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Friday, April 20, 2012

The Art of Writing No. 18
The convenience of an ‘alerts list’ at the bottom of your growing draft novel is not to be underestimated. Take this note I placed there while writing Azimuth. I had just conjured it up in an early part of the narrative and was so taken with it I copied it for later reference:
  “Find the she-worm and feed his flesh to her as he sleeps the sleep of truth.”
Two things about this. First, when I wrote it I did not fully understand it. The words came through my brain without touching the sides but they had a Blakian feel to them and were obviously an answer to an as yet undisclosed hazard facing Princess Sabiya and Kamil the Historian in the Second Journey. So I copied them on to my list of reminders of all the seeds I was sowing for later writing. Every time I continued the narrative involving these two characters my eye would glance down at this note to myself. I would reject utilising it many times, patiently waiting for the storyline to reach the point when the quote could be reinserted to drive the story line through its deepest waters.
These alerts are like faint pointers to the direction of travel. They are not strong enough to take hold of the story but by having them in your mind when you are writing they act like mild currents under your vessel. It is still for you to steer. So, the second thing to say about the invocational words I copied is that the imagination will write for you if you learn to let it. Some of the best and most timelessly magical bits of Azimuth came to me without knowing and challenged me to incorporate them in the text.
In case my references to Azimuth seem to suggest it is a fey genre novel about pixies and elves, it is no such thing. The reviews at dissuade you. So might me saying, “It is an adventure story full of danger to its characters and their search for answers to why they are alive.”


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