The end is the start...
Amid a week of US elections (go Biden!), illness at home (man cold) and COVID testing (negative), I finished the last chapter of Chasse's Song and printed the first raw draft (91,000 words). The quality may be contentious, given the virus and drug combination running riot in my head, but between patches of sleep, sleeplessness, coughing and exhaustion, the story drew to its conclusion and the project's first step is done.
Every project I've completed - now eighteen novels (fifteen published) - starts with an idea of the end point. For Chasse's Song, the physical end point was always going to be arrival in a new and very different culture for the protagonist, and the protagonist's emotional/psychological end point was also to be a different place. The next step - editing the raw draft - will be as much about ensuring the latter end point is reached as it will be about typos and consistencies in plot and data. Growing Chasse has been challenging, and for it to be his 'song' he must show significant growth.
The introduction of the new culture meant exploring a host of challenges - the level of technology in the new culture, the cultural norms, the potential physical differences, the social structures and the language to name some. Harbin - Chasse's home village - in many ways is an isolated, cloistered early medieval community containing maybe just over 200 souls. In Harbin, stone building and metal forging technologies are almost non-existent, there are no animals like horses, cows, pigs, cats and dogs, just goats and wild creatures like wolves and bears, spears are dominat weapons and there are no range weapons. Chasse encounters these as he stumbles upon different cultures in his escape journey, and writing his character's responses to these wonders is part of the challenge.
Language is also significant. New cultures in emerging worlds are unlikely to share a common language, so I've created a new language for exchanges with the new culture, leading to working out how understanding can be reached. Luckily, the dragon Harmi inherits the knolwedge of previous generations as part of dragon lore, and through Harmi Tam is able to translate for Chasse. Although Harmi and Tam are not the central characters for this novel, their roles are extermely important in enabling Chasse to learn. Unfortunately for my family, creating a new language leads to me babbling phrases and words in my study to hear if they roll off the tongue with the right resonance for speaking. Speaking in tongues is alive and well in our household.
"Sharm, dracomenu. A te e manu itay gad e draco nemin sha yee harma."
"Welcome, dragon protector. It has been a very long time since a dragon blessed our people."
The latter chapters led to further research into medieval cultures and practices, and I have to say I love doing the research for the writing because I learn so much more about our world. The construction and engineering process for creating effective metal-tipped arrows alone is fascinating. The ingenuity of the human mind for thousands of years remains enigmatic.
Okay, so the raw draft is printed. I'll let it simmer for a few days before I start the reading process. Despite spending almost eight months drafting and re-reading chapters and sections for continuity and development, this will be the first time I read the work from start to finish and that is always a scary but really enjoyable moment in writing a novel - to see if the story even works. Then the hard part begins...
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...