At long last things have started to improve for me. First, my health, my foot and leg has been getting stronger with each day. This has been helped by my surgeon deciding to remove the external fixator frame on February 21st. Great news indeed. I will have to wear a plaster cast for several months afterwards but they are easier to live with, no risk of infections through open wound sites for one thing. Also, I can wear normal pants again.
Second, because my foot has become more comfortable I have been able to write and I mean seriously write. I went back to my fantasy novel, The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom (tentative title), which I had left languishing at some 60,0000 words. There had been problems with the chronology and getting various plot threads to weave together in the way I wanted. I was also unhappy with some of the character representations and the fact that my central character seemed to disappear from the action too many times. I really wanted to get this book sorted, but it was a real task and I struggled with it.
Returning to the fantasy world that I had created proved very cathartic, actually. In three days I doubled the number of written words. I found myself writing like an author possessed. The fact that I am no longer using strong painkillers has to be a consideration. I felt galvinised. In those three days I sorted out the chronology, tied the threads, developed the major characters more, and advanced the story to a logical conclusion. That does not mean that the book is finished, it just means that it now has a logical beginning, middle, and end. I still have a lot of editing to do.
One of the requirements of a good fantasy novel is a believable imaginary world. This is not something that you can do just by writing the story. It requires serious consideration in its own right. Robert E Howard created several fantasy worlds, his most famous being the Hyborian Age through which Conan the Barbarian swung his sword. Howard spent time writing essays on his creation, defining countries, religions, cities, and geographies. It is necessary work. It is very easy to get lost in such a world if you leave it undefined, it becomes vague and, I expect, unconvincing to the reader. A large portion of my story is based in a city high on the side of a mountain. I found that although I had an idea in my mind of the city that I often lost sight of where important places within it were located. This led to me writing contrary directions for the locations of sites and events. I got seriously confused. I am now in the process of drawing a map of the city and another one that depicts the continent that hosts the action. I will publish these on my website once I have developed the rough versions into something a little more pleasing on the eye.
When I started writing the first draft of The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom I took the time to write supporting essays on key features of the culture and history of the world that I was creating. As ideas occurred to me I made notes and developed them into a logical account. For example, I had the idea that the mountain is considered to be holy by the indigenous population and that it was once served by a body of priestesses, known as the Orosies. These women were replaced by male priests and women generally were reduced to second class citizens. I found it very helpful to write an account of the Orosies, especially how they moved underground to continue their religion in spite of the male dominated church that displaced them. With a fantasy book there are a lot of such considerations. I do not think of it as a chore but rather as a necessity. I want my readers to submerge themselves in an alternate world that is deep, rich, and entirely believable. To do that I have created a past history some 3,000 years long. It is not a work of several volumes, just a series of short pieces that capture, develop, and define the major historical and social developments of the world in which the main story takes place. It makes sense of why women cannot hold positions of authority in a kingdom based on the greatest mountain in the world. This background material also brings the weight of time to bear on the protagonists who find themselves fighting not only a rival kingdom but a powerful and magical people long thought to be lost to the world. I find it adds a kind of irresistible force, a juggernaut, that drives the plot forward and puts everything that the characters achieve into jeopardy. It creates tension.
I would like to say that the book is close to being finished, but it is not. However, the draft is some two thirds completed, less the editing of course. Now that I have dealt with the previous obstacles progress is moving at an impressive rate and I am very excited at the prospect of working on it. Hopefully, The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom will be completed by spring. I get the feeling, however, that it will continue to grow after that. I already have ideas for a second and third book in this new world that I have created.