How Troll Sword was Written

Once I had a story that worked, I decided that I would create an over-all structure, not of plots, but of volumes, of which there would be five; and of parts, of which there would be thirteen, each a complete story; and of chapters, of which there would be twenty in each volume, for a total of one hundred, and each chapter would be in the neighborhood of six to eight thousand words. This artificial and very deliberate structure worked well. It kept me focused on what I had to accomplish. I had to arrive at a story end after exactly so many chapters. I had to make each chapter no less nor more than my pre-determined length. Each volume would have a different sub-structure. And it worked.

I’ll never structure that way again. One time — 2,000 pages, 835,000 words — was enough. But it taught me a lot.

According to my old fantasies, my Hero had five tokens, each of which gave him — it was a “him” back then, now it’s a “her” — certain powers and abilities. Jeanette had obtained the first four tokens in the four parts of volume one. She would need one more, the Troll Sword.

I had had a kind of outline for Book One. For each chapter I had a start and an ending, and filled out the middle as I wrote it. For volume two I knew where I had to start, and knew where it had to end (including a set-up for Book Three), but I had no plot. I still had some old ideas and images from my large collection of notes. 

I had one strange world, which I developed as I went along. I had strange races of people, which I fit into the story as I went along. I had long lists of names from which to choose, instead of struggling to make them up on the spot. I had a monster, and a villain (whose nature and character surprised me as I wrote him in). I had an objective, a thing to rescue, the nature of which — a child prince of sorts — surprised me as much as it did Jeanette when she discovered who it was. And I had the cursed sword, the Tash-Griaf — once called the Sword of Tesgrip, the meaning of which I have forgotten. This was the Troll Sword, which I had designed some time during my teens, when I filled pages of graph paper with different kinds of swords. (I made a wooden model of the Troll Sword, which stands in the corner of my office.)

I had all this. But I had no plot. So I started on the first page, meticulously obeyed the conditions of my structure, and made each chapter accomplish something which brought the story forward, and came to a satisfying and successful conclusion at the end. Including the set-up for the next volume. All in one draft.

It had to be rewritten, of course.