Elspeth Cooper

Purveyor of fine fantasy adventures

Category: writing (Page 2 of 19)

A vintage typewriter with the text "it starts with one WORD" written on a shee

A needful thing

So this post has been a long time coming. It needed to be written, but I kept putting it off because frankly, I didn’t know how to write it. I still don’t, but I’m going to have a go anyway. I hope you understand.

I’m not a fast writer. I have perfectionist tendencies, which mean I don’t let go of anything until I’m absolutely sure it’s the best I can possibly make it. That goes double for creative work. What it goes for for the Wild Hunt Quartet, the story I have wanted to tell for over 25 years, well. I’m not sure there are enough zeroes in the world. That’s how much it means to me.

I’m also ill, and have been so for a long time. Most of you will already know this, because although I don’t shout it from the rooftops, it’s not exactly a secret. I have multiple sclerosis. Officially, I was diagnosed in 2004, but the symptoms go back almost as far as the origins of The Wild Hunt Quartet. There’s an irony, eh?

MS has approximately the same effect on my nervous system as mice do on your house’s wiring

Anyway, for those that don’t know, MS is an auto-immune condition in which my body attacks its own nerve cells, slowly stripping them of their protective layer of myelin. Myelin works like electric cable insulation, so MS has approximately the same effect on my nervous system as mice do on your house’s wiring, only you can’t call Pest-B-Gone and hire an electrician to put it right. It’s chronic, progressive and disabling.

I’ve mostly come to terms with it, though on bad days I still get angry and bitter when I can’t do something trivial like get the top off a jar, carry a cup of tea without spilling it, or get to the bathroom in time. There’s more, and worse, but that’ll do for today.

When I was first diagnosed, the disease was relapsing-remitting. I’d have flare-ups of symptoms, like visual disturbances or numbness, then periods of no noticeable disease activity. Rinse and repeat. Over time, as the scarring built up on the nerve fibres, symptoms started to stick around. My balance and mobility have deteriorated markedly over the last few years. My fatigue has increased (and fatigue in MS is not ‘feeling a bit tired’, it’s ‘can no longer stand because after a few minutes the axial muscles just don’t work any more’). And the cognitive dysfunction has got worse.

Cognitive problems in MS patients are very common. These can range from poor concentration, difficulty making decisions and general ‘cog fog’ to mood swings, depression and memory issues. Pick one from the list and I’ve probably had it. Certainly depression. Feeling fat and useless, frustrated and foggy and exhausted is pretty much guaranteed to do a number on your mood.

An open book with ribbon marker

© Ingvald Kaldhussater | ID 514554 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

All of which brings me to THE DRAGON HOUSE. Just as a book, it has its challenges. It’s the last one, the conclusion to the series. The one I have the highest hopes and deepest fears for. It’s the culmination of every decision I’ve made heretofore in the telling, the drop-box for all the “I’ll figure that out in the next book”, the firing of Chekhov’s guns, the resolution of every scrap of foreshadowing. As a discovery writer, it’s also the book I knew least about going in.

A big ask, then. And I’m trying to write it whilst dealing with MS that is now secondary progressive. I admit, it has sometimes been overwhelming. I have suffered from creative paralysis. Decision fatigue. Rampant perfectionism and an inability to believe that anything I do will ever, ever be good enough.

If the book’s not done yet, it’s not been because of a lack of effort, believe me. Or any shortage of tears. There simply comes a point where I cannot work any harder, because I simply cannot work. But I keep trying anyway, and that exacts a price.

I will finish this book. This story is my heart-song, my dream; I cannot let these characters down by leaving their tale unfinished. They deserve an ending, and so do all the readers who have come along for the ride. I must just beg your indulgence a little longer.

This story is my heart-song, my dream; I cannot let these characters down

A final few words. I am surrounded with loving support from friends and family. My publisher and agent have been nothing but wonderful. I know I am not alone. This post is not meant to be a play for sympathy, just an explanation. I feel I owe you that. I haven’t kept the blog up to date, despite my best intentions. That’s the thing about missing a deadline; the further past it I go, the less I want to draw attention to myself by mentioning it. The more I’m struggling, the less I feel able to share. My instinct is to hide, to soldier on in isolation. To keep setting myself more deadlines, and keep failing to meet them, so I hide some more.

There are circumstances I cannot change, limitations I will always have to work within, but I will try to do less hiding, going forward.

And I WILL finish this book. You have my word on that.

Sincerely,

Ellie

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Surprising myself. Again.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: contains spoiler for TRINITY RISING, so bear that in mind if you read on!

Most of you know by now that I am a discovery writer, what GRRM calls a ‘gardener’. I do not build my books out of 3×5 index cards, beat sheets and 16 different-coloured pens. I mean no disrespect to those who do, I’m just not one of them.

Anyway, I took part in a recent thread on r/fantasy (one of the more civilised corners of Reddit) where someone was asking the resident writers how we chose our genre and what themes we explored in our books. I’m one of those who doesn’t consciously choose a theme, but finds it evolves organically over the course of writing. Sometimes the theme isn’t even clear to me until the book is done.

Which leads me to this, which happened last night as I was working.

Obviously, I can’t go into too much detail about this fourth relationship, because the exact circumstances are a mahoosive spoiler for THE DRAGON HOUSE, but it concerns a lost daughter. She has a name but is never described, and has no lines to speak. Nevertheless she casts a subtle shadow across the whole Wild Hunt Quartet. Not so much for who she was or what she did, but the how of her loss, and the guilt her father feels over it, are a driver for why everything in the Quartet happens the way that it does.

Tanith & Lord Elindorien. Teia & Teir. Ansel & Selsen. I didn’t set out to include so many dads and daughters. There was actually going to be another one, just for this final book, but I’ve had to drop it, for reasons. It also took me an embarrassingly long time to catch on to it being a theme at all — 3-anna-bit books of a 4 book series, or well over half a million words, in fact. But this fourth one had been there since the very beginning. And I didn’t see it unfolding, even as I was writing it.

Discovery writing, yo. Sometimes it’s frustrating as hell, and sometimes I blow my own mind.

Page 2 of 19

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Newsletter Powered By : XYZScripts.com