A few days ago, I wrote the final words in the first draft of the novel I’ve been writing for — well, a long time. Far too long. But finishing a draft is still special, even when it should have happened years ago, so it’s worth taking a moment to celebrate.
This is a sequel to At An Uncertain Hour, with the working (very working) title of The Empire of Nandesh. Looking back at my files, I find I started it just slightly over nine years ago. At that stage, I had plenty of time to write, but shortly after I began my self-employment as a copywriter.
And that’s the problem, of course. I’m writing all day, and it takes a lot to encourage me to write more when I knock off in the evening. Lately, I’ve been doing pretty well if I’ve managed a thousand words a week. Sometimes the count has been zero.
Nevertheless, I’ve kept going with this novel, inching towards the end, and I’m finally there. And, of course, like most first drafts, there are masses of things wrong with it. At some point, I’m going to have to pull the whole thing to pieces and rewrite it.
But not yet.
What’s It About?
When I began and started posting the chapters, as I wrote them, on Fantasy-writers.org, I came up with a blurb — the kind of thing that might go on the back cover. In fact, although it needs a bit of tweaking, it’s not impossible that’s precisely what it may eventually be used for:
- Tollanis (aka the Traveller) feels uncharacteristically dubious about helping to fight against the evil sorcerer-king Nandesh, and he’s not too sure about his ally Kargor, either.
- Nandesh, in among his plans to conquer the world, seems to have a personal grudge against Tollanis, although the two men have never met.
- Fandis, Nandesh’s lover and bitterest enemy, dreams of the day she can kill him, even while she spurs his ambition higher.
- And, perhaps scariest of all, Tollanis’s ward Lanza is a seriously frustrated teenager.
A few things need changing, particularly in the description of Fandis, but that essentially describes the starting positions. Nandesh is really the consequence of a decision the Traveller made at the end of At An Uncertain Hour, while Lanza and Fandis are almost complete mirror-images in their relationships to Tollanis and Nandesh, respectively. Other major characters include Kargor (as mentioned), who’ll become even more important in subsequent novels, and the young king Dranaliel, who’s learning to become a king and an adult at the same time.
The current frontrunner for the actual title is Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth. This is a quote from King Lear — in full, “How sharper than a serpent’s tongue it is to have a thankless child.” And essentially the novel is all about dysfunctional parent-child relationships. Some literally parent-child, some surrogate, some extremely twistedly so, and the dysfunction ranges from lies and secrets to abuse and murder.
But I don’t want to give too much away.
As I’ve mentioned, this novel will require major surgery in the second draft. The individual story arcs need considerably more work done on them. The four POV characters (all 1st person) aren’t as well developed as they might be. Nandesh, for example, isn’t yet very convincing as a psychopath, and one (very pleasant) preparation I’ll be doing for the revision will be to reread Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory to get the true psychopath feeling.
There are other things. Like At An Uncertain Hour, this novel involves extensive multiple timelines, and the tie-ups between periods don’t quite work, while I’ve skated too much over some aspects of the “present”. And, like all my first drafts, it’s far too short on sensory description.
But I won’t be starting with that right away. I have a number of shorter pieces clamouring to be written, ranging from short stories to novellas, and I’ll be devoting myself to those for a while.
Then I’ll need to decide whether to come straight back to this novel or push ahead with some stage of another. The current position is that this book’s sequel The Tryst Flame (yes, I wrote them out of order) is finished and done, apart perhaps from a couple of tweaks. The next two sequels, Children of Ice and Dreams of Fire and Snow, exist in rough form but, like this one, need a lot of work, while there are three more novels required to complete the octology — and the next one introduces a major new figure.
So I have plenty to occupy myself over the coming years. I just hope I can find ways to speed up a bit, otherwise I’ll need to live to well over a hundred to get everything finished.