The Hazards of Planning

I’m constantly amazed by the way that life often makes a mockery of our best intentions. Initially, I had promised that I would conclude Islena Doraux’s Journey through the Land of Shades trilogy in one final volume and I can honestly say it was my sincerest desire to do so. As I worked through the novel, I quickly came to realize that I had surpassed the three hundred thousand word mark…and was a good way from weaving the last of the yarn. Circle of the Witch was a mammoth endeavor that tipped the scales at nearly three hundred and eighty thousand words, but this final volume of the Journey trilogy seemed set to stray well beyond the four hundred thousand word mark…which seemed excessive for a single volume from an Indie author.

The other thing that provides an endless source of wonder for me is my creative process and the way my rather unusual thought mechanics seems to function. I found myself rather disgruntled with the idea of deliberately abridging portions of Islena’s final tale, thinking that after laboring over this story for over twenty-five years, it would be a bit of an injustice to short shift the ending to satisfy a word count restriction. I fretted over this while I worked on the concluding chapters and then…like a falling succession of dominoes…the solution to my conundrum came into place. Within the space of about fifteen minutes I came up with a natural break point in the story, a cover graphic for the novel and a title…and with that inspirational burst, The Chains of Capitulation (the title of which could change depending on the cover graphic I elect to use) was born. The novel will still tip the scales at about two hundred and forty thousand words and will allow me to write the robust ending that Islena’s epic fantasy tale genuinely deserves. The final volume of Islena’s heart-rending odyssey will still be entitled A Fallible Goddess and the Enduring Sorrow and should be available sometime in 2016…though I’m reluctant to offer that as a promise.

Which leads directly to the next segment of the update and yet another example of the hazards of making promises. As mentioned a few updates back, I have been tinkering with the idea of writing a fourth Converging…though agonizing would probably be a more appropriate word than tinkering. In my mind, there was always one final story that begged to be told in Elizabeth and Cynara’s dark saga, but the ending of Closures in Blood left me with very little appetite to tell the tale. Writers are a curious breed and ideas can often be like irritating grains of sand in an oyster…an unrelenting thing that eventually leads to the formation of a pearl. After nearly twenty years of resisting the temptation, I finally wrote the opening chapter of the fourth and final novel of the Converging series. An immortal Heart Asunder will provide a definite end for Elizabeth and Cynara’s story…every story, no matter how compelling, must eventually know an end and theirs will be no different. For those who have enjoyed the Converging series, this last volume will prove to be a complex and heart-rending journey…but it is a story that I have to tell. With nearly seven thousand words committed to paper already, there is no turning back. If things go as planned, An Immortal Heart Asunder should be available in the second half of 2015.

Or perhaps I’ll set that aside and write my first vampire novel…just kidding…I think.

The Creative Mechanics of Intuitive Writing (or the Lack thereof)

Creativity is a genuinely individual mystery…every artist develops his or her own style of creating their art. This process can be mystifying…even to them and yet this may be the only way they can give voice to their work. I am what I describe as an intuitive writer. I eschew most of the traditional tools that are routinely employed by most writers. Chapter and character outlines…well-developed plot threads in advance of the first word hitting the page…these things are as alien to me as calculus or quantum physics. Most of my novels have germinated from a single idea…a kernel that may contain a single thread of plot anywhere along a meandering path of the tale. I may have a fairly firm notion of an ending or a specific juncture in a story, but the specifics of how to arrive at these points may be obscured by darkness. My creative process could be likened to connecting points of light in a night sky. The path taken between these points can often be a meandering route and I am frequently surprised to see where the path has led. This is the true heart of the intuitive approach to writing…a sort of undeviating faith in the fundamental soundness of my creative instinct and an unwavering confidence that this instinct will ultimately lead me to where the story was meant to be.

As I labor through the first draft of a novel, I will often find myself tentatively leaning toward a certain framework, only to spontaneously abandon that notion at the sudden appearance of an alternate route forward. Circle of the Witch was a prime example of that concept. I had always envisioned an ending that was a fair facsimile to the final product, but the characters of Maria Cordova and Tamara Hood deviated wildly from my initial portrait of who they were and what fate they could expect come the denouement.

There are many inherent dangers in utilizing the intuitive approach to creative fiction, the foremost of which is the prospect of creating a finished product that is hopelessly convoluted…if not overtly incomprehensible. Thus far, I have been fortunate in that I have avoided this pitfall…or so I believe. There is no right or wrong methodology to writing…irrespective of what those who earn their porridge by teaching the craft would have you believe. I prefer the intuitive approach because it frees me from the rigid constraints that often could often impose intractable boundaries on the story in the form of an outline. Intuitive writing can be distilled to one simple thing…allowing the story to tell itself by trusting the creative urges being filtered up through the trapdoor from where ever the creative impulse dwells.

A Fallible Goddess and the Enduring Sorrow (the final novel of the Journey through the Land of Shades trilogy) may well be my final novel. Of the seven novels I’ve written, this is easily the most intuitive story that I have ever set to paper. Each time that I take up the pen, I have no real notion where the day’s thread might lead me, but as I review each day’s efforts, I find myself very satisfied with the direction taken. When I first began writing this this trilogy in the late eighties, I had a fairly concrete idea of how the final step in Islena’s intense and complex tale would be taken, yet as I write the final chapters of Fallible Goddess, all of that smug certainty has dissipated like mist before a strong wind. I have followed my creative intuition into territory that I had never imagined and it is both invigorating and unsettling. I would liken it to being led by someone that you cannot really see or define, but whose summons is irresistible. I understand how that must sound like artsy hocus-pocus, but it is nonetheless true. Intuitive writing cannot be taught…not is it an easy thing to define in concrete terms that are easy to understand…because is intuitive and thus individual. In truth, the process and mechanics are difficult to describe without sounding somewhat demented.

Of the seven novels I’ve written, I have never felt more like a mere scribe and that the story is actually telling itself than I have with Fallible Goddess. I can say that Islena’s tale will have a tragic aspect of heart-rending proportion, but even so, it has filled me with a sense of joy. For me, intuition is the driving source of my creativity and this story has allowed me to indulge that belief to the fullest. If it should happen that this is my final novel, I can take pleasure in knowing…with this last tale told…I was able to fully embrace the only writing method that could ever have worked for me.

Converging 4? Perhaps…

 

It seemed like an appropriate moment for an update on how I’m passing my creative time. With Circle of the Witch being well out of the gate and on its way to whatever acceptance it might garner (and to my admittedly biased mind, this should be a novel any true horror fan would enjoy), I have shifted my entire focus to completing A Fallible Goddess and the Enduring Sorrow…book three of the Journey through the Land of Shades series. The final novel of this series will bring the complex philosophical underpinnings of the story into the light and it will be fairly lengthy in the telling. I can say that I have crossed the 200,000 word mark in the first draft and that Islena’s part of the tale is moving inexorably toward a heart-rending and explosive conclusion. If I remain diligent, the novel should be available in late 2014 or early 2015.

Yet, even with this formidable task before me, I find myself increasingly distracted by another project that has niggled at the edges of my creative thoughts for years now. I finished writing the final line of The Converging: Closures in Blood on January 11, 1996. In his or her career, every writer pens what is…to their mind, at least…the perfect ending. The final scene of this particular novel was, from my view, the ideal ending for Elizabeth Simpson and her tale of grim perseverance. There is not a phrase…not a word…that I would change in that last segment and even now, I admit it is hard for me to read the epilogue of this novel without feeling the intense pull of emotion that I experienced when I first re-read what I had committed to paper that night.

Elizabeth…and to a lesser extent, Cynara Saravic, (the series antagonist)…have been my favorite creations and it has not been easy to bid them goodbye. It was the efficacy of the ending that helped me resist the temptation to slip back into that particular dark pool. I always feared that a maladroit follow-up would ruin the perfect ending that I was so fortunate to write for Closures in Blood and so I have labored hard to resist the temptation.

In the intervening seventeen years, a story slowly took shape in my mind, and despite my best efforts to ignore it, I find that it is a logical progression that really speaks to the underlying concept upon which the series is based. In that time, the story began to flush itself out (without my active participation in the process, which is how my odd creative mind works anyway), until now I find myself confronted by a living, breathing creation that is becoming increasingly hard to resist.

I can say only this…whereas the end of Closures in Blood was a perfect ending…there was a great deal of latitude to contemplate what might have become of Elizabeth after the final word was written. If I ever decide to embark on this last journey into the Converging universe, I can assure readers that this novel will have an emphatic ending, beyond which nothing will remain to be told.

Writers are a strange breed and because of the methodology I employ in my work, perhaps I’m amongst the strangest of the lot. I won’t pretend to speak for other writers, but I’m sure that it’s not uncommon for writers to develop a keen affection for their characters. Elizabeth has long been my favorite character and the decision to open old wounds and inflict new ones will not be taken lightly…in the meantime, that niggling itch is bound to become a relentless drone…

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