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  • Julian M Armstrong

Writing - How I develop initial ideas

My own way of writing may well be unique or may be entirely commonplace, but it works for me.

The only mysterious part is where the initial ideas come from. The very basic concept of Chronicles of Tala, came originally from role playing games with friends of mine 30+ years ago; my comedy/ drama, Plato’s Frog (yet to be published), came from a single surreal, jokey conversation with a workmate; another as yet to be completed book, The Dream Team, came from a newspaper article. The strangest thing is that although the idea often arrives without warning, when it does, it’s like it comes already pre-packed with various elements that seem to have always been there.

My strategy is then generally to leave the idea sitting somewhere in my mind for a long time. Sometimes I will sketch out a few notes on it, ideas or snippets of dialogue for example, but in general it’s about the plot gradually revealing itself in a logical fashion. That period of time, removes any strange jumps in style and fleshes out characters, locations and events so that there is a natural flow to the structure of the book.

What then works for me, is writing down the chapter titles that are proposed for the book and gradually, adding bullet points underneath each. This reveals whether the fundamental sequences of the book, make basic sense. It’s at this point that I might see that one chapter is very scant on detail. That means I either need to expand what is going to happen, or consider whether it really needs it’s own chapter. Of course, the opposite is also true; one chapter might look so overloaded that it needs to be broken into two – this happened at the end of Book 5 of The Chronicles of Tala, The Ruins of War. The story focussing on Azanda in the final few chapters, struck me as if it warranted more extrapolation and explanation.

So far, so methodical I guess, but the act of actually beginning to type can do strange things and make the story go off in different directions which were unplanned, but make perfect sense to the overall narrative. In Book 6, The Elentar, which is due out September 2020, we find Rozeka back in her homeland of Gladewater. That chapter and the subsequent ones on her land, made that storyline expand in a way that I never expected, but somehow seemed to be completely logical when I looked at it.

Probably the biggest changes have come to how I perceive the end of this series, which will be Book 9, Apotheosis, which is currently being written. No spoilers, but suffice to say that the ending has changed from an original one that was a bit flat and lacked drama, to one that had plenty of drama but gave a new definition to the expression, ‘Pyrrhic Victory’, that I came to realise was way too bleak, to the ending that I have in my head now.

It is odd that sometimes you surprise yourself when you write, but that has happened to me on a number of occasions now.

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