Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A NonNaNoWriMo Adventure

With an impeccable sense of bad timing, I started working on a new novel on the 7th November.  Actually, I didn't want to do it for NaNoWriMo (the annual challenge to write fifty thousand words of a novel between the 1st and 30th of November) because I've too much else going on this month to put myself under that kind pressure.  Still, I suppose it makes me a NaNoWriMov fellow-traveller of some kind, so I'll join everyone else in reporting on my progress.

I'm currently well on into chapter three, or around ten thousand words in, although that includes a couple of scenes based on trial versions I wrote a while back.  I've really no idea what length it's going to end up at, but most likely around 120-130,000, so I've still a long way to go.

I'm using the working title The Empire of Nandesh, but the only thing I can say for sure is that that isn't going to be the final title.  It refers to the evil empire of the immortal sorcerer-king Nandesh, which is central to the story, but I'd prefer a more allusive (or elusive, or illusive) title, and I'm trusting that, like a Pern dragon, it'll let me know its name.

This is part of my ongoing ennealogy.  I'm aiming to make it as stand-alone as I can, but it's inescapably a sequel to At An Uncertain Hour, dealing with some of the consequences of the Traveller's choices at the end of that book.  The Traveller is central to the story, though under the name Tollanis — a now-obsolete local word for traveller that's turned from a soubriquet to a name — and Nandesh is the son of his adversary the Demon Queen.  That's not a spoiler, by the way — it's revealed in the second chapter.

Like At An Uncertain Hour, this book is written non-sequentially and in first person.  Unlike it, though, it has four different first-person characters.  Yes, I'm sure you can tell I'm always on the lookout for ways of making writing easier.  So, for a brief, blurblike introduction to the main characters and their issues at the start:

Tollanis feels uncharacteristically dubious about helping to fight against the evil sorcerer-king Nandesh, and he's not too sure about his ally Kargor, either.

Nandesh, in among his plans to conquer the world, seems to have a personal grudge against Tollanis, although the two men have never met.

Fandis, Nandesh's lover and bitterest enemy, dreams of the day she can kill him, even while she spurs his ambition higher.

And, perhaps scariest of all, Tollanis's ward Lanza is a seriously frustrated teenager.

So why did I choose to write it like this?  I wanted from the start to split the point of view between protagonist and antagonist, since neither's role could really be understood without knowing about the other.  And, as in At An Uncertain Hour, third person really wouldn't give the level of immersion needed to roam at liberty through the characters' memories.

So, I needed two first-persons, which was scary enough, but as the ideas coagulated I realised I also needed Lanza's and Fandis's voices to tell the whole story.  Hence the somewhat unusual structure.

This probably makes it sound as if the whole novel's carefully planned and outlined, but in some ways I'm writing blind.  Not entirely.  The whole ennealogy actually goes back a long way in its basic concept.  At An Uncertain Hour was based on an outline of the Traveller's life I'd written years earlier, while The Winter Legend, the trilogy I've been working on in between, is something I've been writing versions of since 1969. 

The central events of this story — its "present", at least — go back to various pieces I wrote in the 70s, but a lot has changed since then.  Nandesh, in particular, had a different name, a different nature and a different background then, and his backstory is really the main motivator for the novel.  And Lanza is an entirely new character, wreaking havoc on a nice, orderly plot.

I'm looking forward to exploring all these people and showing how they got from there to here, but I'll have a number of non-POV characters to present, too, especially the aforementioned Kargor.  Kargor, sometimes known as Karaghr or Kari, has appeared as a young man in a series of stories, including the ebook The Temple of Taak-Resh, and he appears in the later but already-written trilogy The Winter Legend (first volume currently attempting to seduce an agent, the other two awaiting revision).  I enjoy writing Kargor, and I was delighted when a friend recently commented that he reminded him of Tom Hiddleston as Loki.  Perhaps a casting option for a film version — though I'll have to get on with it.

So, I know where I want the story to get to, and I have a number of scenes pretty much nailed down in my head, but the route it's going to take over the hundreds of years it covers will be a surprise.  I hope it'll be a good surprise — both to me and to my readers.

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