No Orcs!


Seriously! No orcs in a fantasy story?

I have been working very hard lately on completing my fantasy novel. I am almost there, but not quite. I find this the most frustrating part of the process, if I am honest. I can see the end but just cannot reach it yet.

The actual writing part is close to being finished. There are some themes that I am considering introducing, republicanism in a time of almost absolute monarchy for example. The idea interests me, but I must ask is it worthwhile regarding the story that I am telling? I think that it is. When I began writing this book I did not think too much about how shallow an absolute monarchy was in terms of the civilisation that I was creating. That is okay. I write my ideas down in the first draft and then develop them in the writing of the story. That is exactly what I am doing here. Consequently, that means that the finish line recedes a little.

To make a fantasy world believable it must have its roots in our reality. I have stuck by that premise throughout this project. No matter how fantastic the world that I create is it has to have ties that bind it to our collective experience as a people. If I were pursuing an avantgarde or surreal literary experience then that would probably not be a consideration, but that is not what ‘Queen of the Mountain Kingdom’ is about. It is not an intellectual indulgence. I do hope that it will prove to be an enjoyable read with likeable characters and a background world into which readers can immerse themselves.

All of this takes time, which we all know to be the most precious commodity that we possess. Writing a book takes an awful long time. Well, my books seem to anyway. Of course, it did not help that I had to undergo surgery as well. I kind of feel like my next novel should be set in the here and now and so require a lot less work from me. This is normal. I remember feeling that way when working on finishing ‘For Rapture of Ravens’ and deciding that I had had enough of historical research. I wrote ‘Eugenica’ as a means of getting out of the whole historical thing. Well, that is what I told myself. I mean, ‘Eugenica’ was an alternate history novel so there was still some pertinent research to be done. The fact is, if you want to write a good novel then you cannot escape the need to do research.

You may be wondering where this fits in with writing a fantasy novel? The fact is that the research is a necessity even in a world that you create yourself. It is one of the ties that bind. ‘Queen of the Mountain Kingdom’ is not set in some medieval land populated with the inevitable elves, orcs, dragons, and wizards. There is a princess and a kind of sorceress. There is also a race of people who possess an arcane knowledge that allows them to perform a kind of magic. Traitors, spies, adventurers are also present to help move the story on. These characters inhabit different social strata, have different occupations, and some even come from much further afield than the main location where the book is based. Each has to be logical in order to believable and that often means having a backstory that can feed into their development as characters.

Although the book feels that it is almost completed I know that this is an illusion. Once I think that I have written the last word I will then go back to the beginning and start reading it through. At the same time, I will use my style-sheet to ensure consistency throughout the text. It can be very annoying, for example, to give a character the name ‘Gray’ and then find that two thirds into the book I started calling them ‘Grey’ instead. That is what the style-sheet does, reminds you of what you have already written in a novel over 100,000 words long.

Despite the claim to frustration there is also an immense amount of satisfaction to be had from reaching this stage of the project. All the best of my ideas are coming together. I had to ditch a few along the way, of course. Casualties are inevitable in this business. I hope that I have done this by being critical in a positive sense. I think that will become evident when I start the read through. That is the where I start the serious editing, not just the misspelled words or dodgy grammar. On the read through I look for unnecessary repetition, of which I already know that there is too much. I must remember that most facts only have to be stated once, not once every chapter! I also examine the themes and threads to make sure that they contribute something and come to logical conclusions where necessary. Also, that some of the ideas I had are not too fantastical.

I am happy to say that the idea of ‘Queen of the Mountain Kingdom’ continues to excite me. I need this kind of motivation to see across the line. I hope that people who read the finished book will be able to discern it the text also.

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