I’m writing a book at the moment, and it’s going to take me about a year. I don’t like talking about my books as I’m writing them. It’s a superstitious thing. So I thought that I might do a series of blogs about my writing process. How it works for me.
I usually start with a very vague idea, eg “I’m going to write a book set in ancient Egypt”. So the first thing I have to do is think of a story. If it’s a historical book, I like to get some ideas from history. So I read some history books.
At first, I thought the ancient Egyptian book was going to be about cat mummies, so I read all about cat mummies and cat worship, but I couldn’t work out a good story. (It wasn’t all a waste of time, I used some of the cat information in the second book, Ramose and the Tombrobbers, which has a cat mummy, or half of one at least, on the cover. I also wrote a short story about cat mummies which ended up in the anthology called short.)
The story of Ramose that I did end up writing was inspired by a couple of things that actually happened—a Prince who disappeared, palace murder plots. That gave me the idea for the premise. That’s the starting point of the story, the set of circumstances that cause the story to begin.
In Dragonkeeper, the premise was “this is a version of ancient China where dragons exist. A bad dragonkeeper doesn’t do his job properly and a dragon dies. He has to get rid of the evidence.” I didn’t have the whole story, that was yet to come. I just had the beginning.
Some people are surprised that I didn’t make up the way that the bad dragonkeeper got rid of the dead dragon. If you want to know where I got that idea from you can find out here.
This is an important stage of the writing process, even though at this stage I’m just thinking. It needs to be leisurely, unrushed, no deadlines. I usually do this while I’m writing another book. Not while I’m actually typing at the keyboard, but in my spare moments or when I get sick of writing (about lunchtime). I might jot down some notes, that’s about it. It will be months, occasionally years, before I begin writing the new book. The ideas come and go. Some hang around. They’re the ones that end up in the book.