July 17, 2019
After deciding that I wanted to write a book based on Gulliver’s Travels. The next thought was, about what do I want to write. I have decided that my books are meant to have a purpose beyond straight entertainment. Much as Jonathan Swift used his book to criticize and vex society, I want my book to make people think and question the world. I took a notepad that I got from a local school (SAIT) for speaking to their students about finding jobs and started jotting down things that I would like to criticize or poke some fun at. This in itself proved a pretty cathartic exercise. Just writing down things about the world that could do with some changing.
Research (Part 1 – Book)
Next, I had to research the original book. It is one thing to have read the book once or twice, but it is a second to make sure that I thoroughly understood everything therein. This meant making notes of all the details of each island. My first rule in writing the book is that I couldn’t violate any immutable rules of the original. For example, if the natives of one island were black in the original work, they can’t suddenly be white in my novel. Names can change, and an 18th century Englishman would surely write a word differently from a 21st century Canadian, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t violate this first rule. I read the book, and I read analyses of the book to make sure I didn’t misunderstand something, or simply by virtue of time, not grasp the significance of certain details. The islands couldn’t be enormous in the first and tiny in mine, they couldn’t be arctic and then tropical, etc.
The next step was boxing the story into the various islands, and figuring out the path that Cygnus would take to visit them. I decided to lay out the islands in reverse order to the original and then proceeded to plan what the major events would be on each of them. Generally I planned each island backwards. At the end of this island, he needs to get be at point X, so therefore he needs to do something to get there, and something before that allows or forces him to do that, until I traced back to his arrival. No great details at this point, just big events.
In several stages, I added more details to the broad plan from before. I would fill in the gaps with smaller events, details, and hidden meanings that I wanted to brush over when I got to the writing. Each time I would effectively re-write the entire plan, using the previous iteration as the slalom gates I had to pass.
Research (Part 2 – Detail about Flight Attendants, Horses, History)
I have never been a flight attendant, nor have I a great deal of experience with horses. The first two parts of the book. The sequence that leads up to his arrival on the island of the Huhuneem, and that same island both required some significant knowledge acquisition on my part. I researched flight attendants and stewards, looked into their biggest complaints, considered what part of their occupations might be useful to add colour to the story, etc.
Similarly, I had to learn about the physiology of horses. While Swift provided some helpful pointers and rules I had to follow, like how they pick up things, many parts of the equine form are not things about which I know very much. Further, unlike 1726 England, where horses would have been quite common. I interact with horses less often than annually. I didn’t even include words like “sorrel, bay, nag, etc.” in my general lexicon before this research. I know I’m from the Stampede city in Calgary, but this is just not a part of my world. I asked people I knew who do love horses about behaviours and typical stereotypes of horses to try to derive a ground-level understanding.
The last part that required greater knowledge was in the interaction with the necromancers of Glubdubdrib. I looked for interesting historical facts, and common misconceptions. As far as I know, everything that I wrote in this section is truthful. It wouldn’t do to call a historical figure from ancient Egypt and have them knowledgeable about the New World.
The next stage, and the longest, was the writing. It took about three years of work, mostly in my spare time, to actually cobble together the actual words of the story. Having a detailed outline made it easier, but it takes a lot of time and thought to write 100,000+ words. This certain did. I granted myself license to stray a little from the rigid confines of the outline, particularly as I got to know my own characters and realized that they wouldn’t behave the way I had originally intended them to. I won’t spoil anything, but my original outline called for a very different ending to the story, which I decided in the end wouldn’t fit the rest of the work. In bits and pieces I wrote the book, and finally pushed to the end in January 2019.
Also, I wrote most of the story on my phone using a little fold-out keyboard. I bet that is a pretty unique tidbit…
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Next: Post-processing – editing, covers, formatting, printing, publication
One thought on “Writing Process”
I found your article interesting to get an insight into your process. Intriguing idea of going backwards from gulliver. And horse research plagues most historical and fantasy authors I know of.
Your outline and planning stages appeals to me as well as how you adapted once you got to know your character after years of writing.