Writing, Week 9

I’m new to blogging. I say this because I’d like to make it clear that, to me, this still feels like a personal journal/diary. I have to keep reminding myself that others may (will!) eventually read my work. And while I’d like to keep my voice as genuine as though I am writing in a journal, I know there are significant differences between a book of blank pages who will listen with an endless pit of patience to a steady stream of babbling nonsense/word explosion, and a public blog of thoughts that others will have to patiently endure, should they choose to read to the end. That is all simply to say – bear with my rambles if you are so kind, I’m working on it, and of course, thoughtful comments and suggestions are appreciated.

So – on to a reflection regarding the writing journey, the perilous and disastrously romantic epic saga that is, in less eloquent terms, attempting finishing a book. Well, in my case, it doesn’t feel much like I’m trying to finish a book, more like I’m trying to start a saga (not in the way that the afore-mentioned book-writing is a saga, that was merely my tendency towards melodrama manifesting itself early on in this poorly-destined blog, apologies, but rather a saga in the traditional, literary sense – a multi-faceted, complex, ongoing tale, aka a really long story).

Think Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings! Think Rowling’s Harry Potter! Think the Iliad, and the Odyssey! (Says every long-winded author ever who wants to equate their inability to be concise with literary greatness). But to be frank, my story more or less accidentally ended up morphing into a several-part-tale from before I started writing, so whether it molds itself into a masterful epic, or devolves into an exhaustively endless ramble, my book will not be a book, but books. Multiple, none-too-short, distinct-though-intertwined, books.

But let’s take a step back, shall we? I haven’t even told you what this tale is about, or what category it falls into in the current literary set of groupings. Well, part of that withholding of information is because I don’t know myself!!! But here’s an initial stab at it – I am writing a fantasy novel, in fact the first novel in a fantasy series, and it could also probably be labeled adult and/or young adult. Think LOTR in terms of era and world – that is to say, a separate world that may resemble our own, but is distinct, and an era roughly congruous to our own sweet Middle Ages (In terms of technological advancement at least – no firearms, no factories, no fast food, as a start). However, this book will not start out with many mythical creatures, or much magic at all really – on the surface magic that is, who’s to say what is bubbling beneath the seams?

And now to explain a bit more what I meant about a “multiple-part story.” As simply as I can put it, it’s like this – I began with one character whose personality and story I have always seen clearly. Even when I knew little about her, I knew that she had a grand tale waiting to be told about her, and I knew I would need at least a trilogy to unfold her story. In a very vague sense, this character has been in my mind since I was 11 or 12. In a more defined sense, her tale began to take its own shape perhaps a year ago. Around November or December, it began to make its way into the written word – via my various notebooks, messages to myself on my phone, doodles on scrap paper and assorted word docs on my computer.

When I started writing down my character’s life history, a strange thing happened – I became at first interested, then entranced, and finally utterly captivated with the history of the various lives that had to connect, intertwine and twirl amongst each other for the precisely correct amount of moments so that my character could make it into existence. In short, the generation immediately preceding her own mischievously seized my heart and demanded their own damned book. Not a chapter-length prequel, not a recalled flashback in my initial character’s books, but their own complex, free-standing book to do them proper justice.

It was as if the characters had pulled the strings of my puppet-writer body and directed me firmly down a different winding path that they declared I must take before I could return to my originally intended road. I could not tear away the gentle but insistently guiding strings, nor did I want to. The more I wrote, the more in love with this earlier generation of characters I fell, and the more I became bound by a commitment to them to expound on their stories. And in all truth, I may not have decided so firmly to become an author and to spend at least the next year writing without them, because although my initial character resounds with me as much as ever, her plot never laid itself as clearly before me as their’s, bit by action and drama filled bit.

In a way, it’s as if she was waiting for me to figure out who she was and where she came from, before I could begin to tell her with justice. Some characters require vivid pages of personality description before an author can connect with them and make them “pop,” some require short personal histories (whether written or in the author’s head) and some even require pages of life biographies that may never reach published text, but are nonetheless essential to forming the person in the author’s mind. My case is no different, just a bit more lengthy (are you seeing a trend yet?) – my character demanded not only her own history, but the history of those who immediately preceded her be not only imagined or scribbled but written in their own book. And so I listened to her and – as I will likely always do, for better or worse – I am acting exactly as she asked – no, demanded.

So, I am currently a bit more than a third of the way through drafting this initial book, and then I will see where it takes me. The plan was originally to write this book, this “extended-prequel” of a sort, though it very much has a life of its own, and then to move on to my initial character. As I continue writing this book though, there’s a small but growing part of me that wonders if the prequel won’t need to be split into multiple prequels, but I’ll discuss that another day.

Also to be saved for another day – more basic musings on the life and habits of a writer at work. For now, you know a little bit more about me, my works in progress, and my thought processes for overall story planning – or lack thereof. I will only add, as a vague thought I’ve become aware of over the course of this blog post, that I believe my writing style throughout my fantasy novel is distinctly different from the style I employ here. Whether you rejoice or curse at that prospect, if you indeed still have any inclination to read a few hundred pages of my work after making it through these few (my parents are pretty much compelled to by blood ties and bias), well, either way, I will leave you here. Until next time, be well, my friends, family, and readers.

Madeleine

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