Work In Progress

I’m ambivalent giving details of the novel in progress. For one thing I change my mind a lot. For another sometimes I have a great idea but talking about it to another person kills it. So without going into too much detail, here’s the current state of being:

The title will probably be The Dog of Pel. I can see myself spending the next two years saying “No, I’m not writing about a dog” which will get old fast, but that’s the way I think of the book and until I get a better idea I’m going with it.

I’m working very hard on a consistent and logical world structure. In fantasy this is harder than it looks. If you have a world where the use of fire is forbidden you have to construct a way for the characters to heat their homes, cook their food, and transmute objects from one state to another. It’s quite easy to slip up. The other day I found a well-written description of an important location which had smoke drifting up from the chimneys. Urk!

I’m trying to write this one from a single point-of-view. This means the reader can only know what the character knows, so I have to make sure the protagonist gets information by either being in the right place at the right time or has access to the information some other way. Also, I must be careful not to give my protagonist mind-reading skills. In other words if he is talking to someone he can assume the other character is motivated by hate, or ambition, or love, but he can’t know it until the character demonstrates it by his actions or tells him.

There has to be enough action to keep the reader involved. I’ve spent a lot of time building this world and I have a bad tendency to data dump, so I’m always going back and removing (not deleting!) hunks of exposition. I have to feed that information into the text and the reader’s mind in a natural way without slowing down the story. As a reader I actually like data dumps so my judgment is shaky here.

I’ve run the draft past several patient alpha readers and they’ve been encouraging enough so I don’t feel as if I’ve wasted both my time and theirs. They also gave me great feedback.

One of the encouraging things about the state of the manuscript so far: it’s like a scaffold. I’ve gone back three times and added new characters to existing scenes, tweaked world details, and made other substantial changes and the manuscript has been very accepting. I’m able to slot new stuff in without much difficulty and this more than anything makes me feel I’m on the right track.

So, onward! And no, it is not about a dog.

Mary Holland

Mary Holland writes alternative-world fantasy for grown-ups. Her books include Matcher Rules, The Bone Road, and The Dog of Pel. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with three cats and an ever-changing assortment of wildlife.

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