The cover for The Fey Man

Writing Lessons from The Fey Man

They say that there’s no better way to learn writing than by writing. Which is certainly true. After all, you can’t find any bad habits, see any common flaws, or make any mistakes by not doing anything. And, although The Fey Man is the fourth novel I’ve written (but the only one to be published) it still had a lot to teach me.

Be Prepared to Sacrifice Everything

I cut a lot from The Fey Man. A whole character, Arvel, was scrubbed from existence. A subplot in which Tom ensured the new employment of his personal attendant before he left Cairnagan. Encounters with fay, men, even a few dwarfs.

All of these things slowed the story down at best and made it confusing at worst. Arvel had nothing to do, Tom’s attendant meant it took too long to leave Cairnagan, and the other plot elements prolonged the journey too much. I was sad to see them go, but the novel is better for it.

Made-up Places Need a Clear Geography

One of things my beta readers seemed to agree on was this: they struggled to picture the world of The Fey Man. How big it was, where one place was in relation to another, and so on. One reader thought the party was travelling north even though I’d mentioned south a dozen times.

Maps are one element that will help the reader, but I didn’t want to force her to flick back and forth. So I went through the manuscript and tweaked a lot of text to try and establish a sense of the world. I just hope I succeeded!

It’s Also About What You Don’t Write

At the beginning of this journey I had a tendency to spell everything out. Characters thoughts and feelings were shown with words, either the characters’ own or through narration. But that bogged down the narrative with constant exposition.

So I tried to cut a lot of that from The Fey Man. A lot can be said with a look, an action, even a silence. Tom often wondered what all those meant, but I tried to make those thoughts about Tom, not about exposition.

What have you learnt from your own writing? I’d love to know. Leave a comment and tell me all about it!

Talking rot or making sense? I'd like to hear your two cents!