I got the inspiration for The Black Ring in my early teens, when I had a dream in which I was a hero in some kind of story. (A version of that dream is in Book One, Part Four, Chapter 14, near the beginning of “The Cottage on the Border”.) I had never been a hero in my dreams or fantasies — and certainly not in real life — and I never had another dream about being a hero, though I have sometimes assumed the role of someone other than me.
The dream persisted in the back of my mind for a long time, as no other dream had done. The idea of being a hero entered my fantasies for the first time, which had never never been about being a hero before. I eventually started writing down a lot of ideas — strange lands, monsters, companions, enemies, modes of transportation, weapons — and over the years filled several small notebooks. I decided, after ten or twelve years or so, to compile them all into a single notebook, and threw the originals away. When I referred to the compilation later, I found that I had tightened too much, and had left out alternates and details which I now wanted. I should have kept the originals.