Birth of a story

It was in 1999 when I was busy doing the night shift in a poorly lit comms room that I first had the idea for a novel.  As the clock moved ever closer to 0400 and my laptop was waiting for some diagnostic to complete, I penned a few words about a monk lighting a candle in a poorly lit stone hall.

Over the next hour as the diagnostics churned inside my laptop, a bloody battle had taken place and the monk lay dead.  I had plans for the story and for the people who had murdered the monk, but they had to wait. The diagnostics had reported an error and I had to make sure it was fixed before the staff came in at around 0700.

I had read books since I was a young child, it was a gift given to me by my mother who read even more than I did. I won an award at school for a post-apocalyptic story about a boy who survives a nuclear war.  It was a bittersweet experience; not only was I off school with an illness when my story got read out in front of the whole class, but I was also rushed for time at the end and, having to choose between two endings, I chose to have the boy wake up after it being a dream rather than allow the rats to take him at the end of a dark drain. I still remember my english teacher at the time telling me I would have gotten full marks had it not been for such a poor ending – but at least the boy in the story breathed a sigh of relief..

Switching back to my fantasy novel, I’d often play out elements of the story in my head over the next few years and, in 2007, finally decided to put more of it down on paper (strictly speaking, it was screen). By then the story had changed somewhat and the scope of the tale had spilled over into three books.  I had names for characters, places for them to visit, people for them to meet and enemies for them to vanquish.  I even began to develop the world in which these characters would live.  It was then that I had my first epiphany; that the story in your head plays out a lot different when it is put down on the screen or page. I had around 80,000 words in a slightly hap-hazard order and plenty of notes and background information with very little idea on what to do with it.

So, I’ve decided that as I’m asking my characters to go on a journey frought with death and danger at every turn, I’ll do the same.  Actually, that’s not quite true – but I will be dealing with points of view, character arcs, plot, theme and basically everything else I need to do to get this novel at a stage ready for a first draft at the end of the year.  Along the way, I’ll introduce some of the people who have unwittingly helped me immensely in finally beginning to understand the great big wide world of novel writing and publishing and I’ll also be pointing out books that I’ve read and podcasts that I’ve found helpful.

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