Richard Harland on Writing

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on Writing


I start thinking about a novel long before I start writing it. (The best part of having had writer's block for so long is that I've got a huge stock of ready-matured ideas lined up!) I like novels to have big climaxes, where one thing builds up on top of another on top of another, for fifty and more pages. That kind of climax doesn't come without planning. But it has to be the right sort of planning – not making a framework that your story is forced to follow, but getting the set-up right at the beginning, so that your climax grows naturally out of it.

With practise and experience, I find I now know when I've got all the material for a big rolling climax, without having to decide exactly how it'll work out. I think of it like riding on the back of some gigantic beast: you know the place where you need to arrive in the distance, but you also know you can't make this beast perform sudden turns. In fact, you can hardly control it at all. So you have to start nudging and directing right from the beginning, when you still have the opportunity.

I think a fantasy needs planning for another reason too – because the world of a fantasy should always be larger than just a single story. It should run off beyond the pages of the novel, over the edges. The novelist needs to make up all the elements for a totally comprehensive, totally consistent world, even though many of those elements will never make it into the final writing. None of my novels manages to include all the features of the world invented for it – and most fantasy writers I know have said the same. It's like the useful trick of inventing a life history for your characters – once you've done it, you may not need to use it.

So I plan and plan, and gradually it comes together. I have mountains of notes, along with systems for navigating amongst them (sheets of different coloured paper, different coloured pens, cardboard trays, clothes pegs, etc.). I think all writers develop their own systems . . .




Developing A Writing Routine
Planning & Preparation
Writing Through The Novel





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Richard Harland.