Writing Illidan Part Five


This is the fifth part in my series of blog posts about writing my World of Warcraft novel, Illidan. The earlier parts can be found here:

Writing Illidan Part One

Writing Illidan Part Two

Writing Illidan Part Three

Writing Illidan Part Four

So, after all the preparation, I set merrily to work. I wrote the first draft in Scrivener with the outline broken down into scenes in its index card window. Any additional information I needed was in the research folder. I kept all the artwork I had been given by Blizzard in that Scrivener file too along with all the screenshots I had taken during my research trips. In some scenes and chapters I kept pictures of the characters in Scrivener’s document notes window. It was singularly the largest Scrivener file I have ever used.

I wrote with the Burning Crusade soundtrack playing in the background to keep me in the mood. I paused every now and again to fly around Outland and remind myself of how it looked and felt. I would occasionally pay a visit to the Black Temple, once managing to get myself killed particularly stupidly in the process. Every week, Dan and I would venture into Azeroth and its environs for some PvP just to keep our hands in.

I wrote in the workspace in Prague and in a hotel room in London while I was traveling. I worked on a MacBook Pro or a Microsoft Surface. I was looking after my three-year-old son a couple of working days a week, so I worked on Saturdays to give me some extra time. I think it helped because the maximum length of time that went by between writing sessions was one day rather than a whole weekend.

I wrote, as I usually do, using the Pomodoro Technique. That is to say, I worked in 25 chunks, broken up with 5-minute breaks. Sometimes, for variety, I would write in ten-minute sprints. For me, single tasking in discrete chunks of time is the simplest and easiest route to productivity.

There’s not much to say about writing the first draft. I can’t remember another one that went quite as smoothly. I had promised to deliver the first draft manuscript in a couple of months. I was writing to a very tight deadline, but once the process got underway, much to my surprise, I did not feel a lot of pressure. I was having too much fun.

I liked the characters, and I enjoyed watching their interplay. It was a pleasure getting inside their thought processes.

Writing the book provided me with a whole new way of looking at Outland. World of Warcraft gives a brilliant sense of the look and sound of Azeroth and Outland but what does it feel and smell like? Is Zangarmarsh hot or cold? A Florida swamp or a cold North European one. I asked these questions of Sean and the other lore wizards in Irvine and got prompt answers back. (For the record, Zangarmarsh is hot.)

Questions about the story still needed to be answered and new bits of information about demon hunters and other things needed to be woven in as I went.

There were technical problems that needed to be solved, questions of time and distance. What were plausible lapses of time between events? Mostly though it was a case of following the outline and the characters as they improved on it or fought against it.

When I first started the book I had no idea of Vandel’s eventual fate. I knew everything would have to come to a head during the final climactic battles at Black Temple, but I had no idea exactly how things would be resolved with him.

I pushed on anyway carried by momentum, caffeine and the BC soundtrack. There were days when I wrote 7000 words. There were days when I wrote a lot less. I probably averaged about 3000 words per working day as I wrote. For those of you keeping count, that does mean I hacked some text out before it was finished the manuscript.

And then, one fine day, it was done. I exported the book from Scrivener onto PDF and went through it on Drawboard on the Surface Pro, marking things up with a pen.

At this stage, I was looking for inconsistencies, bits that needed cut, spelling mistakes, anything I could spot. This is not the easiest thing to do when you have just completed a draft, which is why I like to do it in a different format from the one I write in. Things look different in a PDF, and this can jog your brain and make you look at things afresh.

I used to do this on paper but these days its easier to edit on a tablet. Much less bulky to carry around with you as well. Which is important because I normally do my editing in a cafe or a bookstore or some place totally different from the place I wrote the first draft. I do this for the same reason as I do the editing in PDF. To trick my brain into looking at things afresh because it’s in a different environment.

There were the usual glitches that still needed editing, but in general, I thought it read well, and I was pleased with it. Then I sent it off to Del Rey, and the real work began.


Image copyright Blizzard. No challenge intended.

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  1. Good Evening, Mr. King.

    To begin with, I wish to say that I have Illidan and it is in fact my favorite Warcraft novel so far. I also adore your Gotrek and Felix series. If its okay, I would like to ask a few questions, one based off an interview you gave that I read and the other small series of sub-questions based on a curious detail I noticed in your and one other literature.

    1. In one of your interviews, you said that you believed the Burning Legion was ‘darker and more malevolent’ than Chaos (Warhammer/40k). Can you expand your thoughts on this statement? I am really curious to hear your reasoning.

    2. To my understanding in Warcraft there appears to be a multiverse but one Twisting Nether, where daemons come from. Amusingly, in the audio drama ‘Tomb of Sargeras” Kil’Jaden seems utterly unable to differentiate AU Gul’dan from MU Gul’dan, much to Gul’dans frustration. Since you are the first author to really expand upon this fascinating concept, I was hoping you might know the answer to some of the following-

    Do Daemons have difficulty grasping the concept of multiverse, viewing the mortals they deal with as the same people in different realities, just ‘respawned’ over? Also how if there are multiple corrupted Kil’Jadens, do they merge into one in the Twisting Nether? For that matter is Illidan merged into one as he is part demon? If someone accepted the offer to daemonhood in one AU but not in the other, how would that work?

    Thank you for any questions you are able to answer!


    • Hi Kyle, many apologies for the huge delay in replying. Somehow your comment slipped through the cracks. Anyway, to get to the questions.

      1. I probably meant more nihilistic. The Legion is on a mission to end the universe. It’s singular of purpose and it’s winning (at least it was as of the time I wrote Illidan!)

      2. Re demons and the multiverse, all I can talk about are the conversations I had with the devs during my visit to Irvine. The impression I got, and it may be a completely incorrect one, is that the multiverse is made up of variations of the timelines spawned by different individual decisions. ( I believe this is one of the theories of modern physics.) As the Legion ends more and more worlds, the timelines close off. I think the Nether exists outside and around these timelines, or perhaps is the primordial soup from which they emerged.

      3. I think, and once again I could easily be wrong, that there is but one Nether. To be honest, I have no real idea how to go about justifying the different personages in the different aspects of the multiverse. If I had to, I would probably invoke something like the Platonic theory of ideals and say what we see in the realities are reflections of the things that exist in the Nether and their experiences are in turn mirrored there. Understanding and depicting the consciousness of such a being is beyond me. The vision that Vandel has when he becomes a Demon Hunter might be a reflection of such a thing or an attempt to synthesize such an experience.

      Hope this is of some use and once again apologies for the delay.

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