30 Oct 2017

The Long Autumn

Hail readers!

Today I shall be giving you a brief update, regarding both my progress on Fallen Love, and the state of my life at present (the two being, of course, inextricably linked).

To wit: progress on Fallen Love has been slower than I was perhaps hoping for. Nonetheless, I have made some progress. I read, edited, and rewrote over 100 pages in the book since last week. The changes were, primarily, related to tense, description, and the mechanics of writing; but I also rewrote a chapter in order to change the course of events slightly. I have not made substantial changes to plot and characterisation—the reason is simply because I haven’t got to that part yet. The beginning of the book serves more as a foundation; it is the later chapters that really advance the plot and, by extension, the character development.

Why has progress been slow, you wonder? Partly it’s because I have not received all of the feedback from my beta readers, and what feedback I did receive was mostly not that useful. I will ask you, reader, to consider helping me. If you think you can beta-read, drop me an email (work DOT alexstargazer AT gmail.com) and we’ll see. I very much appreciate help and feedback at this point.

It’s also been partly because I’ve had a lot of work to do. Last week was lecture-free, but I nevertheless had an essay to finish, a quiz to submit, and a statistics project to work on. This week I will also be busy. Tomorrow I have another quiz; after that I should do some work on two essays; and I also need to enrol for next semester’s courses (a complicated business).

The week after this, I need to focus and revise for my second round of exams. I will also have to squeeze in an annotated report and presentation.

I hope you understand why I am moving my goals for Fallen Love further in the future. Previously, I hoped to have wrapped up the revision process by November; that was naive, a hope guided by the fact that it will soon have been a year since I started writing Fallen Love (and a year since I gave up on the Ark). I am planning, instead, on having finished the revisions by January. Then I will start submitting to agents.

I am also going to Romania this Christmas—the first Christmas I am spending in my home country for a very, very long time. In the past 15 years I have been to Romania only in the summer, except once in February. What can I say? Christmas will be very busy this year.

My blogging efforts will remain sporadic over this period, as university, the book, and life will take up most of my attention. Although, I am taking breaks in the form of reading, and so I will continue posting my reviews. You can read my (very substantial!) backlog here.

Until next time!

3 Oct 2017

Writing a Book at 14

Hello readers!

Following from my previous announcement, I can confirm that I’ve sent the completed draft of Fallen Love to my beta readers, and they are presently reading it. In the meanwhile, I have decided to grant you all a treat: an essay, originally published in the student journal, that elaborates on my experience writing the Necromancer.

Perhaps you can interpret it as a reflection on the past—and a guide to the future. For me, it invokes great nostalgia. For you, it may enlighten the sometimes mysterious world of writers.

I will be back with news of Fallen Love soon, in any case. Until then!

What’s it like to write a book at 14?

When I tell people I wrote a book at 14, it would be an understatement to say that I get a lot of responses. But beyond the look on people’s faces, writing the Necromancer changed my life in many deeper (though sometimes subtle) ways.

Firstly, allow me to address the obvious factor here: commitment. Writing a 108,000 word high-fantasy book is not something you do on a whim. Indeed, it took me over six months to complete the first draft—a feat that required writing multiple hours per week—and a whole 18 months to get feedback, edit, seek agents, do more edits, and eventually hire professionals to do the artwork.

This leads me onto the second obvious question: motivation. Why, exactly, does a fourteen-year-old undertake such a quest? In my experience, laymen often draw on analogies with entrepreneurs: perhaps, they think, I wrote because I want to build something. Maybe I want to make the world a better place. Maybe I’m just in it for the money, or the pleasure of throwing down a 500 page book and saying ‘I wrote that.’

But this is only a small part of the reason I write. To understand my motivation, you need look a bit deeper, and trace the origin to my love of reading. I have always loved reading, even from an early age, and this was particularly true of the years just before I began writing. A transcript from the school library showed that I read about 400 books between the ages of 11 and 14.

The old adage is true: behind every writer there is a profligate reader.

So how did my love of reading affect me? It is safe to say that I became enraptured by the world of fantasy. Like the children in Narnia, I had opened the wardrobe and found a whole world waiting for me. Eragon and Northern Lights kept me up at night. I saw myself in their shoes: I fought urgals on the back of a dragon; I met angels; I fought dark magicians and consorted with vampires.

I was, in truth, smitten by the occult. My fascination was endless. It seems almost inevitable that I came to write about it; that my ideas grew, morphed, and took a life of their own.

One grey October afternoon, I began writing. I believe the necromancer compelled me to write that day; that the curve of his arrogant jaw, the icy power held in his ‘cold orbs of sight,’ all but forced me to put him down on paper.

Laymen often ask writers where their inspiration comes from. This, I am afraid, is the best answer I can give you.

The first few chapters I wrote were not worth the paper they would have been printed on, however, so I had to rewrite them from scratch. This is true of nearly all first time writers—you can blame it on the fact that writing fiction is… hard. It is difficult for a non-writers to understand just what kind of challenges writing presents: the elaborate art of writing itself; the magnificent difficulty of capturing whole personalities, often in few words; the intricacies of plot—all to name a few.

The rest of the book was a journey. I followed Linaera—apprentice mage and unwitting protagonist—through her journey into the Northern Mountains. I watched on as Nateldorth, Great Mage, uncovered dark conspiracies in the capital, Dresh. Most of all I followed the necromancer. I was witness to him: to his betrayal, his descent into madness, and his ultimate redemption.

Books are journeys. The journey of my book was in a way my journey: where my characters struggled, I struggled with them. For them it was question of facing up to existential challenges. For me it was knowing their motivation, and building all the twists and turns of plot that made up their lives.

Writing the Necromancer was often a pleasure. I liked the dark, unexpected turns of the plot; the characters’ inner lives; and most of all, I enjoyed writing in the world of Arachadia. I loved the towering mountains, the vast, sprawling forests; the great stonework of the mage buildings and the fine craftsmanship of the wooden cathedrals; the world of dormant dragons and powerful magics.

Of course, writing the Necromancer was often a challenge. I was young, and devoid of experience. I often struggled to write fluently—it took much work to correct the early mistakes. It was as if a vast realm had been entrusted to a young king; a king with many ideas but few ways to actually conquer.

But conquer it I did. Perhaps I did not quite succeed. Perhaps there are other worlds yet unconquered—other vast and distant places full of promise. But writing the Necromancer was not the finishing line; it was only the first milestone of a long journey. I do not know what dragons still slumber in the path I am taking.

Nor does it matter. My advice to my younger self—as well as to other would-be writers—is perseverance. Many monsters lie in wait (some of them are called publishers, critics, and yourself) but the treasures they guard are beautiful.