Familiar Acts, Unfamiliar Places

There is such strange comfort in going through the patterns of creating a language; in figuring out from sounds and grammar and syntax the character of a people lost from the world. The Sun Wizards are gone, though a few artifacts from their wondrous culture remain. I’ve been building backwards, from a city, a handful of doors, the echoes of a few disembodied voices, to extrapolate the culture of the people who left those things behind.

I bumped into the Sun Wizards’ leavings only briefly in The Ruby Key—not enough to get anything but the most ephemeral of hints of who they had once been.

This time, their echoes are ringing more loudly through the world of MOON AND SUN, and the act of sitting curled up on the couch, scribbling on paper, writing down my discoveries in neat little rows and columns on language worksheets, gave me as many mysteries as it gave me answers. And gave me, too, the fun of knowing that I get to chase after those mysteries.

Started writing for the day just a few minutes ago. I have a new map, though. The Sun Wizards’ words, the things they spoke and the things they wrote, are leading me into places I didn’t know the story had. I’m glad to be going there.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

3 comments… add one
  • Mo_olelo Oct 11, 2007 @ 13:22

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Holly. You can’t know what a boost reading your reply to Jess, was to me.

  • hollylisle Oct 9, 2007 @ 12:05

    Jess,

    First, outlining and plotting have nothing to do with each other. If required to, I write an outline to submit to a publisher to sell a book. I feel no obligation to stick to the outline if I can come up with something better, and I always come up with something better.

    Second, plotting is an ongoing process, and does not stop until a hard deadline rips the final revisions of the final draft out of my hands. I can and will change anything right up until the last minute to get what I want from the story.

    Finally, with this book, I have only series notes. Series notes are half a page of goals the book has to accomplish in order to get me to the end of the series that I forsee. I have no idea what the actual events in the book are going to be. I’m plotting as I go. (I do have a dozen or so scene cards. I have so far managed not to use any of them. It’s that kind of book.)

    As for the worldbuilding… it’s a world. Worlds are enormous, filled with thousands of languages, tens of thousands of cultures, countless religions, endless places that exist beyond what I’ve seen already, and what I’ll ever see. My job as writer is to wander, to send back reports of the places I find, to convey the weight and breadth and depth and life of the world through fragments, snippets, and tiny incidents. It isn’t to design an exhaustive encyclopedia of the world before walking into it. That would kill all the fun of writing.

    I set up some base rules on how the world works before I start. I build as I go.

    I’ve learned over the years that in most cases, knowing less is better. If I can surprise me, I can surprise you.

  • Jess Oct 9, 2007 @ 7:58

    This might be a stupid question but I’ll ask it anyway. You’re an outliner/plotter, right? So wouldn’t you already know the mysteries? 😀 I just thought with a series, you’d have done that as worldbuilding beforehand or something. Or is it more on a by-book basis? Just curious!

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