Category Archives: Designing

Bog Blog

A quick break in the A-Z challenge whilst I share a pictorial walk of today’s afternoon out at Moseley Bog Nature Reserve in Birmingham.

Every now and then, I need to get out into the woods. It helps me get into my setting for writing my novel. Quite literally. I see it as a form of loose research. Not conscious research, just a time to reflect and absorb details I may or may not include. I take photographs to use at a later date. And yes, sometimes I pretend I’m my characters. Today was just a free Easter outing, but I knew a little bit of soaking up the atmosphere will help me get some inspiration back for kick-starting some writing next week.

Anyhow, as I say today we visited Moseley Bog.

Moseley Bog (known as The Dell when I was growing up) was cited by JRR Tolkien as one of the places of inspiration for the forests in The Lord of the Rings, but although the site is a little mecca for Tolkien fans, it is so much more than a cultural heritage site. It is a local nature reserve slap bang in suburbia, but could easily have been developed into housing had it not been for the efforts of Joy Fifer and her campaign to keep the area as woodland.  Thankfully her work from 1980 onwards has helped to preserve the bog as a nature reserve.

In 2010 a lottery grant saw a project to restore and improve the site further in order to enhance access and encourage more visitors and is what you will see in the pictures here today.

I grew up just a mile from here, (and even now only live about 9 miles away), and actually used to be taken to the playing fields once a week for PE lessons when I was at primary school. Yet I have never, until today, visited the reserve. When I was growing up, I imagine the site was not so accessible, and instead outings were to Swanshurst Park just a stones throw from The Dell.

Anyway, it was a lovely afternoon out with some glorious Spring sunshine. Of course we took our pretend swords…I mean what else does one do when treading in Tolkien’s footsteps?

 

The new metal sculpture gates at one of the entrances to Moseley Bog.

 

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The entrance to the school playing fields. The wiggly gate posts did not exist back in the 1980s.

 

 

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Gnarly old tree!

 

 

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Fallen, long, spindly tree!

 

 

 

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Greenery.

 

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My favourite: A moss covered fallen tree with exposed roots. I imagine the Hobbits hiding from the Black Riders under here. Or my elflings finding a way back down into Trelflande. Or Faeries living there. That kind of stuff.

 

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Secret, mystical log walkway into the woods. Stunning.

 

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One of three twig shelters in a clearing.

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With obligatory swords!

 

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The bog itself.

 

 

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Twisty, gnarly, rooty tree bridge place.

 

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close up of twisty, gnarly, rooty tree trunk ūüôā

 

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..and the opposite side.

 

It is hard to believe this is all slap bang in the centre of England’s second city, yet here it is. I may not have visited once in thirty-nine years, but I’ll be visiting plenty more times from now on.

 

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Happy Face Number 1!

 

 

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Happy Face number 2!

 

 

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The Long and the Short of It.

As you will know, if you are a regular visitor to the blog, I spent a fair part of 2014 writing short stories and pieces of flash fiction which included a high rate of participation in the Twitter flash writing game, Friday Phrases (FP). You can even find some of the short stories here¬†and here¬†if you so wish to torture yourself with a variety of pieces of fiction ¬†which I don’t hold in particularly high regard.

Now, at the time, I enjoyed writing in this form. I guess, as I was pretty depressed for the first half of last year, writing flash fiction and shorts gave me an opportunity to carry on writing when I didn’t much feel like it. Also I needed feedback as to how my writing was developing and it felt the quickest way to achieve that.

You see, for me writing a short story is a little like the practice for the big event, the novel. Now I say ‘for me’ with good reason as I know this is not the case for a huge number of writers. Many I know in fact only write short stories or novellas and like it and are very good at it. It’s their thing. ¬†However, it is not my thing I have discovered. This is because, when I write a short it’s usually from a ghost of an idea that flits about my mind (which does not happen nearly as frequently as perhaps it should) and then I just write it. I don’t outline, I don’t plan characters, I don’t ¬†worry about it or have sleepless nights about it. I draft it, then I edit it and it’s done. It can feel like an accomplishment of sorts when I’ve not worked properly on my novel, but it does not satisfy me fully. Possibly because I do see them as an exercise in writing rather than something I’d aim to have published.

Now, the trouble was last year I became a little distracted by writing these short stories and flash fiction, as well as this blog and  all of those things combined only served to take me away from what I actually love working on which is my novel(s).

I have a theory as to why I became distracted. The main one being that I don’t consider to myself to be a true writer in the pure sense of the word. Simply I don’t feel a deep seated need to bleed ideas onto the page lest I die, as other writers speak of. Unless I am in a state of heart break. Which I very much was until I bled all that out in this blog post. Seems writing really does have the power to heal.

No, ¬†the only thing I feel a need to tell is the story in my novel, and in truth, it’s the only story I have to tell. Really. All those other ideas which found their way here last year could have quite happily remained in the recesses of my mind and no one would have suffered the worst for it. Me least of all.

So whilst I was writing shorts, and blog posts, and participating in FP, my novel sat without moving off the 18,000 word count it’d been on for months and months. This bothered me of course but I justified it and comforted myself with the idea that at least I was writing. Something, anything. No matter what came out. Oh dear.

Then, without my conscious knowledge my participation ¬†in FP began to dribble off in the final quarter of the year until, in December, it became none existent. I pondered on why this was the other day and realised it is mainly because I have no ideas. ¬†They’ve dried up and this I put down to my not being utterly depressed and heartbroken. In February, March, April time when I was perhaps at my lowest I look through my notebook and there were perhaps six or seven Flash Fiction FPs a week. It seems, as I’ve alluded to before in another post, I need heartbreak for my emotions to really surface so that I can have the ideas to then develop further maybe when I’m not so down. My emotions are heightened and so apparently is my creativity. ¬†(An ongoing debate which many have written about before.) This in turn meant my well for short story ideas dried up, and in all honesty I lost interest in writing shorts altogether. I have two sitting half finished in draft form, but I doubt I’ll be finishing them in a hurry.

Anyway,  with news from the publisher in mid November that they were interested in my novel and passing it onto marketing and production to make a decision, I figured I desperately needed to get back to the second book which leads on from Book One. The word count now stands at just over 53,000 which has grown from those 18,000 in early November and which had been sat at 18,000 for a good nine months previously. Not my most productive writing phase.

Getting back to the novel, really getting back into it, has made me realise this much: I much prefer writing a novel to short stories. The process that is. Despite the fact that it is, in my opinion, much harder. It is for me at least so much more enjoyable.

This then got me thinking about different writers and how they view the long and short form.

I know many people in the writing world who very much enjoy writing short stories, even prefer it to novel writing. They submit continuously to websites and magazines for publications and are sometimes successful  at being published, at other times they are not. Nevertheless, they write and write and write and seem to do little else with their spare time from their day job.

They seem to be able to write story after story after story, having so many ideas flowing from them they don’t know what to write next.

I don’t. I just don’t have that many ideas floating around in my brain. I did back in February/March/April time but generally I don’t. ¬†Hence why I can never really consider myself a proper writer. What I do is a hobby as I have too many other things I love to do in my spare time too. My novel is, nevertheless, a hobby I hope one day to have published and be able to share with the children of the world. I have other writers being kind enough to recommend places to submit short stories and poems to or competitions to enter, but truth is, I have no real interest in this. Maybe that’s cutting my nose off to spite my face. ¬†All these other writers who write and submit, write and submit will one day get their break. The law of probability is on their side. I’m not making it easy for myself by not doing those things too, this I know. However, I wouldn’t submit my shorts as I know they are simply not good enough. Also, maybe I just like the thought of a long hard slog on one project which I can eventually feel proud of. I’ve never felt especially proud of my short stories, (probably because they are not that great, or original) but I feel very proud of the 130,000 odd words I’ve written so far over the two novels.

On the up side though, writing shorts has helped me develop such technical skills as: showing not telling or playing around with viewpoint and structure. For me this feeds directly into my novel -the big project, the one I am passionate about. I don’t have that same passion for writing short stories. Maybe, if I’m really honest, my passion is not even for writing itself ; it is for the process of creating. I’ve created a whole world with characters and a plot and a history and timelines and maps and family trees. Writing is just the form this has taken. If I was any good at art it could have been a mural or a comic strip. I don’t know. But to perfect that form I’ve had to pay attention to the technical stuff and writing shorts and flash has indeed helped me to focus on the actual art of writing.

To my mind, and perhaps this may be controversial in writerly circles, (as I generally have no clue what I’m talking about having never attended a writer’s club, forum, support group or workshop) the process of writing a short compared to writing a novel is completely different.

When writing a novel, for example, there is more opportunity to develop characters, get to know them, play around with them, shake them up when need be. In a novel the characters drive the story, where for me in short stories it seems the plot drives the characters. ¬†(Maybe because I’m doing it all wrong!) The characters in short stories don’t seem to do unexpected things because there is a ‘punchline’ to reach and it needs to be reached in a specific word count.

Writing a novel also means weaving multiple different threads together. So much so it can feel almost like solving a murder mystery and really gets the brain thinking. It can make it ache too, but in a good way. Weaving multiple narrative and making them meet is ¬†a form of problem solving and it feels great when it all comes together. (Especially if you’re a bit of a pantser like me!) This feeling of accomplishment is something I have never found I gain with writing in the short form. As I say, with a short the ending presents itself like a flash of inspiration and then you run with it until you reach it. The biggest problem solving you have when writing a short story or Flash Fiction is to convey what you want to say in as few words as possible. We all know I’m verbose to the extreme, so perhaps this is why I prefer novel writing!

Now, on a personal level I do actually like reading short stories very much. I loved all Roald Dahl’s Tales of The Unexpected and other short stories when I was a teenager. He, to me, is a master in the art of short story telling, and the novella “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” is one of my all time favourites. However, as a writer, they simply do not give me the same pleasure (and perhaps the same pain!) that writing a novel does.

Those light-bulb, Eureka! moments in the shower when you work out, almost subconsciously, how to fix that plot hole that’s been bugging you for months or maybe that you didn’t even know was there until a couple of characters started a conversation in your head whilst you were washing up! That is a complete thrill and once you get it written down, utterly satisfying.

Writing a novel is a marathon over the sprint of a short. It’s harder, certainly; it’s more gruelling, but the feeling when you finish it is far more exhilarating.

These are just my thoughts of course.

What do you writers think? Do you prefer the marathon or the sprint? Which process do you enjoy more?

What do you readers think? Do you prefer to read short stories, what with the busy lives we now all seem to lead, or do you prefer something you can get your teeth into?

I’d be happy to hear your thoughts in the comments box below. ūüôā

Thanks, as ever, for reading.

 

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X is for…eliXir

Okay, okay I know it’s cheating by not having a word which actually begins with X itself but there are only a total of seven words starting with X in my dictionary (I just checked) and as I have written nothing in my WIP about xylophones, xenon, x-rays or xylem (though I could easily have done so as xylem pertains to plants and roots) you’ve ended up with elixir. Also I wonder how many others doing this challenge will cop out and have a word beginning with say ex rather than x itself?

Anyway, EXcuses over with, lets move on. Why elixir?

Well, as I have already blogged in my c post about crystonal, the magic compound used by the elflings to prolong their lives, it made sense to EXplain some of the research I did, particularly for Book 2 which delves into what is actually in the compound to give them a prolonged life.

At first I just imagined a compound made up of crushed gem stones. This idea stemming from the fact that such crystals are believed to contain healing powers if used in the correct way. Now, whether one subscribes to this way of thinking is immaterial. Does rose quartz attract love? Amethyst induce calm? Does citrine bring wealth? And if you place certain crystals on certain chakras can you heal certain ailments? I don’t know. I collect them because they are pretty and I love the colours.

However none of these stones are rumoured to give longevity of life (shockingly!) and so I got to wondering, Okay what is it in crystonal which causes this phenomenon? (Look at me talking about this compound as if there is scientific fact behind it! Ha ha!)

It was really only when I got to the end of Book 1 and into Book 2 I thought seriously about it. This was because the crystonal, after hundreds of thousands of years of never been misused, (because elflings are just not like that, they are innocent!), they begin to explore its powerful properties in a few different ways. I cannot say how or why though because you know by now I’m trying not to do plot spoilers.

So anyway my brain got to thinking: There has to be an ingredient, a natural ingredient, in it which prolongs life. So I simply Googled ‘elixir of life’ (what on earth did writers do before the internet? They actually would have to pre-know stuff!)

And this is what  found:

“The ancient Chinese believed that ingesting long-lasting precious substances such as¬†jade,¬†cinnabar¬†or¬†hematite¬†would confer some of that longevity on the person who consumed them”¬†¬†

I zoned in on cinnabar as I’d never heard of it and it turns out it’s the common ore of mercury. Well who knew? (Probably loads of people actually, like chemists and geologists, but I’m neither of those so I didn’t know.)

So there I had a very tenuous link. An ancient myth linked to some science. Perfect. And so it was cinnabar became the ‘secret’ ingredient for crystonal and I continued researching into it.

Two problems though. First: Mercury is poisonous. Many of these substances, far from contributing to longevity, were actively toxic.¬†Jiajing Emperor¬†in the¬†Ming Dynasty¬†died from ingesting a lethal dosage of¬†mercury¬†in the supposed “Elixir of Life” conjured by alchemists”

Hmmm, well yes but to humans, not elflings! Ha, phew. Easily explained away.

Not so easy to explain is secondly: cinnabar is not found in Britain as we are not a volcanic island. Well not any more, and not when ‘Prophecy of Innocence’ is set. So how did I navigate this problem? Well I didn’t.

I have to be allowed some artistic licence!

Tomorrow’s Y post continues in the same vein as today’s. I do hope you can join me for what will be the penultimate post in this A-Z blog trip through my WIP.

Thanks for reading and sticking with me until near the end. If you have done so from the start then you certainly have longevity ūüėČ

 

 

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U is for…Underground and Under-developed

One of the biggest challenges of writing my current WIP, Prophecy Of Innocence, is that it is set, largely underground. This was not something I gave due consideration to when embarking on the project, (hence under-developed) simply because it was an idea I had when I was twelve. All I had was ¬†an idea about characters who lived under the ground. That was it. Inspired by Jim Henson’s Fraggles. If Fraggles could live in the rocks under a lighthouse, why couldn’t there be other beings living under the ground? The logic of a twelve-year old’s imagination. I didn’t give an awful lot of thought to the practicalities or reality of writing such a setting.

Of course, I could have completely disregarded every single “hmmm, that could never actually be possible” scenario as it’s a fantasy novel, however as I’ve said many times before, I am something of a realist and so where possible I have tried my utmost to ensure there is a certain element of believability in what I have written. I also couldn’t help but think every time I wrote something which seemed a little incredulous :”Well ‘Journey to the Centre of The Earth’ could never happen without Axel burning up in a second.” Okay, okay bad example as Jules Verne wrote that in 1864 as a sci-fi novel and it hasn’t stood the test of time so well due to what we now know about the interior of the earth. Still, I ploughed on.

So what have been the challenges when writing about a race who live under areas of British woodland? Other than the fact I don’t actually live under the ground so have absolutely no clue what it looks like or know for certain what can be found naturally there or what could, in the world of physical law be possible for living creatures to achieve under the ground? All I know has been gleaned from what I have seen on wildlife documentary programmes or digging in my own back yard. So not a lot.

Well the first ¬†challenge is the issue of light. Or lack of it. How the heck do the elflings see? Well, first their eyesight has evolved to be able to see better than a human in dim light, (though not in pitch blackness). They have eyes which are highly iridescent, like precious jewels and gemstones. So often when describing their eyes I do use words such as amethyst, diamond, emerald, sapphire, amber or even in one case onyx. Not in order to use a better word for blue or green but because their eyes really are like that. (You’ll notice I use amethyst – yes an elfling can have purple eyes.) ¬†But their iridescent, luminous eyes are not enough for them to see in total darkness therefore they need help and the help comes in the form of fireflies (also sometimes referred to as glowworms).

Now, before you say anything about “ah but insects live above the ground,” well, of course, I did my research on this too. Fireflies, at the larval stage, actually hibernate underground over the winter and as all larvae glows it is perfectly feasible (in my head at least) that the elflings take advantage of this fact and use fireflies for lighting. They can be found in temperate climates in wet wooded areas, so Britain is a perfectly plausible location for them. Although this is not all fully explained in the novel otherwise flow would be lost and it would be rather dull to explain, it is important these details for me are at least almost believable and are there in the background.

Problem number two. If you dig through soil there is nowhere for little beings to roam about, building toadstool factories and homes etc…And yes, you’d be right. However, some animals tunnel and burrow their way around underground and in my mind this is what the elflings do. The roof of their world is the soil surface we have under our feet, but they have, over generations, tunneled out openings to live in, a little deeper down. So there you go, open up your imagination. That’s what I did. Would this be possible? Who cares? Is it believable in the realms of fantasy? Hell, yes. If the back of a wardrobe can magically disappear and reveal a snow covered country I don’t see why a made-up race can’t be happily digging out tunnel systems.

My third problem concerned the supply of natural products the elflings would be able to find underground. Mushrooms and toadstools and nuts and flowers are not found under the ground so how is it the elflings get hold of this stuff without ascending above ground? (Which they don’t.) First off, the elfings do in effect what we do when we want things from below ground. They extract them. We extract oil up from the depths, so why can the eflings not do the reverse? Plants are easily extracted down by pulling on their roots. Fungi is not so easy as their are not roots as such but mycelium, the vegetative part of the fungus which consists of masses of branching thread like hyphae. The elflings have had to develop an extraction process to bring the mushroom or toadstool down into Trelflande, or rather I had to develop it on their behalf. It is totally made up, but still had to be on the side of believable and ‘doable’. Other things such as nuts and seeds find their way down naturally from animals overturning the soil. At least this is how I explain those things in the story.

There are many other challenges which setting a story underground has presented, but which I will leave for another time as I really want to get back to my WIP now!

I’d be intrigued to know what challenges you think you’d face if you set a story in a world under the ground? They may be things I’ve not thought of! ūüôā

 

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R is for…Research

I wasn’t sure up until about two minutes ago what the R post was going to be about. If you’ve been with me for the entire journey so far on this A-Z blog challenge, you will know from my A post that I started the challenge on a whim with no forethought whatsoever and I chose the theme to tie in with this whole blog which did originally start as a trip through my WIP. (Ooh another rhyme.)

I’ve been worried about X (I say worried, I’m not really worried as much as excited to see what the heck I come up with) all the while, but I never even considered R. R is such a normal letter. Many things start with R. Though apparently not for me to blog about my WIP.

My options running through my brain this morning were:

1) Rainstone: My main protagonist’s surname but there is not much to say about that and he will be covered in the T post.

2) Re-writes; but I think I pretty much covered that in the P for Prologue post.

3) Royalty: This was in my head for a while however, too much of the plot will be given away if I delve into this and so I decided against this.

Instead I’ve settled on research as, as any writer knows, you have to do quite a lot of this even when writing fiction.

Every writing advice blog I’ve read stresses the importance of doing your research and getting your facts straight. And rightly so, because ¬†someone as nit-picky as me may well end up reading my book and as I am one of those sad humans who will go and look things up that I’ve read in fiction, I wouldn’t want to be getting it wrong. One of the things I’ve always been in awe of with the Harry Potter series was the fact that J.K Rowling had so many subtle references to mythical and legendary stories through the character’s names, objects and beasts. ¬†The etymology behind ¬†the spell names was also great. ¬†I would go away and look stuff up after reading and say “Ohhh , wow THAT’S where that comes from”. It all seemed so effortless. I’m guessing it wasn’ t but I’m also guessing she didn’t do what I’ve done and just leave it to her random muse. She must have done her research and done it BEFORE she wrote each book. I’d imagine anyway. It all seems too flawless to not have been planned that way

However despite being a nit-picky, check your facts type of reader, as a writer I am terrible at actually doing research for my writing. My method has gone something like this:

1) Have an idea. A light-bulb moment usually whilst in the shower or driving.

2)Write a few notes then write into the WIP what I think I know.

3) Google countless sites to verify what I know.

4) Change that section of the  WIP to either a) fit the new information or b) introduce the new information

OR

5) Do a little dance of joy that I  hit the jackpot with my hit and miss approach to using my fuzzy head knowledge and that my original thought from Step 1, whatever mad-cap randomness t was  actually, happily, fits the WIP.  and then bask in my own glory thank you very much. 

6) Completely delete said idea from step 1 because it just wouldn’t be plausible.

Despite this cavalier approach to research, for this novel, Prophecy Of Innocence (a children’s fantasy quest adventure trilogy) my research has had to actually be quite thorough in parts. As it is set in a time past and some events in the real world affect the fantasy world, a lot of the research has been historical.

I had to research when canal building began in Britain and find out if ¬†this tied in with the geography of the elfling’s journey. I had to research how canals were constructed in the 18th century. As I said though, I had some ideas before I wrote but in my usually inefficient writing manner I would write a scene then go and Google what I needed to know and ¬†then add in any relevant missing details. I did have to change the geography slightly as a result and bring dates back, but essentially I had it right. However, as they say “The devil is in the detail” and so being a little right is never enough. ¬†I also had to research coal mining and find out when that began to ensure it would fit in to the time scale. The last thing I would want is for someone to be reading the story and be thinking: “Hold on, no-one was down a coal mine until such and such a year”. (i.e my mum. My mum would definitely point out any historical inaccuracies to me.) I found myself also researching when workhouses were first in operation in the country and I found the name of one in Bristol where some of the story takes place which I did not change for the book.

I’ve had to research different types of fungi (which you can read more about here) as well as find out about naturally found herbs, types of trees and plants in Britain at the time. I had an image in my book for a long time of walnut shells being used for a certain purpose. However, I recently thought: “Hold on, I don’t think walnuts are native to Britain”¬†and guess what? No they are not. I am glad I do check things like this because I’d be mortified if someone else had to. I suppose I would save myself an awful lot of re-writes and edits if I just did my research properly before I put finger to keyboard but old habits die hard and besides, quite often I don’t even know what I want to research until I’ve written anyway! This comes from only having a very loose outline. *Slaps own wrists.

Further to the aforementioned I’ve also needed to research: moles, fireflies, natural dyes, how paper used to be made, Celtic/Gaelic languages, places, place names, mercury, cinnabar and medicinal herbs. ¬† I am only a third of the way through Book 2 so I’m sure I’m going to have to do much more research as I go a long.

I quite like the research part of writing. Usually it leads me into discovering other things I can use elsewhere in my WIP. Today for example I have just had a light-bulb moment about something in Book 3 as a result of writing this blog post on research. So I am now off to break my own habit and do some up-front research whilst the idea is but a seedling.

I’d love to hear how other writers tackle research. Are you disciplined and organised, researching at the point of outline? Or are you like me and do it as you go along? It’d be great to hear your experiences.

*Disclaimer: No research whatsoever was undertaken in the writing of this blog post.

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M is for…Map-making.

I had a day off from the A-Z blog challenge yesterday, so apologies if you were waiting with baited breath to find out all about maps!

But here we are, it’s Monday and today I talk a little about map-making when world building. (Or rather my version of map making and world building in my WIP Prophecy of Innocence. I in no way endorse my own way of doing this. It’s far too unplanned and haphazard.)

It s happens I recently read another blog post about world building and the writer there stated they had heard of someone who hadn’t even started their novel yet because they were still drawing the maps of the world. Crazy? Well, in a word, yes. And that’s coming from me who…well, you’ll see.

Now don’t get me wrong, I myself have always loved maps. One of the things I loved to do most on long journeys in the car was tracking the car’s progress up or down whichever motorway we were on whilst at the same time spotting unusual or amusing place names. (You’ll recall my earlier posts in this challenge where I told you of my penchant for naming my characters after motorway service stations or place names? Eh Voila.)

But despite my little mini, geeky love of a good road map I still wouldn’t start a novel there. I’m pretty sure Tolkien didn’t draw all his maps of Middle Earth and then thought “Ooh, I know, I’ll write a story about folk who live here.”

I find it really difficult to trace back the beginnings of my story and how certain aspects evolved but one thing I am certain of is that the maps and journey track the elflings take came after I started writing and continued to evolve for a while afterwards. I know this because I began writing Prophecy of Innocence (with only 3 A4 sides of scribbled notes as an ‘outline’) in September 2011 but I was given a notebook as present at Christmas that year and on the first page is a map of Britain. I’d drawn it and added on real places, as well as places in Trelflande and the routes taken by the Treebayan and Lutonian elflings. It’s changed since but then , it would wouldn’t it?

I had a vague idea very early on that the primary route of the elflings would trace parallel with where the main stretches of the M6 and M5 motorways run. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is because I ¬†have driven these stretches numerous times and so am familiar with them and the place names along those routes. There is a deeper more plot driven point to the route too before you get the straight-jacket ready, but I can’t go into that as it would give away a lot of the tie-in points for the final book.

For some reason, also unknown to me, I’d always planned for the action of Book 3 to be centered around the city of Bristol. I really have no idea why as I have no links to Bristol. My only experiences of the city are as a fleeting, passing acquaintance. My first brush with Bristol being was when I used to alight the train at Temple Meads station before catching a bus to Bath to visit my best friend during university days. Another time was to be at her Baptism ceremony. My only other experience of Bristol was getting lost in my car around its ring-road on my way to North Devon in the days when I wouldn’t drive on a motorway. I got so lost I ended up having to go on the motorway for the first time anyway just to escape the place!

Anyway, once I’d decided on Bristol as a final destination, I needed to decide on an alternative name for the Trelflande equivalent area underneath Bristol. I don’t know how this conversation came up but my mum said to me: “Did you know Bristol was known as Brigstowe during the Middle Ages?” Well no, I didn’t, but it got me thinking that to use its old name would be just perfect. It also happens that Bristol was, during the 18th Century when Book 1 is set, the second largest city in Britain. I needed the elflings to be near a big city for reasons I won’t go into here as it would be a plot spoiler, but suffice to say Bristol sitting mid point on the M5 motorway and being a large city on a river during the time of the Industrial revolution was too perfect for what I needed.

Since then I have had to draw numerous maps of the underground area of Brigstowe but these are of a localised nature to the elfings. Maps showing the tunnel layout and such like rather than a major map of areas of Trelflande although I am sure this will follow. These things are constantly evolving. I can see exactly how Tolkien would well have built up Middle Earth gradually. As you write, other ideas crop up and you add to and alter things all the time. I find drawing maps helps me enormously when trying to describe setting too. This is especially necessary I think in this kind of novel where a long journey is undertaken. You do have to have a clear idea of where your characters are and how far from home they’ve travelled.

One of the trickiest parts was trying to work out realistic time scales for how long it would take a thumb sized elfling to walk what amounts to a total of around two hundred and fifty miles. I still have no idea whether I have the time scale right. maybe an editor one day will tell me! (Or if anyone out there thinks they’d know, please could you do the maths for me as it’s not my strong point.)

The elflings begin their jourmey from their homeland, a place called Treebay. Treebay is a take on my second favourite motorway service station Teabay, although Teabay is further north in Cumbria whereas the fictional Treebay is in Lancashire. They then travel to the fictional Thorndale which is situated roughly directly west of Manchester and near to where the Bridgewater Canal began its construction in 1761. (This is actually planned and not random and does have a plot point to it!) I named Thorndale after a place actually just twelve miles north of Bristol called Thornbury. But for the purposes of the story, Thornbury/Thorndale moved north and Brigstowe/Bristol became the final place the elflings go to further south.  For the record I have never been to Thornbury either. I only know of it because of the signs I see for it as I drive up or down the M5 when on holidays!

So once more a little glimpse into my slightly crazy head. My maps and place names will no doubt continue to evolve as the next two books are written. I could plan it all ahead I suppose but I just never know what gem I might discover next time I’m on mu travels up and down the UK’s network of motorways. After all, how else is one meant to pass the time in all those traffic jams?

 

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L is for…Lutonia

Well, if nothing else this blog challenge is proving I know my alphabet. So hazzaar for that!

Today, we talk a little of Geography, although tomorrow’s post will do too but in more detail so today’s guide to my WIP shall be a short one. (Huge sighs of relief palpably felt through my laptop screen.)

So Lutonia, as you may have guessed, is a place. In the story the main protagonist and his community come from a place called Treebay which is situated in the north of England underneath part of the county of Lancashire. There are many different regions of Trelflande. Treebay is one and Lutonia is another. Edingworth, who I mentioned in the E s for…blog post, is a Lutonian (as elflings from this area are known). They have different accents to Treebayan elflings and they all have varying shades of red hair. They are, on average, shorter than Treebayan elflings and wear more colourful clothes than their northern counterparts.

I don’t know if it’s because we have a certain north/south divide in England which I always find amusing sitting slap bang in the middle as I do, but I wanted to bring an element of that into the story. Only an element though, you understand. the point is never laboured.

The fictional Lutonia is situated in the south-east of England under what would be modern day Luton in the county of Bedfordshire. Cited in the Doomsday book as Loitone,¬†I simply took both versions and altered the name of the real place (as I have done with other places, but more on this tomorrow). As for why Luton? (It’s not exactly London is it?) Well, I wanted some elflings to be from the south east, from an area which was not fully developed but still fairly built up and they needed to be on a eastern trajectory from Bristol. Luton fitted the bill and so it was chosen. I have been to Luton only once. It was for some random non reason and all I did was watch a football match in a pub so as to knowing anything about Luton, I don’t! (Although I have just discovered for the purpose of this post that the composer David Arnold heralds from Luton as does the singer Paul Young.)

So there you go; you learn something new everyday. You’ll thank me should you ever need those facts in a pub quiz! ūüėČ

Tomorrow (or Monday, depending on when I get a moment)  we delve into Map-making for the letter M.

 

 

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