Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Writing my novel - what an incredible experience!

Writing King’s Envoy, the first book in the Artesans of Albia series, was an incredible and, if I’m truthful, unnerving experience for me. I didn’t set out with the intention of writing a book – let alone a whole series – so I was completely taken by surprise when my little daydream, the scenario I described in my “I didn’t want to be an author!” post, turned into a frenzy of writing that took over my life. For nearly nine years. I can honestly say I’ve never experienced anything like it. For those who are old enough to remember the early computers, which used to spew their results out in a flip-flopping avalanche of perforated paper, that’s what writing Artesans was like for me. A good, old-fashioned “computer dump”. I had a hard time keeping up with all this “stuff” that just kept streaming into my head. I certainly didn’t know where it was coming from. At the time I started (Dec 2001) I didn’t own a computer and didn’t know how to use one, so I wrote everything longhand. Yes, in pen or pencil. (Anyone else remember writing like that?) I still have those first handwritten manuscripts (what a grand name for a stack of scribbled-on paper!) and the scrawly writing is testament to the efforts of my hand to keep up with the ideas tumbling from my mind. These days cut-and-paste makes things so much easier, but back then I had little arrows in margins and little asterisks on separate bits of paper, all indicating scenes that had to be inserted, or actions that couldn’t possibly have happened at that moment in the plot and had to be shifted. I still don’t know how I kept up with it all.

In those early days I was working “in secret”. I wasn’t writing a book, only amusing myself on cold winter days. There was no point telling anyone about it – there was nothing to tell. Only – gradually, day by day, something was growing. Something was struggling toward birth, toward fulfilment. Something was taking me over, using me for support, like a tree branch supports an orchid. Like that host tree, I was simply the framework from which this entity would flourish, and it would carry me along in its wake whether I willed it or not.

After a while - and after I began learning to transcribe my work to a laptop - I realized what was going on. I was writing a book! No one was more shocked than me. When I finally finished this “book” (it came out at nearly 400,000 words and eventually became the first Artesans trilogy) I knew I had to show it to someone. The obvious choice was my husband, who hadn’t failed to notice the times I’d woken in the night to scribble little notes, or the times during a TV program when I’d mutter, “Yes! That’s the way it’ll work” and scribbled once again. Bless him – what must he have thought? I’ll never forget the day I told him what I’d done, but I’ll have to save that for another post.

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