When anyone asks me how I write, I always say I’m a pantser. I have an aversion to charts and post it notes. I have learned to trust my characters to lead me where they want to go (or don’t want to go) so why fight them?
I think this is because I am still a novice writer, I had no prior experience. The first book evolved from a series of exercises. I pasted it together into some sort of a story and thought that was it. I knew nothing – it was just the start. As it tuned out, the original first ending lay at the exact halfway point of the final version.
Many rewrites later I know my characters well, I understand what they want – better than they do themselves. Where would they go next? I had to do some sort of planning.
A series of scenes evolved in my head, a bit of research and they could be placed on a timeline. This scene has to take place in autumn, so it has to come after that one. Those characters will come back – whoops that one can’t, he died. What new characters do I need? What will their names be? Are they historical people? In which case I’m stuck with the name. But now I’ve got two people with the same name. Can I get away with spelling them differently? They will never meet, perhaps I can trust my readers to tell the difference?
When I started book 2 I had this series of scenes. I knew what happened at the start. I really needed a battle round about the centre – check the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to see who Byrhtnoth would be fighting. Oh dear, there was a truce, no battles that year. Well there must have been fighting somewhere, sometime, it just never got mentioned, I’d work it out when I got to it. Then the finale – big romantic scene? Sex? I don’t know, I haven’t got there yet – but I’m enjoying thinking about it!
Already I am getting ideas for book 3. Kill off a major character? Byrhtnoth is searching for a sword – will he find it? Can I hang it out into a fourth book?
These major scenes are easy, they are already written – in my head. The problem comes with the bits in between; the preparation, getting people into the right place, how long will it take? Hopefully not too much info dumping. I had this problem last week. I had to force myself to sit down and write. I knew it was rubbish but I did it anyway. I know I will cut it later.
I got through it and ready to write something more exciting. It was Friday, I was on track to reach my target. On Saturday, there was a party. A birthday party. The first birthday of my granddaughter. I enjoyed the party but afterwards I could not write what I wanted. Those burning ships would turn to candles on a cake. Byrhtnoth would be attacking the enemy with pink balloons instead of a bloodstained axe. Perhaps I could have invented a new genre – Dark Age meets Children’s Parties – a Bernard Cornwall/Pippa Middleton mash-up.
To cut a long story short. I failed. Last weeks’s word count was 4,825, bolstered by a silly but entertaining exercise of 525 words. Total 5,390.
This week is going well. I am on target, which explains why this post is three days late!
Perhaps I should plan more!