So, I finally decided to kick myself into action and make myself accountable for my writing. By posting my progress here, I let anyone who has the slightest interest in this book see, at the click of a button, exactly how much time I’ve been putting into it recently. I no longer have an excuse to be lazy.
That’s a pretty scary thought actually.
Anyway, 11/11/11 seemed as good a day to do this as any. Of course, I’ve been planning this book for a lot longer than that. I even have just over half of the first chapter written (first draft i.e. terrible)! I would say this thing has been in the planning stage since around April or so, over which time I’ve jotted down bits and pieces, thought a lot and talked through some of the important themes with my brother. It’s time to get serious. I should also mention that Holly Lisle’s site (hollylisle.com) and plot writing mini-course have been invaluable in the planning process. These two posts have been especially helpful and I recommend them to anyone thinking of starting a book: http://hollylisle.com/maps-workshop-developing-the-fictional-world-through-mapping/ and http://hollylisle.com/how-to-create-a-character/
To give you an idea of where I’m coming from, I should tell you a little about what I like to read, because that will clearly give you an idea of what the finished product aims to be. I’ve always been a reader. Right from the years where I was reading such great works of literature as “Wesley and the Dinosaurs” in class 2, my friends and family have called me a bookworm, and I could regularly be seen walking to and from school with a book in hand. Before you ask, I only walked into a lamppost once. After that I paid more attention to what was happening in front of me too. These days, given the time, I devour novels. Genre doesn’t seem to matter all that much. In fact, I’ll take a good story wherever I can find it, whether a book, film or even computer game. I’ll stick to books for now.
In crime I’m a great fan of Harlan Coben’s humour, Ian Rankin’s grittiness and Reacher’s sheer awesomeness in anything by Lee Child. Robert Ludlum is the godfather of the spy genre, while a Jeff Abbott novel pretty much assures you of a cracking adventure read. Tom Clancy and, these days, Dale Brown have some brilliant military fiction. I especially love all the cutting edge/near future technology that Dale Brown introduces with all its advantages and flaws.
Science fiction has always been a good portion of what I read. Iain M. Banks’ fantastic Culture novels, C J Cherryh has many: I love the Alliance-Union Universe with the Company Wars books and Faded Sun trilogy and highly regard both this latter trilogy and her Foreigner Universe (which I am slowly working my way through), in which she really explores the differences in psychology between humans and aliens rather than just treating them as people with strange skin colours and faces. Though no longer a collector of the tabletop wargame Warhammer 40,000, some of the novels published in that universe have been great. Dan Abnett is generally a solid writer, especially his Eisenhorn and Ravenor books, though my personal favourites have to be the Commissar Cain novels by Sandy Mitchell simply for the audacious idea of injecting comedy into such a relentlessly bleak vision of the future. I admit I’m also a sucker for powered armour, so Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers was a must, and the excellent and little-known Armor by John Steakley is one of my favourite books out there. Seriously, go buy it if you have any interest in science fiction. It’s only a few quid on Amazon and you won’t regret it.
Still, I think Fantasy has to be one of my oldest passions, and is the genre I’m hoping to break into myself. From the old classics of JRR Tolkein’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and C Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, through Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, David Eddings’ Belgariad, Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth (it ended with Faith of the Fallen though, and no-one will convince me otherwise…), Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels (and also the completely different Nation), the Dragonlance books, Stephen Lawhead and last, but certainly not least, David Gemmell, who is my personal favourite author, I love reading about new worlds, new cultures, new creatures, new characters, heroes, villains and epic quests to save the world (and discover oneself into the bargain). In my opinion, Legend by David Gemmell is one of the finest pieces of fantasy written.
The genre has traditionally fixated on medieval Europe analogues. Of course, there is a romanticism about the age of swords and bows that isn’t really felt about that of muskets and cannon (or, for that matter, stone clubs and spears). Medieval Europe is familiar, safe territory. After reading the Empire Trilogy by Janny Wurts and Raymond E Feist, though, I knew I didn’t want to follow suit. This trilogy largely dwells on the political manoeuvrings of a young woman suddenly left in charge of her house in a culture which seems to be a fascinating blend of Japanese with some Aztec/Mayan styling, in a world in which metal is so rare that people make weapons of resin-laminated hide. I think that was where the desire to write my own novel really started. Consequently, I’ve made a firm decision to avoid over-used cultures as much as possible, or else twist them in ways that aren’t usual.
I’ll start discussing some of my main cultures in the next post.