It has occurred to me that choosing to write epic fantasy for my first book (and a potential trilogy at that), wasn’t the smartest choice I’ve ever made. It didn’t help when I was reading through George R. R. Martin’s website (of Game of Thrones fame) and he remarked:
Given the realities of today’s market in science fiction and fantasy, I would also suggest that any aspiring writer begin with short stories. These days, I meet far too many young writers who try to start off with a novel right off, or a trilogy, or even a nine-book series. That’s like starting in at rock climbing by tackling Mt. Everest.
Now I know he wasn’t speaking to me personally, after all by no stretch of the imagination am I young any more. And I do know of other authors, Patrick Rothfuss being my latest and favourite example, who have struck gold with their first novels. But writing epic fantasy does, at times feel like you’re scrabbling up some unforgiving rock-face, or at best like you’re trying to eat an elephant.
One of the reasons I like fantasy is – you get to make the whole thing up. If you want people to ride horses and wield swords and fight for truth and justice, well they can. The thing is you really do have to create a whole world in your head and it has to be consistent.
I have no problem visualising my fantasy realm – Gaelladorn. It has some great places like the Reach, which is elevated and craggy, somewhat like the Scottish Highlands, or the great sheep stations in the South Island of New Zealand. Or the capital city Tamar, with its winding cobbled streets, and the newly built Sanctuary, of honey-coloured stone dominating the skyline. It’s great as far as setting, it plays like a small movie through my mind as I write. The problem comes, for me, with the political structure.
I hoped I wouldn’t have to give too much detail about how legal system in my story works. I’d rather focus on the characters. But about a third of the way through the novel I’m starting to think one of my main premises isn’t going to work. Or it certainly doesn’t work, for me, in its present form. The question is (and please feel free to wade in): Is it is logical that the King wouldn’t have a direct role in managing his troops? When Marcus, shifts from being a General to being King, he is told (by the Overseer – a religious office that sits above the Kings) to create a distance between himself and the military. Technically the soldiers fight for the whole realm, not just one kingdom, so possibly it could be seen as him having too much influence. But would a King really have to sit back and rule while the others are out fighting? King Arthur didn’t.
I suspect I will have to tone down the ultimatum and create tension with his continued involvement with the military. It also means I will have to go back and rewrite an earlier scene that I quite liked. Frustrated? You have no idea.
I was growled at the other day for saying something I’d taken to writing group wasn’t very good. “You are too hard on yourself!” they protested. (They being the aforementioned writing group). So just in case you think I am struggling with self-doubt and shooting myself in the foot I would like to point out: I am enjoying this journey immensely. I love that I am a writer and I get to nut out all the details. Sometimes I crash and burn, and other times I fly. It makes for an interesting journey!
It also seems everyone has an idea about how you should go about becoming a writer. Bless George R. R. Martin, I suspect every Tom, Dick and Harry who has ever picked up a pen is asking for his advice. Martin had a long and varied writing career, before he wrote his bestsellers. It worked for him, so I respect his opinion. Although it doesn’t mean that’s how my journey will be.
But for me, I write where my heart is. And as much as I’d love the variety to work on other projects, this is what I’m loving and feeling. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t so big. Because then I might be able to get it done sooner and be able to share it with you.
Do you ever have days where you feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? Have you had any troubling issues with world-building – or tips to share? Or do you have any views on the King versus General issues I’m having? I’d love to hear from you.