January 30, 2023
First, an indulgence. Today is the first day in my life as a full time writer. No more squeezing desperate and sometimes frustrating moments out of the working/family/friends week to fervently create in patches of 10-45 minutes. Today I sit before my screen knowing that every working day hereafter the first priority and responsibility is to my craft. Honestly, I feel so elated, so freed, so weird!
The greatest challenge, now, will be self-discipline. No more school bells making me salivate and flinch, and move to the next class or task or activity or day. No more fretting over planning and marking in the evenings and on weekends to meet assessment deadlines or satisfy the needs of colleagues or students or parents. Instead, I am my task master. I decide what I will work on and when and how. And that becomes a very different form of self-discipline – like committing to regular gym or yoga or a diet to improve health.
Roald Dahl and many other writers have told us how important it is to establish routines as would be the case in any job. I am choosing to operate a working week from 9am-5pm. I have a sense of the working week daytime tasks that I must meet:
And for the first time in so many years I can keep the former set from consuming the latter. Add to that mix once-off events like workshops, conferences and conventions to reconnect and stay in contact with writing peers and associations. Oh, and nanna naps – reflection time in the afternoons
and a host of other things. Third edit is when I prepare a manuscript for beta reading.
Enough. I’m also setting a time limit for writing each weekly blog. Time’s up. Time to edit.
Mapping it out...
Thursday, I finished the first rough draft of Harmi's Song - The Last Wizard Book 4. The editing process begins this coming week.
Creating a fantasy story entails creating a rich world in which the characters can play out their lives. The original The Last Wizard (1995) was based in a pseudo-Nordic coastal environment in a village called Harbin nestled beneath Dragon Mountain. All the village culture and history aside, I created a map of Harbin to visually position events (maps below).
I labelled the significant places in the final version, and in the print edition the colours were transformed to a black and white rendition. Harbin became a place.
For fantasy writers, geography and an understanding of how geographical formations and features co-exist and affect each other to create a specific ecosystem of plants, birds, animals, becomes an essential tool bag of knowledge and skills when designing a place or a world.
The expansion of The Last Wizard into four distinct books where the central characters are drawn by necessity and circumstance into a much larger world than their original village has necessitated more map building. The value of maps for me include:
All the while that I was deciding on my approach, I was nagged by the thought that my stories don't really need to bother with including maps, especially rudimentary ones. Places are named and described, and the stories detail distances and times spent travelling and the destinations. Readers can imagine. The maps are superfluous. It's an interesting dilemma. Are maps in fantasy novels merely an unnecessary genre trope? What do you think?
For now, I'll complete the maps for these stories this week before I begin the much more demanding task of editing. If nothing else, it's a therapeutic exercise.
It's been a long haul between the last post and this one - not just three months. Reflecting on 2022 made me realise just how nasty the year was on personal levels, although there were plenty of good things too. BUt one change is in place - I begin 2023 as a full time writer!
For the record, my lack of recent posts is due to several matters:
The current project - Harmi's Song: Book 4 of The Last Wizard series - is one chapter from draft completion and currently sitting at 89,000 words. I planned to have this one done before Christmas, but see the list above as to why it took longer.
Having built toward the final confrontation between our heroes and the antagonist, I'm currently crafting how that confrontation unfolds amid an epic but fundamentally one-sided battle. Overwhelming outnumbered in a battle that doesn't make much sense to my protagonist - a dragon caught in human warfare - the antagonist is determined to 'rule the world' and ignore the rights of others - think Putin and the like - and while our dragon is keen to protect her immediate human family she struggles with the human need for power at whatever cost to other humans. I can't say more - spoiler otherwise.
The Last Wizard series across four books will represent around 360,000 words of creativity when finished. The next steps are to:
One target is to increase the frequency of blog posts as personal discipline for each week of writing. There. It's in black and white. You guys can hold me to it. I will make Sunday evening the time for writing reflection each week.
Happy new year. Let 2023 be a healthy, productive and satisfying year for you all. We're underway!
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...