Friday, May 05, 2006

Bloody dragons

It's amazing what these mythical creatures get up to.

Yesterday morning, I sat down at my computer and stared at an almost blank screen with 'book four - ?' written hopefully at the top of it. This is the way I work sometimes - a sort of variation on the theme of seat of the pants writing. Usually I sit somewhere comfortable, with a large mug of rooibos tea, a purring cat and a lined A4 pad. Then curse because I've left my pen in another room and have to get up and fetch it. This time, I did it on the computer.

The purpose of the exercise is to write down anything and everything that comes into my mind. In no particular order, just stream of consciousness stuff, with ideas flying off at tangents, spinning around like released balloons (complete with amusing farting sounds, courtesy of the SausageDog) and generally making a horrible, illogical mess. You might call it a brainstorming session, only those usually require more than one person, and for those present to have brains which can be stormed. Since neither of these requisites can be applied to me on most days of the week, I have to think of it as something else. Usually what I end up with is a kernel of good idea and a lot of useless junk.

Only this time it all came out rather civilised and structured.

Even when I returned to it today, it all seemed to make sense. And more ideas leapt out at me as I read through yesterdays stuff, so that now I can begin to see a shape forming that may end up as book four. However, in the immortal words of Tom Hanks: 'Houston, we have a problem.'

As both regulars at this watering hole will already know, The Ballad of Sir Benfro was meant to be a three part fantasy epic. There was a fairly logical structure to the thing, following the same tried and tested format of many fantasy epics before it. But when I got to the end of book one, I realised a big chunk of the story was missing. Cue the arrival of book zero - the prologue chapter that turned into a novel in its own right. I have to believe writing the prologue was the right thing to do, as it was this book that caught the attention of my agent. It did mean, however, that the series was now cursed with being four books long - difficult for a first time author to sell, but not impossible.

Then I started to have a few misgivings about the ending I had planned. It had overtones of Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy and didn't really work for me anymore. This, more than anything else, is probably the main reason for my prevarication and procrastination over the past few months - why I've not been getting on with it. I didn't know how it ended anymore.

I still don't, in all honesty. I've a few ideas - a great big battle in which almost everyone is killed off sounds good to me. That way they can't come back and haunt me later. But the actual ending is a mystery at the moment.

But I've realised that I don't care. It's much more enjoyable just making things up as I go along, and that's what I've always done before. I'm going to keep on plugging away at the characters I've got until they find a resolution for themselves. I might poke them a bit if they're staring off into the distance musing too much, and I might prod them with a long, sharp stick to get them to take the right turnings every so often, but by the end of the two books I've already written, everything is pretty much set up. How it all unfolds is just a matter of seeing where the characters go.

And in book four they go a long way. To another world, in fact. But what they don't seem to be doing right now, despite my best efforts, is finding their way to the end. Instead they're screaming at me to give them a book five. Then, they promise, but only then, will they be content to lay down and die.

There's still a long way to go with the stream of consciousness exercise on book four. I've only really touched on what's happening to the two main characters so far - the supporting cast have yet to be given their lines. It may yet be that I can wrap the whole thing up in one book (though it will be very long).

Still, on the positive side, I've achieved more in the past two days than in the previous two months on this project. For the first time in a long time I'm feeling quite positive about the whole thing.

Must be time for some bad news...


Blogger Anonymous City Girl said...

I hear dragons are good eating...
especially in sushi, dragon rolls.

May 05, 2006 6:24 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

Maybe spit roast and served in buns. Outdoors. With lots of cold beer. Mmm. Dragon burgers...

May 05, 2006 6:47 pm  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Don't be so pessimistic James!

That's my job.

May 05, 2006 8:32 pm  
Blogger Stuart MacBride said...

"But the actual ending is a mystery at the moment."

No it isn't: the Hippo wins! It says so on your whiteboard.

May 06, 2006 12:18 pm  

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