There are piles of books on the table as usual… some of them with my name on the cover, which still feels rather odd. The running joke in the family is that they look like ‘proper books’. Which, of course, they are…
As I edit, design and format, doing things I didn’t know how to do not so very long ago, I can’t help thinking how similar the process of writing is to living. You start with an idea of where you want to go and then it is pretty much up to you to choose how you are going to get there. Are you going to plan every chapter and stick to the plotline… or are you going to ‘open up and get out of the way’ and see where the story wants to take you?
It isn’t a question of simply sitting back and being wafted willy nilly by the breeze of creative thought; the broad lines are set. You are not going to start writing a romance, for instance, and turn it into a text book on physics. On the other hand by sticking rigidly to the plotline you might just miss a wonderful twist that comes in unexpectedly.
With Sword of Destiny I had a simple and fairly vague idea if the plot… I could have told you in a couple of sentences… but how that was going to become a story I had no idea until I began writing, and up to the last page I didn’t know how it was going to end. With The Initiate, Stuart and I lived the story and the majority of the conversations are merely reported as the adventure unfolds.
This is not dissimilar to how we live really… sometimes, even when the plans are laid in broad outline of where we want to go with our lives, we have to wait and see what happens next. On the other hand, you cannot delete great chunks of life if it doesn’t meet your expectations. You can’t edit out so much as a comma, although you can take the developing plotline and move it forwards in line with your will, using the un-editable mistakes to build a story that has more depth and interest.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
Sometimes a different strand weaves through life’s story, much as we have done in The Triad of Albion books and the unexpected adds a richness of experience that was unlooked for. Sometimes a thread takes a completely new direction and leaves you looking at something you thought you knew with surprise and new insight. The Living One and The Osiriad do just that, taking stories that are familiar to us and, looking at them from a different angle, open up a whole new line of thought and adding a chapter to the story of a growing understanding.
But more than anything there is the certainty that the stories of our lives, written by every one of us, is unique. They could not be written by any other person in history; they are set in the here and now, against the backdrop of history, family, time and place. We are the heroes and heroines of our own tales… and sometimes the villains too… but whatever genre our stories might fall into, be they humour or tragedy, romance or mystery… we owe it to ourselves to make sure they are a damned good read.