Lava tubes and dragons

Posted on September 4, 2009 (Subscribe to Blog)

Progress on Labyrinth of Fire is slow but sure. I'm still on target at the moment, so I'm not worried. Yet. Some parts are easier to write than others. Yesterday I managed 3360 words, the day before 2190 words, and before that – well, I've forgotten. I don't mark the exact places I start and stop. Anyway, the point is, I plan to finish the first draft by around September 15th, which gives me about 11 days to write approximately 32,000 more words, which is, uh, 2909 words a day. A little tight, but do-able. Maybe.

That September 15th deadline is my own. After that, I can spend the next entire month editing, editing, and editing some more. The real deadline is 15th October, when I need to get a few proof books out for review, and then make adjustments as necessary. Hopefully, by mid-November, the finished book will be ready to go.

I mentioned that some scenes are easier to write than others. I can usually get through a lot of dialogue very quickly. I like talky scenes; I find them fairly easy going. But then again, I always think I've written too many talky bits, so that's not so good. But then again again, I'm told that most kids like talky scenes, and no one yet has mentioned that Island of Fog is too talky.

In this new book, harder scenes include the chasm where the labyrinth starts. There's a volcano looming nearby, and it keeps spewing lava down into the chasm. I did some research, which is kind of fun but eats away the hours. I enjoyed learning about lava and its viscosity, how it starts to skin over when it emerges into the air, how poisonous gases escape as it's pouring along, and how, as the gases escape, it slows and becomes thick and stodgy.

I also enjoyed reading about lava tubes, which typically start as rivers of lava on the surface of the hill, running down from the volcano eruption. Like water, lava usually creates a channel or three, rather than spread out across the entire hillside. Bits of lava spatter off to the sides of these channels and cool quickly, forming walls on either side, while the lava continues flowing between. Sometimes the flowing river of lava forms a crust on top, and sometimes that crust welds itself to the channel walls and stops moving while the lava below continues to run. So a river of lava can look gray and solid on the outside, but is still flowing inside. A lava tube forms. Eventually the volcano stops spewing lava, and an empty tunnel remains. Later, fresh lava might once again pour down the tunnel, or it might not, but in any case more lava often piles up on top of it, so the tube ends up deep underground.

Well, I find it fascinating even if you don't!

Another scene that's been interesting to me, but quite difficult, is where Hal meets the dragons. I didn't want to convey the dragons' dialogue in the usual way, within quote marks, because somehow that made them seem less fearsome. Let's not forget that they don't actually talk human; they speak in grunts and roars, and Hal is mentally translating what they're saying. So I'm keeping their language short and brief, and spoken with italics rather than quotes, for instance when the dominant male makes a demand:

Choose. Human or dragon.

Although I have (or had) a chapter summary all planned out, it's amazing how I still find myself going off in different directions. I keep getting to a new, unexpected place and thinking, "Oh! Yeah! I like it!" and often (although not always) it turns out to be better than what I planned beforehand. This just goes to show that you can't constrain yourself too much when writing. I had a "brilliant" idea that practically wrote itself, which means I now need to go back a few chapters and alter a couple of small things in order to foreshadow my new idea.

In good old Enid Blyton books, the author would often get her characters into a situation where they needed a rope, and one of the boys would say, "Oh, well, I happen to have a rope wrapped around my waist." I've always been stunned and amazed by this; if he "happens" to carry a rope around all the time like that, it must chafe really badly. With a little editing, the author could have gone back a few chapters and had the boy say, "Do you think we'll need a rope? I guess I'll take one, just in case..." and then it would be perfectly acceptable to produce one later.

So, I like to make sure I go back and fix such things so it doesn't look like I'm making it all up as I go along... even if I am!

Speaking of making things up as I go along, I'd better stop waffling. I could have written part of a chapter by now!

Comment by PHILIP MANNERING on Saturday, September 5, 2009...

Good point about the rope being produced from the waist in Blyton books — that irked me a little! For most writers, I think there are two stages of writing a novel: writing and rewriting/editing. For Enid Blyton, I think there seemed to be only one, the former.

Comment by MICHELLE MAGILL on Sunday, September 6, 2009...

Glad for the progress report - dear one and I are itching for the next one :D happy scribbling.

Comment by ANITA on Sunday, September 6, 2009...

It's very interesting reading about the writing process, Keith, and some of the research you've done. Good luck with finishing "Labyrinth of Fire" by the deadline!

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