On finishing a novel

Ciaran ap Morgan, Prince of Narberth, The Flamebearer
Lady Evaine


Robyn ap Gryffin

Is anyone ever really “finished”? This project began over thirty years ago, got sidelined for many years (I needed to earn a living), and finally got picked-up again in retirement. To my genuine delight, I found that my passion and affection for these characters had not diminished in the slightest, even after such a long time away from them.

Darn good thing I saved a hard copy! What began in DOS on a floppy disc and graduated at some point to “diskette” and a very early version of MS Word, would probably not make the transition to today’s hardware or software.

After digging the coffee-stained, dog-eared pile of typed pages out of an old cardboard box, re-formatting and retyping the manuscript, I found it exhilarating to dive right back in. The lovers were at more-or-less the midway point, literally taking refuge in an enchanted forest.

The second half of the book practically wrote itself. (That is a bald-faced lie. Any writer who tells you that is completely full-of-it.) But it did seem to flow more smoothly than the first half, which went through hundreds of revisions, re-drafts, ruthless self-editing, and painful re-writes. And that’s when I did most of my historical research also, which in those days could only be done at the library. Most of the chronicled information I needed was so obscure, I’d be forced to order it from some university archive and wait weeks for its arrival in my mailbox. Today, I Google everything and acquire it instantaneously.

Another advantage to allowing twenty years to elapse between serious chapter drafts is that I am an entirely different person at 65 than I was at 40. I have entered a relatively calm period in my life and have achieved a degree of emotional maturity I did not possess in my forties. In revisiting my story world, I experienced a deeper and more profound connection to my narrative and became aware of subtleties and nuances I had overlooked.

Furthermore, I am learning to express my artistic vision using an exciting new vehicle – computer graphics. The ability to employ visual artwork affords me the opportunity and luxury of exploring my people and my fictional world through pictures as well as language. Alternating between writing and illustration enhances both methods of self-expression and allows me to experience my story in ways formerly unavailable to me as an artist. As I develop and fine-tune the physical appearance, body-language, dress, hairstyle, & eye-color of each of my actors, I get to see them more clearly and know them more intimately, while placing them in any environment I choose to create.

Often, scenes I had only vaguely pictured with my inner vision evolved into vivid, detailed realities once I was able to render them in 3D. I am still limited by the scope of the application, and the capabilities of my current equipment, as well as by my own proficiency, as to how much complexity I am able to put into a single scene. At this stage, I am focused primarily on portraiture, but this is a medium I find obsessively fascinating. There is always more to learn and to explore.

This is one reason I think I shall never honestly “finish” working on this novel. I tend to become enmeshed with my literary personalities. They provide me with such nuanced and deeply satisfying inspiration, I am powerless to let them go. I love watching them evolve, and I am still learning things about each of them that endear them to me all the more.

As of 2017, I am in the process of revising the entire manuscript. My plan is to publish the revised and expanded second edition with a completely new cover. I am advised that this tendency to endlessly tweak the original content is a symptom of my Type Four Enneagram Personality.