This lunchtime, sitting in my customary spot at the back of Caffe Nero in Solihull, I have put the last sentence together for the first draft of my novel. I stole the line, well half of it, in an homage, as the character that speaks it is loosely based on a popular rogue from science fiction. Though in my story, gender-swapped.
I started the novel with two lines in mind, the opening one and the closing one, and I’m ecstatic that this windy and rocky path I’ve stumbled along for the past six months has led me back to where I intended to go. Even if the middle went anywhere but.
The story is set in a fantasy world, but it’s really just a heist story. It tells the tale of Rorick, an eloquent thief and con-man from the bottom-most strata of a complicated religious despotism. It’s about him, having lived a pretty tragic and tumultuous life, having the stereotypes he’s built over the years torn down to an extent.
OK, so I need to come up with a better blurb, but it’s early days yet.
Every single session of writing has been a learning experience. I’m going to list a whole bunch of things I’ve learnt in a separate post but the thing I’ve found to be most important is to just keep bloody going. I started, about two or three years ago, to write a story. I had in my head a world, a couple of characters, a vague plot outline and a whole encyclopedia of nonsense about this universe. I’d never written anything longer than a short story before, and consequently fell victim to the eternal enemy of self-censorship. The first ten chapters of it are still sitting on my laptop now. They took me about eighteen months to write. The first chapter, I have five separate rewrites of. What I found while I was doing this though, is that one of the characters I had invented was really interesting and I wanted to tell a story about him. So I did. I’ll go back to my epic eventually, but this has been a great exercise if nothing else. However, I still have this problem of redrafting the same thing over and over…
One thing any artist will tell you, is that it’s all about layering. And they’re correct. I’ve been painting, drawing and writing music for my entire life, and it took me all this time to draw the parallel. When I’m painting a picture, I don’t go straight in and start adding all the detail with a fine brush. I make some sweeping thin pencil outlines. Ink the important bits, wash over with blocks of basic colour, build up shadow and texture, then add the highlights in last. The same with music, I’ll pull out a guitar, find some tasty chords, throw a beat on it, sort out a melody for the lyrics, and the rest is just embellishment.
So, in short, what I’ve done to get this far, and I know this sort of approach doesn’t work for everyone, is start with a vague outline. Some people go and do some stuff; throw in some beats, bad shit and good shit happen to them; whack in a few lyrics, or interactions between the characters; add a little embellishment, some plot twists and some tension. Then just plow through to the end.
At the moment, it’s far from the polished and sexatronic supertome I wanted to create, but I’ve realised that it doesn’t matter. It’s pencilled, it’s got the colour washed in and a bit of shadow for definition. The next pass is going to be some texture, hiding the mistakes, painting over the bad bits. Then I’ll had all the magical highlights, the sparkles in the eyes, and then it will be good. I hope.
One thing I have found however, is my voice, I think. I started out wanting to be Robin Hobb, then I wanted to be Scott Lynch, then I wanted to Mark Lawrence. However, it was uncomfortable, it was forced, it was vile. I was never going to be able to transport people into my world, like some kind of multi-sensory dreamscape like Robin Hobb, I was never going to be as witty and sharp as Scott Lynch, and I was never going to be as poetic as Mark Lawrence.
I’m sure, if I ever finish this, and by some amazing luck, you actually get to read this, you’ll probably see these influences as plain as day. I don’t think that’s usually a bad thing. I hope though that you’ll see me in there, my own voice and how much I felt myself thinking and feeling like Rorick. Not that I would ever want to actually BE him. He’s a massive wanker, and a liar, and a braggart, and also not as much a hard man as he thinks he is.
Anyway, I’m going to read other people’s fiction for a while now before I start to edit this. My longsuffering other half has also agreed to be my alpha-tester. She’s a hardcore fantasy fangrrl and can read a three-hundred page novel in about half an hour. She’s read all of everything ever, Jordan, Goodkind, Gemmel, Martin, Tolkien, Hobb, you name it, it’s in our dining room. She’s under strict instruction to be brutal, honest and even evil if needs be. Wish me luck, the easy bit is over!