I’m writing my first medieval fantasy novel and documenting my progress here on the blog. This is my sixth update in the series.
Laying a Foundation
A few weeks have passed since my last manuscript update, and I’m pleased to say I’ve officially wrapped up the section I’ve been working on. The progress is slow when it comes to upping that word count (which sits above 6, 000 words now), but I’ve technically written double that in notes and research. Much of my time is still spent writing maps and family trees, backstories and histories and succession outlines. I’ve been warned that sometimes backstories can mascaraed as progress when they’re really distractions, but this work has laid my story’s foundation and made writing so much smoother (and enjoyable!).
Some of the characters in my book have incredibly long lifespans and as such, certain people are crucial to the story in both the distant past and the present. I needed to be clear on what occurred in my characters’ histories before I could carve out details in the present. But, clear to a certain degree. I’m only detailing very specific events and leaving a little wiggle room as to all the individuals involved and their motives.
I like to work as if I’m glancing through my peripherals. Sensing the upcoming details, knowing where some will lead, but not aware of all their destinations. Call it intuition if you will, but I trust that I can make it work. This story has a foundation, a spine, but it can take any number of shapes as I trudge along. And any of those shapes could be molded into something compelling, something captivating. I believe it with my heart, know it in my soul, and so I trust I can make any path work. Although, I do acknowledge that perhaps this messy, fluid, intuitive route could be a giant lesson for my future self in what not to do. But it feels right and constructive now, so I’m rolling with it.
As far as specific updates go, I have a chapter! It’s grown from 3,000 words to 6,000. Who’s to say yet if it will grow again or be divided into smaller sections? I am a fan of long chapters, but I’d like to see a few stitched together before deciding how to arrange and divide them.
The cast grows.
Moving forward, I’m ready to write from a second characters’ viewpoint. The first chapter went to a woman named “Auralen”. This second will likely go to a man named “Korro”, although I may give it to a character named “Jal Forrlen”. Or, I may skip to the third chapter I have in mind and see what befalls my characters Jem and Hurran, located across the map in a distant city.
At night I close my eyes to watch my story as if watching a movie, and I ask myself questions. What if the story was told from this person? How would it change if told from another character? What would happen if Auralen took her questions to the High Council, and what would happen if she searched for the answers herself? What is happening over in this part of the map while my current chapter unfolds? And above all, how can I make this more interesting? How can I think ahead and work backwards?
It’s becoming addictive. The stress of “getting started” is starting to fade and I’m able to jump into my pages without going through the routine of creating a perfectly creative environment or rereading the previous days’ work a hundred times. It’s finally really fun. I’m even dreaming now about one of my characters, and in my sleep I conjure new ideas of where their journey could take them.
Letting Go and Following Flow
By my next update, I’d like to ideally nudge towards 11,000 words and complete at least one chapter from a second character’s point of view. I have about three story arcs in mind to pick from and will let intuition decide which character gets the next chapter. I can’t wait to see what happens! Writing this book is starting to feel like watching a thrilling series for the first time, while knowing a few spoilers—I’m connecting with the characters and eager to know what happens next, and curious to discover how the dots will connect.
The most important lesson I’ve learned thus far is to release the pressure to move quickly. Life is busy. I have two toddlers, an upcoming art exhibition, and I’m relaunching my crystal shop with my husband. While I’d ideally have the time to roll out of bed and work on my novel all day every day, that’s just not feasible. (Yet. Not now, but one day definitely.)
In the meantime, I’m encouraged that I can plop at my desk and easily pick up right where I left off. Right now I tend to write about three to five hundred words at a time, which can sometimes feel SO SLOW. But time spent writing is time well spent. And I get that crazy, warm, awesome feeling in my gut and chest every time I work, which tells me I’m definitely doing something in alignment with my goals/desires/dreams. That quiet, small voice within is there for a reason, and it’s never failed me before.
The more I trust the process, the more freedom my mind has to make it happen. So here’s to following my intuition and staying curious. Let’s see what happens!
Sending you my best wishes for whatever you’re working on in life these days, be it a project, a relationship, your health or career. You’ve got this! We’ve got this. One day at a time.
© 2023 Samantha Burgett
Photo: my image