This is the first article in a series where I explore the creative process I used embarking on my debut novel: The Path and the Way and the tools (like Evernote and Miro) that I used to get there.
The end of a book and the birth of an idea
Leeds, 2013. I’m on my way home from seeing my wife on trial at Opera North (she’s a violinist, not a criminal). I have just finished reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I’m standing on the platform in Leeds train station watching the light glint over the Aes Sedai symbol on the hard cover of his last book, A Memory of Light. It’s a tome and was heavy in weight and sentiment. Sentiment, because there was one very strong realisation making my arm sore as the train back to Glasgow pulled up in front.
I could do this.
Over the past 7 years the Wheel of Time series had been a big part of my life. After a seemingly innocuous suggestion from a coworker at the game testing facility where I worked, Jordan’s books had followed me around constantly, growing dog-eared through two universities, three jobs and four girlfriends (scaling coincidental). The poignant moment that struck me as I sat on that train however, was not how I could be like Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, but rather that the book I held was no longer just a thing to be read. It was made, and just like them, I could be a maker.
A loss of creativity
It’s 2012, and the band I had been pouring my creativity into breaks up abruptly while on I was on holiday on the Isle of Man. It was only a two-piece band sure enough, but our odd-time signatures and driving rhythms were quite original and we gained many a surprised look when it was our turn to soundcheck: Oh shit, these guys sound much better (and louder) than we thought. Let us leave this venue and never return…
The singer and I worked so very well together we were branching out into making films. We began work on “Barren Skies”, a post-apocalyptic series of short films based on the game Fallout 3 and involving our friends as actors. We had managed to do a bit of filming, as well as a music video for one our songs: Post Apocalyptic Honey Bee. On top of that I had thrown myself into writing a script, which wasn’t very good, even if it was so much fun I didn’t care! However, with the end of the band came the end of the Barren Skies project. The loss of two such prolific creative outlets left me empty and angry for a long time.
Back to Leeds…I’ve not played drums in around six months, and my attempts at breaking in through the back door of the games industry as a games tester (so I can become a 3D animator) are falling woefully short of the mark. It was not a fun time, but from the bottom of the barrel one can only move upwards. The space left by the lack of side projects combined with the joy I had experienced from writing for Barren Skies led me to a very unexpected place.
I could write a book.
Just one question. How in the hell did Robert Jordan write 14 fantasy books, tying together 200 characters in one seamlessly woven story? How did Brandon Sanderson devise the equally epic Mistborn series? The magic systems, the depth of world building… I certainly didn’t know, being that I had only ever been a consumer of books. But as I squeezed aboard the train home beside a host of bodies I couldn’t focus on, my stubborn brain figured it out.
I didn’t need to know how Robert Jordan or Brandon Sanderson wrote a book, I just needed to figure out how to do it myself.
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