Noveling: The Four Seasons Quartet

Or I think it’s a quartet. It might be a trilogy. I am reasonably certain it will not turn into a quintet.

It consists, at present, of two books, tentatively titled Summer and Autumn. The latter I wrote during National Novel Writing Month ’09 and have barely touched since. Naturally it’s a mess.

The former I took a solemn oath to have edited and straightened out by the time I finished university – which gives me, as of the time of writing, er, negative-eight days. I may have forgotten about my oath. I’ve extended it till September – but I’m honestly not sure I’ll make it.

I also have vague plans for Winter and vaguer plans for Spring. They’ll get written. Some day.


Summer started with a couple of disparate elements: reading Conrad’s Fate by Diana Wynne Jones and falling in love with the setting; a watercolour pencil drawing of a house with red, white and green stained glass windows; and (unusually for me) a dream.

The dream, as best as I can piece it together, went something like this: it was set in a Victorian-esque world populated by wizards. The wizards were having a contest in an arena to decide who was the best. A young man who was not a wizard somehow blagged his way in and did an act with either talking horses or talking dogs who could turn into cloth. (Which, according to dream logic, was better than what all the actual wizards had come up with.)

The only other part I remember was a climactic scene in which a little blonde girl had to choose between the young not-wizard and her family. Somewhere in the mix was a sinister lady dressed in black. I woke up with an intense feeling that it would make a good story.

One frantic November later, I had a disjointed but relatively solid novel draft on my hands.

The facts are these: Lord Glasswater is a Wizard (with a capital W) who specialises in the art of ‘magical animation’ – making inanimate objects animate (magitech robots, essentially). As the story begins, his household is about to play host to the Festival, the officially unofficial most prestigious contest of Wizardry. Because his specialty is somewhat looked down on by other Wizards, Lord Glasswater has never won. He attempts, in a mad gamble, to learn weather magic (his father’s specialty) in the year leading up to the Festival – only to realise, when it’s too late to change his mind, that no matter how much research he does, he just can’t make his spell work.

Enter Olsson, Lord Glasswater’s footman, who unbeknownst to anyone – up to and include himself – might just be the most powerful wizard (with a little w) in the country, or even the world. After accidentally stumbling on his abilities, Lord Glasswater coaches him to perform weather magic, wins the festival by cheating – and completely without meaning to sets Olsson on the path to unlocking his full potentially.

Unfortunately for Lord Glasswater, one other Wizard is savvy enough to work out that he cheated. Fortunately, it’s the Wizard Wheright, the country’s only Lady Wizard, generally agreed to be scheming and untrustworthy. She wants to prove Lord Glasswater’s guilt – and for whatever reason she wants to get her hands on Olsson.

Meanwhile, Lord Glasswater’s only child, Caitrin, is just beginning to learn lady’s magic from her mother and is beginning to realise she’s not satisfied. Caitrin has some natural talents of her own and they are not for mixing magic with sewing.

Hijinks ensue.

There’s lots of Wizards. Lots of lonnng descriptions of fancy spellwork. Lots of fancy parties. Lots of Olsson being socially awkward and Caitrin being miserable and Lady Glasswater being fabulous.

At present much of it is still using the structure I adopted during NaNoWriMo – which is an issue because it means there’s a number of scenes which are only there because I needed to fill out my words-per-day quota. And I’m struggling to properly integrate Caitrin’s subplot. But it’s coming along.


I started writing Autumn the same November I wrote most of Summer – not so much because I wanted to write a sequel as because November wasn’t over yet and I had some vague ideas knocking around as to what should happen to Olsson next.

I used it for the following NaNoWriMo and it is how I came to write eighty thousand words in thirty days. It’s about as much of a rambling, convoluted mess as you might expected. It’s not just that I was writing very fast – when I started out, I did not know how it was going to end. When I finished, I still did not know how it was going to end. I now know how it should end, but I’ve not written the ending yet.

The facts are these: Olsson is now training with the Wizard Wheright. She might want to teach him magic, or she might just want to use him to expose Lord Glasswater as a cheat – or she might just want the glory of ‘discovering’ him, he’s really not sure. He’s also been having vivid dreams about standing stones that might be magical out-of-body experiences.

After their first time out in public together, at a Midwinter party, proves disastrous, Olsson decides to strike out on his own to see if he can find the standing stone he’s been dreaming about. Hijinks and side-quests ensue. When he finally finds the standing stone and comes to understand what his dreams mean, he finds the truth so uncomfortable he makes every effort to hide himself.

Meanwhile, the Wizard Wheright finally manages to get the Wizards’ Council to listen to her accusations – a week or so too late. Olsson is long gone – they’ll just have to try and hunt him down.

And the Glasswater household is slowly crumbling apart under the weight of Lord Glasswater’s sin.

Autumn was a blast to write but not that well suited to NaNoWriMo. The unity of it is more thematic than narrative, so rushing it made for a disjointed experience. But writing it was one of the best experiences of my life, so I can deal.

The third book, when I write it, will be the ‘bring all major characters together’ kind of third act, and see Olsson being forced out of hiding and attempting to use his powers for good. I have, in my head, a kind of ‘book trailer’. There’s colourful flags involved somewhere.

Summer is a much more straightforward project than the Ever-Present Trilogy. I’m hoping it’s also more publishable, being, as it is, a more conventional fantasy trilogy. But I need to do that editing first…

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Filed under Poetry, Summerverse, writing

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