The Open Road – When Inspiration Hits

Anyone who has written a trilogy knows it is considerably harder to finish the final book than to conclude a one-off novel. This is simply because one needs to tie up all loose ends from three novels. I have done this twice, at the end of the first Wycaan Master trilogy and then at the end of the second.

When my mother passed away last year and then when I visited my father earlier this month, I found myself with plenty of time on the plane and in the UK to write. This luxury is something I have never experienced as I usually weave my writing time around an intense job and a desire to be an active father and husband. On each trip I wrote almost 50,000 words in 14 days, much of it at the aptly named apartment where my Dad lives.

Kingfisher Court, Bournemouth

This month, as the plane wheels touched ground, I concluded a big scene that left me two-thirds of the way through the final Kingfisher novel, a medieval fantasy trilogy I have worked on since finishing the Wycaan Master series. What lay before me was the build up to a climactic ending that necessitates bringing multiple characters together from different parts of the land, enabling them to finish their subplots, and get to the scene of the climax.

And I had no idea how I was going to do this.

But I have faith in the process. Knowing I would not have concentrated writing time until the summer, I decided to put it on the back burner and return to editing and finding an agent for Book 1.

Then I drove from San Francisco to Portland (about 10 hours) through beautiful scenery of mountains, rivers, and forests, listening to soccer podcasts and enjoying Mrs. Elfwriter’s company.

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Deep in an Oregon forest, she put on a playlist that included many symphonic rock songs I write to (Nightwish, Epica, Within Temptation, Tarja). Abruptly a musical track of bagpipes, The Gael by Dougie MacLean performed by Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, filled the car (one of Mrs. Elfwriter’s choices, I might add) and the entire final scene entered my mind with incredible clarity.

Now here’s the problem: we were driving on the Interstate 5, in the middle of nowhere with a 6pm deadline to be in Portland. How could I get this down on paper? I was literally squirming with excitement as I drove.

I couldn’t dictate to Mrs. Elfwriter, it would spoil the possibility that she might one day read the books. Whipping out my iPad while driving…well we won’t go there. I had once downloaded an app (Quick Voice?) but had no idea how to use it and this didn’t solve having said passenger.

What resolved the problem was one of Oregon’s wonderful rest stops, often situated in a forest or overlooking a vista. Best part (okay, 2nd best part since knowing the conclusion to your novel and trilogy tops everything) is that the final two hours of the drive passed unnoticed, fatigue totally forgotten.
Last scene from Kf3 driving from Portland 1Have you ever had an experience where you have an intense creative experience at such an inopportune moment? Wanna share?

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books.

More ahttp://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

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At The Next Dwarf Mine Turn Left.

I came across this great article by Roberta Osborn called How to Create A Map For Your Novel. It is very cool and I strongly recommend to those of you who are fantasy or sci-fi writers and may be considering drawing a map, that you follow the link.

Two other articles that I found are from Fantasy Faction and a low-tech video.

When writing Wycaan Master, I never thought to draw a map. Only when I began to write a sequel and realized that I had to keep my characters following a certain geographical framework did I consider making one.

Given that I have no artistic talent, and that my son who helped me write and edit, better understands which end of a pencil is which, I charged him with the task. Being of prime pre-teen material, he refused. In the ensuing negotiation, we agreed to tackle it together.

We went through the manuscript and highlighted every change in direction, every named mountain range and forest. He then took a piece of paper and began to draw. We were soon off the page and took another piece of paper and, utilizing cutting-edge technology, taped the two pages together. They soon blossomed into several pages at unruly angles one to the other, with absolutely no way the map could be folded.

it was clearly destined to be crumpled, torn, and otherwise abused. Today, it sits somewhere in our humble abode under a pile of mutually discarded papers that are not yet quite trash-worthy. It is a tragic tale.

As I look through the articles above, I am struck with a series of questions for those who read epic fantasy. Remember, that I am new, if enthusiastic, to the genre. If you have the energy please answer any or all of the following questions.

1) Do you look at a map at the beginning of a fantasy novel? If so, how much do you study it?

2) Do you refer back to the map as you read the book?

3) Is there any room in epic fantasy for a GPS?

Answers to the first two questions will be greatly appreciated.

Have a great weekend,

Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first has reached the Quarter Finals of  the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award as of March 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).