot be ignored, any more than how they eat, dress, speak and see the world.
The heart of stories are the characters. Growing characters is a fun, complex, sometimes confusing, sometimes exhilarating, always challenging process.
Jaysin in The Last Wizard Saga is a fascinating character. He first appears in Tamesan’s Song as Tam’s little brother, a child a few years younger than the older son, Chasse, and at least five years behind Tam.
In a family, a gap between siblings can exist for many reasons – a lost pregnancy between, an unplanned addition, family upheavals or displacements, and so on. The age gap presents a range of challenges for the family and the child at the end of the gap. So, too, does birth order. In the ‘real’ world, third child syndrome is a legitimate study. The third child becomes the ‘distant’ child, the one everyone knows what will happen to him/her, the one that finds parents don’t panic when awkward things happen to them or celebrate their first steps or growth moments. Light internet reading, if you’re truly bored, reveals the following views on third child syndrome:
Jaysin is introduced into the first book as a misfit, an unusual child. He doesn’t display the typical male characteristics expected in his world – playfulness, vigour, interested in wrestling and tussling for alpha dominance. Instead, he withdraws from the other children, partly because he has little interest in their games and partly because the other children recognise his difference and ostracise him. Jaysin’s disinterest in ‘manly’ pursuits aggravates his father and the relationship deteriorates as Kevan expresses his disappointment in his son. Ironically, when Kevan faces Trask in a fight for leadership, Jaysin leaps to his father’s defence, futile as such an act would be for a nine-year-old. In having him do this, I sow the seed that, despite his estrangement from his father, he loves him.
Jaysin does show interest in the natural world, much like his sister, and he explores the mountain and studies the animals. He is very much a loner. Later in the story, Eric the Herbal Man tells Tam that Jaysin will become someone special, because of his curiosity and innate intelligence. So, in Tamesan’s Song, I foreshadow that Jaysin will come into his own. That first book, published in 1995, was always meant to be a stand-alone novel, but now that it is growing into a four-book saga the seeds I planted for Jaysin are flourishing.
I add more foreshadowing to Jaysin’s prophesied future in the second book, Chasse’s Song. While the second book is Chasse’s coming of age story as he comes to terms with his purpose in the scheme of the world, Jaysin’s growth continues as a side plot. Here, I ensure Jaysin becomes an avid reader and a natural acquirer and generator of magic, exactly as Eric foretold in the first book. The quiet, studious and distant child reveals his affinity for animals, especially wolves, and demonstrates that he not only wants to learn spells but wants to modify, synthesise and expand them.
By the time we reach the current project, Jaysin’s Song, at fifteen, Jaysin is developing into a fledgling sorcerer, capable of manipulating the latent energy in all matter to create light and heat, heal, move through materials, translocate and fool the minds of others through illusion.
Being the third child, Jaysin is both in awe of his sibling’s abilities – Chasse the warrior, Tam the wizard and dragon partner – and intensely jealous of them. His jealousy drives him to want to become as powerful as they are, even more so, because, in their ways they have received the attention and the accolades of others while he has sat in their shadows as the ‘odd’ child, the little brother. He does love them – will willingly risk his life for them – but, in the end, he wants to rise above them and be known for his talent.
Thus, writing book three involves creating Jaysin consistently and believably as the third child, the youngest brother who wants recognition and love and to be appreciated in exactly the same way as his siblings. As he did for his father, he will go out of his way to save his brother and sister. As Eric predicted, he will pursue magic and become unique. As foreshadowed from the outset, his curiosity will drive him to search for knowledge and magic beyond the basics. While he is forced to interact with others, even enlist their assistance, he is ultimately a loner still, an individual who believes he can only become who wants to become by his efforts and risks and commitment.
Character development drives my writing. I used to tell writing workshop participants that, while I made notes and plans for characters, I only come to know my characters as their story unfolds and they often surprise me by revealing an aspect of their personality I hadn’t planned or considered. This experience is endured and loved by writers all over the world. It’s true. We learn as we write.
Passing 50,000 words is the halfway mark in the current writing project, a milestone that gives me the imperative to get cracking.
Worldbuilding sits behind fantasy writing – creating credible, logical environments for the characters’ journeys. Jaysin has come from the Harbin dragonwarrior world, lived for three years in the Machutzkan city, and now ventures into the Kermakkian Empire. The three societies have different languages, culture, beliefs, practices. I have made the Machutzkan and Kermakkian languages similarly aligned in that Machutzka is a city of refugees from the Kermakkian Empire whose language has become a working dialect over time.
As a once-avid D&D player, the language barriers broken by the implementation of a Common language in the game sometimes irritated me, although in DM roles I made certain language barriers were commonplace. Where a common language does transfer across cultures – as in the case of English in this world – it is almost always by necessity for commerce/trade. For the world I am creating in The Last Wizard saga, I am also creating potentially up to six languages (if I include dragon) and that means not only generating sound combinations and words but also grammar – “Not easy it is” (said in Yoda-ese) – as we know is true for the differences between Romance languages and Germanic languages and so on. Jaysin, adept and intelligent, can learn languages with reasonable ease, but he learns also that language has dialects and nuances that a mere memorisation of words and phrases and grammar does not capture in everyday communication, and that can lead to misunderstandings.
A long time ago, when I first read Feist’s Magician, before I ever read Tolkien’s books, the cultural gaps created between two worlds revealed to me that I need to be aware of the same gaps when I write.
Yesterday and today, for example, I had to work back through the manuscript to establish a religious practice in the Kermakkian Empire that Jaysin slowly comes to recognise as he searched for his brother. The Kermakkian population, totally misogynistic in religious practices, are Men of the Faith, following One True God – He Who Cannot be Named – and they perform a prayer ritual twice a day at sunrise and sunset. Once a ‘week’, the men spend a day in prayer, called Shebaal, and that is the only day women and children can be on the streets and in the markets. That’s a quick example of building culture in a society for the story. There’s a lot more going on.
To keep track of the cultural build, I keep notes. Some notes are developed before writing, but many are built as the story demands. Political structures I often build before I begin because they dictate possibilities. Trade and commercial infrastructure, travel and transport all have to be noted and accounted for as the tale builds.
The snapshots with this blog are quick examples of notes and sketches I complete as I build the world and the story. Sadly, much of the information seldom makes it into the final novel, or is created to ensure a paragraph or character comment is not contradicted at another point. But it is essential, nevertheless.
So, the above is a little ramble about what goes on in the background of writing a fantasy story.
A quick update this week…
Bridging chapters – it’s a term I use for chapters that connect one set of important events to the next. For example, a character may have been captured and imprisoned in a chapter on the way to completing an important mission. In order to connect the imprisonment with a return to the mission, a bridging chapter – the escape – is necessary.
This past week has been devoted to completing a bridging chapter in Jaysin’s Song. In trying to reach his brother, Chasse, who it seems has been captured by the Kermakkians, Jaysin is also caught and sold into slavery. In order to find his brother, first he has to escape.
Bridging chapters often introduce new minor characters who provide ‘help’ to the main character. These characters can have once-off appearances in the story, or may later reappear because of the relationship they briefly establish with the main character. Bridging chapters also provide opportunities to have the central character reflect on why he/she is doing what he/she is doing. The trap with bridging chapters is they can become mundane if they keep the reader too far from the main plot or the main character is too ‘trapped’ in their situation.
This particular chapter presented several challenges. The first was how to enable Jaysin to free his hands in order to escape. The second was how to enable Jaysin to escape a town overrun by the enemy. The third was how to deal with certain injuries Jaysin receives in trying to escape. Creating the moments in such a way as to allow logic to be present is always satisfying when they come together believably (within a fantasy context at least). I think I’ve managed that.
Completing this bridging chapter brings the project to 45,000 words, and moves events back onto the main plotline.
On a different note, this week provided two inspiring moments for me. One was finding four of my novels sitting at the front of a second-hand book shop – nice promotion. The second were two emails; a complimentary one from a country student who has just finished reading Caught in the Headlights – the second from a reader of the Amber Quatrology who wanted to share how much she enjoyed the series. In recent years, I’ve seen myself as a ‘forgotten writer’ because it’s been so long since I published in mainstream, so the occasional fan mail reminds me that what I’ve written has entertained or touched people. That is the nicest feeling. It’s been a good week.
Slow. When my daytime job becomes intense, writing steps back. Jaysin’s Song has only grown by 5,000 words in a fortnight, and only by pinch-hitting paragraphs at a time.
I’ve been asked over the years how I manage to sustain writing against the background of everything else, especially in the early 2000s when I was teaching and working part-time for the IBO, undertaking a PhD, coaching and playing volleyball and completing projects for HarperCollins. Long nights, very little sleep, and not many of the simple pleasures people do to fill their leisure time. It was ultimately unsustainable. I dropped the PhD when HarperCollins offered the Amber Legacy contract, and eventually dropped the IBO work. Nevertheless, anyone who has worked in education knows education roles in themselves, done well, are 60+ hours a week employment commitment and mentally exhausting, so sustaining writing in that environment is challenging enough. How do I manage it?
First, I do plan a novel’s structure and story arc. In the early years, learning the craft, I would meticulously plan the sequence of chapters from start to finish so that I had a journey map to follow. This meant that whenever other matters intruded or required more time, I could step out of writing and step back in knowing where I was at in a project. In recent times, I map with less detail, but I do retain an overview of key moments to make the story work – a rough plot guide basically. For example, in the current project, although I haven’t reached these points yet, I know Jaysin does have to be challenged in prison, he does have to reach the Empress, he does have to establish his own identity, he does have to make a choice between family or the Empire and power etc etc (without giving away too much here). I also know, as written in previous blogs, that I have to manage this within thirty chapters or around 100,000 words.
Second, if I am writing and I need to break for sleep, work, functions and events, travel, visitors and so on, I stop the writing either at the start, or in the middle, of a significant story event. This might be a confrontation, a fight or battle (action of any kind), a conversation, and sometimes a chapter opening. The reasoning is simple. For me, it’s much easier to slip back into the mood and intent of a piece if it has an established dynamic. There is also less for me to re-read to re-ignite the writing moment. Instead of trawling back through perhaps an entire chapter to remember what I was doing, or wading through notes, I can get straight into writing and the bonus is the interrupted scene is completed and I get some immediate personal satisfaction.
Third, reflection. Just as many people have worries and concerns and hopes and challenges swirling in their heads during every day – as I do – I also have writing doing the same in my head. It’s like having a music track playing in the background as you do something else. My music background is writing. It churns away, formulating, considering possibilities, even as I go about daily work and other activities. The only time it intrudes without invitation is if I walk into a bookshop. Then it explodes and all I want to do is get home and get on with my projects. Basically, I rarely stop thinking about the project I’m working on.
Fourth – and the hardest – is being ruthless with everyone else about writing moments. For example, as I’m writing this blog, my partner, her mum and a neighbour are sitting in the garden, in the sun, drinking coffee, eating cake, laughing and enjoying the moment. And I’m here, writing. I have to discipline myself to be at the keyboard, and – as weird or wrong as it might sound – I have to discipline those around me to let me do this. Writing does mean choosing when to write and when to play, because it is much easier to have the coffee, read the book, watch the tv show, go for a drive and so on. Weekends, I demand an equivalent of a day to write. If we socialise throughout Saturday, then Sunday for me is for writing. If we split socialisation across both days, then the morning of one and maybe the afternoon of the other is for writing. During the week, the evenings are divided accordingly. Life is full of changes and inconstancies, and so I can’t have inflexible writing times (as much as I would like to), but I do have to be demanding about having writing time some time in the week.
Way back in 1993, I took three months off work and wrote The Last Wizard. The same length sequel last year in Chasse’s Song took most of seven months to complete the first draft. This year, Jaysin’s Song, has taken three months to reach a third of its planned length, so the process has slowed significantly because of interrupted time. Hopefully, the strategies I’ve employed over the years will enable me to have this draft done by October in readiness to begin the fourth book.
Blog done. I have writing to do!
Make a saving throw...
Sometimes tech just doesn’t play nice – or more accurately, I wasn’t vigilant. Part of the last two weeks has been devoted to expanding the Kermakkian culture that Jaysin is entering on his quest to find his brother Chasse. This involves:
The above takes time and recording, which is where last week’s disaster comes in. The document I developed didn’t save, did it? Correction – I didn’t save the document. Rookie error. I get to start some of that work again. At least I can now improve on the original concepts.
I’ve been asked what I do to keep work safe during the writing process, especially as I create novels entirely on a digital device (ever since 1989!!). So, I write on a document stored on a cloud service that is saving constantly (except last week’s effort where I worked locally – doh!) At the close of every writing session, I also save the work to three backup hard drives – one on my device, one that acts as a time machine automatic backup and one on a separate hard drive. Basically, I need four sources to fail to lose work. I take one hard drive with me when I leave the house, in case the computer is ever stolen. And last week was proof that if you ever get distracted or don’t concentrate you can still lose work.
The current draft has moved close to 35,000 words. Jaysin’s character is being challenged by different events, currently leading to his entrapment and sale into slavery. This week’s aim is to help him escape his predicament. Again, I have several options:
Writing is my passion. Ideas, opinions, beliefs, experiences expressed through language - through words and images - pervade and create my life. Writing is my voice, my soul, my self. My dream is one day writing will sustain my life...