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Tag: writing process (Page 1 of 15)

Learning to fly again

The last few months have seen some changes happening with The Dragon House. Don’t panic, they’re all changes for the better, but there’s a bit of a theme to them. It’s only become clear to me quite recently what that theme is.

I’ve been learning how to let go. Of old ways of thinking, mostly, but also of ideas that have run their course. Things I’ve been holding onto just because I loved them, and had loved them for so long that they had become part of the Wild Hunt Quartet’s furniture.

Towards the end of last year, I realised something about myself as a writer. In all the stress and anxiety of coming to terms with my increasing disability, whilst also having a *very* late book to finish, I’d been focusing too hard on what my brain thought I *should* be doing with said book, instead of what the story actually needed (I blogged about that here).

It’s a dramatic scene, containing two of my favourite lines, that has been a tentpole incident in the script since forever

Basically, I’d stopped trusting my storytelling instincts, the very things which had carried me through three-and-a-bit books to date. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not a planner by nature; my process is more organic and free-range ¹. So realising I’d started trying to enforce rules and rigidity on myself, and that was strangling my forward progress, was revelatory.

Fast forward to this summer. Long-time readers will be aware that I’ve had persistent timeline issues with The Dragon House, as a consequence of narrative choices I made at the end of The Raven’s Shadow that put Gair several days ahead of the rest of the principal cast.

To avoid postponing his return as a point-of-view character, I sliced-and-diced the timeline of TDH. Tried time-jumping interludes. I even rearranged the script into parts by region/story arc – twice! – putting it back to chronological order in between. But nothing worked, and I was increasingly miserable.


Birds in flight above a misty river as the sun goes down, cropped to banner proportions


In July 2023 I figured out why. I was afraid of a repeat of what happened with Trinity Rising, when I chose to begin it with Teia: it delayed Gair’s reintroduction, which resulted in a reviewer accusing me of having abandoned him for half the book.

Reviews are for readers, not writers. Seems silly to be afraid of what one might say in the future, right? Yet even though I thought I’d moved on, it was still affecting my decision-making. I was contorting and confining my story for the sake of one solitary opinion that I had allowed to live in my head rent-free for literally years.

So I let go of that notion too, and trusted my storytelling instincts again.

Fast forward to this week. Riding something of a high from all the progress I’ve been making with The Dragon House, I stumbled over another notion I’ve been wedded to for far too long.

This one is a plot-thing, rather than a structural issue. It’s a dramatic scene, containing two of my favourite lines, that has been a tentpole incident in the script since forever. I love the idea of it, but this section is bogging me down. I can never seem to get beyond 90% happy with it. I keep returning to fiddle with the dialogue and action beats in search of that elusive last 10%, but never find it.

But nothing worked, and I was increasingly miserable

Reader, I’ve deleted the entire chapter. It’s clear to me now that the greater story has evolved away from it over time, and it no longer serves the purpose I imagined for it. Trying to make it work is probably why I’ve been bogged down here. It’s time to let it go, even if it has always been there.

So the Sunk Cost Fallacy also applies to writing. Who knew?

Obviously, there’s a cascade of consequences to removing this scene which I have yet to fully address, but on the whole this letting go/killing my darlings experience has been liberating. I’m having fun again. I’m so much more at ease with my writing, it almost feels like I’ve rediscovered something I hadn’t quite realised I’d lost: the gift of flight.

The only mystery is why it’s taken me so bloody long to recognise what I needed to do.


¹ Who am I kidding? I am a chaotic-good word-goblin, and I am not sorry.


Featured image by Adrian Campfield from Pixabay

Work in progress

I’ve been keeping my head (mostly) down on how things are going with The Dragon House. I didn’t want to jinx the progress I’ve been making by crowing out loud. As the old hands among you may remember, it took me years to admit to another human being that yes, I was writing a book, so this tracks, as they say.

A few things have fallen into place with TDH lately. Some of them have been to do with plot, and some have been to do with process, and quite a lot were just to do with me being in a better headspace.

I’d been struggling to achieve what I wanted within the constraints of what my Editor!Brain thought I “should” be doing. According to Editor!Brain I had far too many PoV characters. I was confusing matters with sub-plots. This is the final book in the series, E!B reminded me constantly. I should be bringing it all together by now, dammit! These anxieties were setting my brain hamster-wheeling into the wee small hours.

some of my disquiet was rooted in knowing that these supplementary viewpoints needed to be given voice

It’s never good when I start obsessing over craft instead of, y’know, crafting. The quality and quantity of my output always suffers (ah, overwriting, my old friend). But in the end, I remembered who was supposed to be in charge around here, and told Editor!Brain to take a hike. This was indeed the last book in the series, it was already doing a shit-ton of heavy lifting and therefore the only rule that should apply was the Rule of Cool.

I gave myself permission to add another PoV (justifying it to E!B by re-using bit part characters from the previous book) and you know what? It was freeing. It unlocked something in the narrative and allowed me to play more with a subtle theme that’s been threading through the Wild Hunt Quartet from the start: stories. Specifically, the stories we tell ourselves, and the fuzzy bit at the intersection of history and legend, truth and what we want to be true. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it justice but I’m having fun with it nonetheless.

So much fun, in fact, that I brought back a second minor character as a new PoV. That unlocked a sub-plot that had been left to wither for a book and a half, instantly giving TDH more depth and heft. It feels marvellous. I think some of my disquiet was rooted in knowing that these supplementary viewpoints needed to be given voice in order to add texture and dimension to the whole, and I was struggling to go forward creatively because Story!Brain knew I was missing a step.

It’s never good when I start obsessing over craft instead of, y’know, crafting.

In the process of writing this up I discovered I had accidentally created a trans-dimensional teahouse. Characters went in its front door in Zhiman-dar and later, other characters sneaked through its back yard in El Maqqam, 160 miles away. Whilst this is actually a continuity error in the book that I need to fix, there is a part of me that really wishes I could have made it work in-world, because the wandering shop trope will never not give me hearteyes.

Anyway. All this has brought the wordcount rocking up to



Now before anyone gets too excited, this does not mean I’m done. 173k is not even close to where I expect the final wordcount to be (somewhere north of 200k, most likely). But I am getting there. There’s still some fat to trim, and the final part needs the most work.

Oh, yeah, I didn’t tell you that, did I? It’s structured in parts now. It felt like the best way to handle multiple locations, lots of point of view characters, and all the normal/slow/extra-slow time shenanigans, by treating each group/location as a separate arc. Regular readers of this blog will know I tried that arrangement once before and it didn’t work; this time round I think I have sufficient narrative glue to hold it together. We shall see.

After all, there’s a reason these things are called a work in progress.



Featured image: Photo © Rido | ID 4493461 | Dreamstime Stock Photos
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