Silver coin, Alexander the Great wearing the horns of Ammon
(I wear a ring made of a copy of this coin, and also have it as a medallion)
I compare the writing of this novel, "Shadow of the Lion", to a long and arduous journey. Like running a marathon, though I've made some rest-stops along the way. The story itself is a journey, beginning in Babylon in June, 323 BC and ending in Amphipolis, Macedonia in June 310 BC. And that journey itself took years!
Just like a marathon runner, a writer must persevere if you want to reach the finish line. Sometimes you might stumble and almost fall; sometimes you get so tired you might want to quit; sometimes you lag behind and wonder if you're ever going to reach the finish line. But you keep on persevering, in spite of discomfort, obstacle, discouragements. And finally you see ahead of you, your goal!
Before you set off on this long, long race, of course you need to prepare yourself, "get into shape", know what's in store. Writing a novel is a long project and one that requires discipline if you want to achieve your goal and finish. Before I began writing Shadow, I did months of research. I already had a lot of knowledge and a great love of my subject (Alexander the Great) and I enjoy doing research -- a kind of brain 'gym' work, getting prepared for the big 'race'. Sure, you sometimes make a false start and have to begin over. I actually spent a year writing "Shadow" as a juvenile historical, thinking it would be a short run and I'd be finished the project in no time. Then, as I delved deeper into the history and saw how complicated the events were, I realized it was not going to work as a story for youngsters. It was far to complex and political. So I was advised to start over. (That first year was just a 'training run'). And so I did. I started over and wrote it with a multiple point of view, complicating matters, but allowing me to really develop the characters and tell the story of the fall of Alexander's dynasty with all the political complexities and scheming that finally brought it to the end. Certainly, once I established the theme: How blind ambition and greed brought down a world power, the way became clear and I was able to tell the story the way it needed to be told.
Yes, it has been a long, long journey. But this week I finally came to the end of the final chapter. And now, before this week is over, I should have the Epilogue finished with a bit of extra work on the Prologue, tying it all in together.
Was I excited and emotional about reaching the finish line? I actually had the final chapter written almost from the beginning, so I knew how it ended. But I had to proceed slowly when I wrote the final chapter, making sure I kept the tension high and not giving away the ending. I wanted it to have an emotional but satisfying ending and hope I have achieved that. At least I know I have given it my personal best. This, of course, is not the grand finale. There will still be some edits, rewrites and cuts to make. And I won't be completely 'finished' until I write THE END when I finish the Epilogue. My goal is to finish it this week, before the New Year. Can I do it? Yes, I can!
A painting of Amphipolis with Mount Pangeion, the lake and the River Strymon
(in my research I have visited here twice)