It started as a short story. What went wrong?
Back in early 2018, I began work on a story which I entitled "The Unicorn and the Girl." I added a note that I needed a better title. In those old notes I said that this would be a short little tale that might lead to other little tales. I wrote:
Important: At the end of this tale, the girl asks the unicorn will she see him again and have other adventures.
Well, I kind of got it right!
What I have been working on since is "The Unicorn Chronicles," a ten-book saga for young adults (starting from age 11-ish) that takes the entire concept of a unicorn in a completely different direction. Indeed, it takes most creatures in a different direction!
When I wrote my saga "Dirt" (and I haven't finished with that yet), I made a conscious decision about dragons. I decided that no creature could exist naturally that didn't have a proper way of life. They must be able to breed, be in sufficient numbers, and have an attitude that was not self-destructive. All real creatures have this. So my dragons have families and communities, and so on.
In The Unicorn Chronicles I have applied the same criteria to most of my creatures. Human, Elves, Trolls, Giants, Dwarves: they all have evolved and have proper biological and social development. Just because a troll is ten foot tall doesn't mean she can't have a boyfriend! Baby trolls have to come from somewhere...
Then there was my unicorn. I said "most of my creatures" above because there are a couple of exceptions. One is the unicorn. For reasons that are not explained for several books, Arien is the only one. But he is not a pretty horse with a horn on his head, he is a truly magical creature. He is forty-thousand years old, he is immensely powerful, and he has a warm, beautiful voice.
Which brings me onto the magic part of the tale. There is lots of it, as one would expect, but it is not Harry Potter wand-waving magic. I wanted my magic system to be real, to be almost explainable. In a small way, it more resembles the Force in Star Wars in that it is part of the universe.
I have said that there are two forces that govern everything at some level - a creation force and a destruction force. When we first encounter them, we know them as Areagen and Bealogen.
But these are not good and bad forces; they are natural forces. Arien describes them by saying when you are born you are full of areagen, the creation force. But as you grow older, the balance changes and you are more bealogen, the destruction force.
Everyone has these forces, even fleas, but some people, Dru, have very active versions and they can manipulate them - they can do magic. It gets far more complicated than that, but that is a good starting point.
However, on the world of Ferenand where the stories are based, they don't have the word magic. Instead, they use the word Drucraft. Why?
Anyone who has knowledge of Anglo-Saxon might begin to spot some clues. I use a lot of Anglo-Saxon words and even some ancient Norse. I am not just stealing because I can't come up with my own ideas, they are there for good plot reasons. I can't even hint at them as they will spoil book eight!
However, drucraft is the noun, something that is magical is drulic, someone who is magical is drucraftig, and a magician is a dru. You would never say a sunset was "drulic" because the words only relate to actual drucraft. Since in my books it is a real thing, you wouldn't use it in such a lyrical way.
In the same way, if you exclaimed, "Moons above!" you might well get the reaction, "yes?" Ferenland has three moons.
Where have I got to?
Which brings me to why this short story has taken so long.
I am currently writing book nine, but none have been published. I would like to publish this the traditional route, if possible, but I gave up searching for an agent some time back. I had my reasons.
I plan very thoroughly, but the story is complex. Even with acres of notes, I began falling down plot holes, or nearly so. As a result, book one has had a bit of a rewrite. And that led to changes in books two, book three.... You get the idea.
So I have decided to finish the entire saga, polishing it as much as my daft brain will allow, and at the same time, give myself the luxury of going back to the beginning if necessary.
I am not using this as an excuse for laziness. Quite the contrary, I am planning and refining my notes enormously. I am determined to make this story work and be believable, while still retaining that fantastic feel that should always go with a fairy tale.
It has also allowed me to develop the characters much more carefully.
The story is set over a 14-year period of Ferenland's history. Young people become adults in that time. Goodies can become baddies, and baddies can grow up and reform. But if they are to do that, I must make it believable. I haven't always, and that has been the cause of several edits. I had to make sure it was possible for people to change without it being completely "out of character."
Writing the entire series in one go, and keeping all the drafts open and editable, has allowed me to refine elements.
So, that is where I am up to
Books 8, 9, and 10 are by far the most complicated of all the books. This is not surprising, really. So much has happened in the tale that there are a lot of strands going on.
In Dirt, I made the choice not to follow the baddies. We only see them through the eyes of the heroes. I did this to keep the story a little simpler.
With these books, I have made a big thing about the baddies, especially when some of them turn out not to be very happy about being a baddie. Yep, I have that many twists going on that even my baddies get a good press at times.
The story does, however, have a very definite end. There is room for spin-offs and further stories, but this long tale has a clear conclusion. I have already written it; I wrote it three years ago.
It has just taken several thousand more words to get there than planned, and I still have a couple of hundred thousand yet to write.