When, over a beer at Fantasycon 2000, Pete Crowther asked me to write a Balaia-based novella for PS Publishing, I was honoured. Having seen some of the excellent work already produced and the caliber of authors on the list, it was a simple decision to agree. And, having mulled over ideas for, literally, minutes, it was blindingly obvious to me that a story about the man who gave rise to all The Raven’s adventures was the only choice.
So off I went, merrily penning words about Septern the mage and Dawnthief the spell in the spring of 2001. Only to come to a dead stop when I realised how tricky it was going to be to create a self-contained story in only 25,000 words. You see, I’ve never been a short story writer of any great volume, though I enjoy the discipline. And 25,000 words is just long enough to lure you into that dangerous space between short and novel.
Back at the drawing board, I planned every event from first to last to be sure I wasn’t going to overrun. This is at odds to how I write The Raven, where events suggest themselves as I go and will either make the cut or not – but at least I have the word count to play with. I cut away all the extraneous information, concentrating very hard on three things: Septern’s character and actions, his students’ reactions and the final denouement.
I found writing the novella very rewarding but it took me far longer than I could really afford – about three months. I was writing Elfsorrow at the time as well and hours became precious. But the result, delayed though it was in reaching publication, was worth the effort. A fascinating look into a new discipline for me and a lesson in keeping it very tight…