Okay, I’ve got some pages written and I’m on my way–the early life of King Ozias, compiled by Obst from the Scriptures.
It’s a daunting task, but also an exciting one. Can I bring this story to life? I have to go back in history 2,000 years and a lot of things in Obann were very different then. There were still some Wild Men left in Lintum Forest, for instance. Obann’s Empire, and the Day of Fire, were some thousand years in the future. A lot of shapeless ruins were thriving cities.
It’s only 2 o’clock. I think I’ll go out and write some more.
I had it strongly in my mind to start writing my next book today. Yeah, today.
The thought came to me as I was washing dishes: “Do it the way Homer showed us, in The Iliad: Jump right into the middle of the story, with both feet!” Any time I can get advice from Homer, I take it.
This story will be the life of King Ozias–his early life, at least, as he grew up in Lintum Forest.,. I think it ought to be told by Obst, putting together all the information scattered throughout the Scriptures. Obst will understand the turbulent times that Ozias knew: civil war, Heathen invasions, gangs of murderers trying to hunt him down…
All that being said, today the sky is slate-grey and it’s just itchin’ to rain on me and on my work. I can’t do this indoors because there’s too much distraction. I need the green grass, a blue sky, and the birds. God is in all those things; and I want Him to be present in my book, too.
Well, I still have to go to the store and pick up the laundry. Let’s see if the sky clears by the time I’m done.
A reader in Brazil, Kathleen, has asked me for this. She wants to make a Bell Mountain video for her YouTube channel. She’s interested in the fact that the book was inspired by a dream I had one night.
I dreamed of a boy standing alone on a grassy riverbank, a shallow stream of cold water flowing over a bed of smooth stones. In the distance towered mountains, the tallest of which, Bell Mountain, was cloaked in clouds around the summit. No one had ever seen the summit.
And suddenly that mountain began to “sing” to him. This terrified him and froze him to the spot; but it was also exhilarating. He’d never heard anything like it before. He could have listened for hours, but then he woke up.
It was a very vivid dream, in technicolor, and I never forgot it. That was a good thing, because shortly afterward someone at the Chalcedon Foundation wondered how we’d do if we published a novel–and I was ready to write it!
I also dreamed the climax of my third book in the series, The Thunder King, and the opening chapter of the seventh, The Glass Bridge. I have always dreamed vivid, unusual dreams, all my life; and they’ve played a major role in my writing.
I look forward to seeing Kathleen’s video, and hope I can post it here for all of you.
Bell Mountain No. 15 won’t be called The Witch Box, after all. I’ve had to change the title.
Now it’s Ocean of Time. I have a double climax, so it was hard for one title to cover both of them. The Witch Box couldn’t do that. Ocean of Time can.
When I was writing horror novels, my New York publisher always changed my titles. Always for the better, I have to admit it: my titles were pretty bad. My Bell Mountain titles were a great improvement.
It’s not so easy to come up with a title! If you’ve got a good one, it can guide you in the writing of the story. Mystery writer H.R.F. Keating was so good at that. Your plot tends to be more coherent if the action reflects the title. In The Iciest Sin, Keating wrote about a blackmail scheme investigated by Inspector Ghote–and peppered it with incidents of not-quite-criminal blackmail, but blackmail nonetheless, practiced by people in their daily lives. Fantastic book.
So far everyone I’ve talked to seems to like Ocean of Time, and I’m home free. But I’ll still listen to suggestions, if anybody has any.
Does a writer “see” what he’s writing about? Do you “hear” your characters when they speak?
I think you have to. Sometimes the only way I can make a character come alive for me is to find an actor to play him in an imaginary movie that would make me rich if it were real. I could not get one of my Bell Mountain villains, Lord Chutt, until I imagined him being played by British actor John Nettles (Midsomer Murders). I don’t know why, but it seems I have to do this with all my villains: Claude Raines as Lord Reesh, Vincent Price as Goryk Gillow. Once I have them cast with actors, then I can see and hear them in my mind.
Sometimes you don’t find the right actor until after you’ve tried several. This reminds me of something Charles Laughton once said: he couldn’t play a part convincingly until he “found the man” somewhere in real life. Who knew novel-writing and play-acting had this in common?
After a little while, the character is established and can go on to speak and act as if he were a real person with his own agenda. My characters do that all the time. They enter the story to do a minor job within the plot and next thing I know, they’re regulars with a lot of jobs to do. It’s part of the fun you have in writing fiction.
If you really need a character to help carry the plot forward, try finding a movie actor to play him as you imagine his scenes in your story. Keep trying until you find just the right actor. And then the character and the plot will do the rest.
I got a good scare yesterday when I examined my hand-written manuscript of The Witch Box. Seeking to refresh my memory of the last few chapters of the book–up to some 50 chapters, in total–I found something I never expected to find.
There, floating around in the wake of everything else, was a Chapter 28. What? What was it doing there? Where did it belong? How did I ever wind up sticking it… there?
After a frantic search for answers, I found its duplicate snugly fitted between Chapters 27 and 29 in the typed manuscript. So now I had two Chapter 28s! Happily, they proved to be identical.
Here’s what happened.
Back in September, I had the book’s climax in my head but didn’t know how to get there. So I decided to do something I’d never done before: to jump ahead and write all the chapters leading up to the climax, all the way to the end of the book. I knew this would leave a hole that I’d have to fill later. But this part of the project took a long time; and when at last I was finished, I found the hole in the plot to be much smaller than I’d expected. That job belonged to Chapter 28. I’d thought I would have to write several chapters, but it turned out I only needed one to fill the hole.
Does that sound confusing? Well, it confused me–but good.
See, I got sick around New Year’s and I must have been sicker than I thought: because by the time I was well enough to resume writing, I had totally forgotten what I’d done! Now it makes me shudder, but yesterday it drove me crazy. I had already solved the problem, but forgotten that I’d done so. I’d already solved the problem–just couldn’t remember what I’d done.
I am greatly relieved!
So now I can go ahead and finish typing the book, praise the Lord. I still think it has a good chance to be my best book yet.
I haven’t worked on The Witch Box since just before New Year’s. I hope no one thinks I’ve abandoned the project.
But you can’t write a novel (especially a fantasy novel!) when your head’s not in the game, so there it sits. Sort of like the way I’m sitting here, trying to find words. Good thing I already have a complete manuscript, albeit in longhand on a set of legal pads.
Yeahbut! You’re writing blog posts, ain’t you? But it’s a totally different kind of writing, and it takes me about three times as long as it should, just to generate a little blog piece.
Well, I haven’t forgotten, and I pray it won’t be too much longer before I can go back to work on the novel. Patty and I are sick and we need to get better: we need the Lord to heal us, and we need your prayers. Please keep them coming.
In the 1970s and 80s, a fad for horror swept the world of publishing. Readers wanted horror, couldn’t get enough of it. I got four books published, horror novels.
They couldn’t meet the demand, so y’know what they did? They published anything that they could get away with calling “horror.” Including a multitude of really bad books, written by wooden effigies, the kind of thing that makes a reader curse out loud and kick the book across the room… And suddenly no one was buying horror anymore.
Look at that, it’s 1:00 already! Where is this day going?
Well, we did have extra shopping to do, for Thanksgiving. I guess I can table the Newswithviews column for a day or two. I’ve got to get The Witch Box all typed up. And I want to read Rushdoony’s Politics of Guilt and Pity… because it’s a gold mine full of insights.
I’m tired. Please feel free to browse the blog archives. So much work to do!