I wanted to write a little bit about the brainstorming work I’m currently doing on my next project.
It’s swords and sorcery which is a little different to the epic stuff I normally tend to write. At least that’s what it’s starting out as, because especially at this stage, everything can and will change.
I’m going into this with just a little bit of fear. You see, I’m trying to keep a big picture view. I must have at least 20 book ideas right now and I’ve begun to see a little of the style of storytelling I have. It’s fast-paced with loads of character and action and with a clash of sub-genres in a way that isn’t just New Weird. I want to make sure that in writing a swords and sorcery book that I don’t effectively cockblock myself commercially from writing those other novels.

There’s a valid argument that I should worry about the book rather than trying to anticipate a career that is subject to so much randomness it’s impossible to control. That’s true, but this is something that is within my control. Plus, there’s a very strong part of me in those clash of genres and as a result, a gut feeling that to leave it out will result in a novel that’s just not me. That’s my distinction between writing for the market and writing for myself, even though this book will be more ‘suited for the market’ than anything I’ve written in the last few years.
As a result, in this book the genre clash has to be very subtle. It’s been central to previous books, but here, it’s going to be a very auxiliary thing; part of the worldbuilding rather than being key to the central plot.
So what have I got so far? Well the world is going to be very Georgian influenced. I did consider briefly making it alt-history but really I’m just trying to get away from some of the medieval tropes. Much of this came out of the central character. She’s a bit of a bratty aristocrat who I’m calling Vanessa at the moment. That’ll change, because the name just doesn’t fit. Her actual character has developed quite a lot since I first came up with the idea for her. She’s part Laura Croft (although not by design), part Buffy, part Elizabeth Bennet (which is where the Georgian influence springs from). She’s a naturally strong woman but she’s fallible and she’s going to be fun to write.
There’s an ensemble cast but that’s going through a few changes. The doctor has morphed into Vanessa’s old roguish love. There’s a lot of chemistry, tension and history between the two and that’s going to be fun to play with. There’s also a dandy theatre actor and a street urchin whose name of Roach – as in cockroach – I’ll probably have to change, as much as it saddens me. It’s too similar to the Gentleman Bastard of Bug, one of my favourite characters from Lies of Locke Lamorra, a book this novel takes its cues from.
I’m not going to mention much about the plot just yet, but I decided to take it away from the usual big bad trying to take over the world into something more current that I can possibly expand into giving the novel a splash of the epic. However the ‘big bad’ has changed a lot from not existing as a single character to an ambassador to a James Bond villain. There’s still a lot of conflicting ideas here, and ways I can take this, so I expect this is going to change a lot. I’m still playing with it in my head.
I’m finding a very natural pull towards steampunk (especially after the James Bond villain idea), but I’m firmly resisting that at the moment. As far as I’m concerned, that would be too easy. So even the idea of just a hint of steampunk has been scrapped. Sorry, nothing against steampunk but I think it would take the novel too much away from the core idea and distract the reader.
So what am I doing when it comes to research? The beauty of fantasy is that you can make it all up, but even so I’ve collected a lot of pictures of Georgian architecture and recently, dress styles also. I’ve also been doing some reading up on Ponzi schemes.
In terms of plot, it’s the usual case of knowing the first 5 chapters, that key point two thirds through the novel when everything turns to shit, and the second to last chapter. I’m still not sure how it will end. There’s a couple of ways I can take it, but I’m aware at least one of those ways is very similar to a book this could be compared to, so I want to avoid that.
I’m also very conscious that I want this to be a page turner so I’m going through what exists of my outline, merging slower paced chapters and putting in action sequences that make sense. There’s also very little of the cons and plot twists I want to put into this project. I’m willing myself to put in some very clever things (and oh if only I could think of clever things), as I really want this story to twist and turn and keep people turning pages.
I have a list of other media, aside from books, that I need to go through in order to feed some of the ideas of this book. This includes: elements of the Buffy TV Series, Assassin’s Creed II, Plunkett & Macleane and Ocean’s Eleven (or one of its sequels). I’m currently working my way through them.
As a result, my planning still feels like a complete mess, and at any time I’m liable to throw up my hands and say I don’t know what I’m doing. But then, usually when I’m not working on it, inspiration strikes and leads me forward. This is just the way it works for me, but I feel like I’m making slow process.
I still just want to start writing though.