Recapturing the Magic

By James Batchelor on August 3rd, 2014

As I announced some months ago via twitter and facebook, I have finished the rough draft of Hall of Mages. Now some of you are starting to notice that you have not heard any updates since then. That is mostly because there are no updates. But let me explain why.

When Hall of Mages fell into my lap (if you are unfamiliar with how that came to be you can read about it here), it was not complete and needed a lot of work. Despite that, my brother’s gift for capturing the magic of his world, which is what makes fantasy so much fun to read, came through very strong.

So, I took what he had begun and added back stories to characters, a more thorough history of the world and magic system, and I increased the scope of the drama exponentially. But the rough draft that came out the other side had lost a lot of that magic. The wonder and excitement was gone, and I could not figure out why.

In an effort to recapture what I had lost, I went back and reread some of the fantasy that had so enthralled me in my youth, hoping to get some sense of what that missing element was in my draft. I reread Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings, The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny, A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony, Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Weis and Hickman, and I even re-read Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (While Mistborn is not a classic from my youth, it is a very well regarded fantasy novel of one of my contemporaries.)

Out of this diverse group, as you might imagine, I identified few common threads. Each was very different in its own right, and many of them did not follow the generally accepted “rules” of fantasy and magic systems. And that was the major clue about what it was that made them fun to read (although, some of these magical books of my youth had not aged well, but that’s not the point). There are no hard and fast rules as to what makes a book enjoyable to read, with this one exception. It was a lesson I learned years ago while teaching, and it goes like this: If you are bored and/or uninspired by your lesson, your students will be as well.

That was the key and it was so simple. What made those other books fun to read is that their authors had fun writing them. That was what was missing from my draft of Hall of Mages. While it is a labor of love, and something I truly want to do, it has been a labor. I did everything technically correct, added everything I thought should be there, but I never got down in it enough to just enjoy the journey. I was never immersed in the world enough to have fun walking and exploring with the characters, and that is where my draft fell down.

It has only been in the last few days that I have really honed in on this fact, and regrettably, I am seriously pushing my deadline for book 3 of The Crusades Series, so it will be some time before I can bring this to bare on Hall. However, it has already helped make The Darkest Knight a better book. Working under a deadline, does have a way of wringing the fun out of a project, but this helped remind me of what was important.

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