. . . I finished writing my first novel.
It seems an appropriate date to put up an Open Book Thread for Lies and Prophecy, the much-revised descendant of the book I completed that day.
The floor here is open for questions, comments, etc on the novel and related topics (including “Welcome to Welton”). Needless to say, this will involve spoilers, so you have been warned.
Now if you’ll follow me behind the cut, I’ll talk a bit about how the novel came to be.
It was almost an accident.
Of course, nobody trips and falls and spits out a hundred thousand words. But I got halfway through writing the book before it really became apparent that hey, I’d written half a book, and at that point there seemed no good reason not to write the other half.
The first half came about like this. I had loved Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin for years, and then at one point during high school I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Witchlight, about which I remember nothing whatsoever save that it involved a semi-scientific attitude toward magic. These combined in my brain to give me the notion of writing about people studying magic at college. I noodled around with random scenes — in fact, I think I found them in the depths of my files; I’ll post ’em if anybody’s interested — establishing a host of factors right from the start that, surprisingly, have stayed with the book all these years. Wilders. Kim’s lack of skill with pyrokinesis. Guardians. The Krauss test. None of it was really going anywhere; it was me narratively lecturing myself on the world, figuring out what was in it.
That changed very rapidly one night, when I was sitting in the back of the car on my way either to or from some evening event with my father and somebody from his workplace. I was not in a mood to talk, so I stared out the window and thought, and an image came to me out of nowhere: the attack on Julian at Samhain. Suddenly, I had a plot.
Mind you, I had no idea what that plot meant. Who was attacking him, and why? I had no more clue than my characters did. I had to write it to find out.
My freshman year at college, I was poking alternately at this project (known then by the evocative moniker “the college story”) and another one (which showed up with a title in hand: Doppelganger), still bouncing around writing scenes as they came to me. This was when the Tower incident showed up, Kim’s weirdness with her tarot cards. I had a goodly chunk of text by then, fallout from Samhain and the characters trying to figure out what was going on, but as my college crit group pointed out to me, the pacing was terrible and the characters really undeveloped. And, in the way that so often happens with crit groups, I realized they were right, but that none of them had correctly pointed at the root cause:
This wasn’t the beginning of the book.
I’d leapt in mid-stream, with a couple of infodumpy scenes and then suddenly PLOT FROM LEFT FIELD. I needed to write an actual beginning.
Doing so was kind of a nightmare, and by “was” I mean it in the sense of “continued to be so for years to come.” It took four tries before I got a beginning I could proceed with, and it isn’t the one the book has now; there were something like three other openings in between the two, scattered across many revisions. But I finally got something I could roll with, at least, and so I made a list of everything that needed to get explained or established or set up before I got to the bit I already had, and proceeded to come up with scenes that would do the job.
For those of you who are fans of Tam Lin, this was by far the most Tam Lin-ish draft. The characters spent a lot of time faffing about being college students. There were worldbuilding details that have since fallen by the wayside: M&D classes, for example, short for “Meditation and Discipline,” which were mandatory junior high/high school courses for kids with manifested sidhe blood. (Or rather, sidhe Blood — the italics and capital letter got ditched later on.) Or magical names, which I think get mentioned in passing in the actual book; that used to be a standard thing in the setting, and there was a whole strand about Kim’s and how she shares it with the Circle and then somehow Falcon knows it implying Julian had found out but it never got explained how, leaving it as just “woooo look at Julian being mysterious.” (You see why it went away.)
So I had my list, and I wrote my way through it, and when I’d done all my establishing work I chopped off those first few infodumpy scenes, joined the new material to the old . . . and had half a book. Plus a clear sense of where it was going next, and a burning desire to find out what happened after that. So there was really no excuse not to finish.
It’s changed a lot since then. Not just M&D and magical names and unnecessary italics and capital letters going away. There is vastly less faffing about now than before, and more conflict, and depth to the worldbuilding that doesn’t even all fit into this book; I’ve spent thirteen years pondering wilders and their situation, and while the deep shield was always a part of the story, there’s a whole lot more there that will only come out if I get to write the sequels. My prose is better — though it’s funny, glancing at those early scenes, and noticing little phrases that appear to have survived thirteen years of reconstruction. But it is still, at its heart, the same story. And so I am pleased as hell to have it out in the world at last.
Anything you want to know or respond to? The comment thread is yours!