While Carol and I were editing this past weekend, I realized that I started writing almost eighteen months ago. I don't remember the exact day, but it was the fall of 2016. In that time, I have written three books, one short story, and have put a dent in my fourth book. By the time I have been at it for a full two years, I will most likely be almost finished my sixth book with a couple more short stories thrown in for good measure. I see a progression in my craft, and so can my beta readers, who have commented that my second book is even better than my first. One said they are excited to watch how I grow as an author and are looking forward to my tenth book in the series. It is very inspiring to have a reader want to read so many books in a world that I created!
To be honest, one of the toughest parts of writing for me is the research and developing the backstory because they take so much time and energy. I would be into book six if I did not need to worry about all the little details, but then the world would not well-developed, nor would the characters come so alive that they almost jump off the page. There certainly is some research while I write, but mainly I am trying to get the words on paper and move the story along. The editing process is where I am asked why this happens, or where did those people come from, and although I wrote it, I did not mentally go into that depth of detail. That little word 'why' has led to a four-page essay on the founding of Merceria for the first book. For the second book, it created the need for determining where the Mercerians came from before they founded Merceria. Filling in the where's and why's has helped to create a much more robust world, but has an impact on the length of time it takes for editing. A chapter can be done in under an hour, but other times it can take four or five hours, depending on how much extra research is needed.
Some research is quite fascinating, such as what did medieval people call a bathroom - garderobe. Other research can take me down a rabbit hole, sucking up hours of my time without a definitive answer. At this point, I just decide what I want the world to be, as there is either no answer or too many conflicting results, like the monetary and measurement systems. The backstory is a whole different matter. How can I determine what a knight wears if I don't know when they started wearing chain and plate? Or what do the people of Merceria look like compared with other nations, and why? Each question can lead to a rewriting of a section of a chapter, or the decision to keep it as it was written and add to the backstory.
At the end of the day, every time I add to the backstory of the world, I find myself imagining other adventures that happened either long ago, or far away, and the possible books in the world of Merceria keep growing!
Paul Bennett, Writer of Epic Fantasy Stories.