Saturday, 1 March 2014

I'm Running up that Hill

It struck me this morning, as I tried to clear the decks of all the extraneous business of everyday life that gets in the way of writing, that writing a story is a bit like climbing a mountain.   Please note from my title that I'm thinking more of Kate Bush than Julie Andrews as the musical accompaniment to this piece.

I know for some authors the writing process is a journey of discovery.  They have in mind an interesting situation and combination of characters and essentially let the story follow its own course.  For them, I suspect, the writing process is like hacking through the amazonian jungle and uncovering secrets they hadn't even thought of at the start, like stumbling upon some abandoned machu picchu site.

For me the plot came first.  I had an idea always of the end point.  It loomed like the summit of a mountain at once extremely visible and yet by its distance, dimly perceived.

Writing the bloodline trilogy has been a process of climbing that mountain.  Along the way there have been unexpected mini-peaks, the odd cravasse and some narrow ridges along which I have had to tread warily. At this point perhaps I should admit that my mountaineering exploits are limited to reaching the top of a stepladder in order to fix a satellite dish with duct tape. Hence we may have reached the limit of my ability to exploit this analogy, or at least to do so without offending anyone with a more than passing acquaintance with crampons (whatever they are).

Anyway, what fascinates me is how the detail in that snow capped peak becomes more apparent as I draw near.  I am 36,000 words into Master of The Planes, which will conclude the trilogy.  While my certainty about the endpoint is unchanged, the precise line of final ascent is shifting.  New opportunities emerge. Characters I had originally envisaged as discardable extras to illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of the protaganists, suddenly remerge and assume pivotal importance as all trails, no matter how they may lift and separate, all lead to the peak.   And the story feels so much the better for it as various different arcs share a common climax (no sniggering at the back there).

So, as I scamper hopefully towards the end of part one (of five), I find myself thinking that maybe I am not so different from those jungle slashing plotting-phobics as I thought.  A bit of Dr Livingstone, just as much as Sir Edmund Hilary.

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