What is the Opposite of Writers Block?

And where does the apostrophe in Writers go? Is it the inability to write by one writer – you, or the curse of all writers? Enough of that. I have finished with editing for now, and am back to writing. It is going well, or so I thought.

It has been a busy summer and as the year turns towards autumn, I realised it was a long time since I had updated my followers on what I have been doing. BTW, did you know that for the Anglo-Saxons, August was the start of Autumn?

Bright Axe was published in April and I spent a lot of time trying to promote it. I became involved in a Facebook Blog Hop – A fascinating, although rather chaotic exercise when a group of Historical Fiction interviewed each other’s characters. You may have noticed the other Anglo-Saxon warrior who paid us a visit last month. Originally I was in line to interview Lady Macbeth, but she was too busy. That would have been interesting! Byrhtnoth was interviewed by Jen Black. You can find links to all the interviews on the Historical Writers Forum Blog Hop Page.

I then turned my attention to my third book, to be called Bright Blade. I hope to publish it later this year. “Watch this space” as they say. It has a beautiful cover awaiting it – can you guess what weapon it will show this time?

That has now been sent away for a final edit, so I was free to make a start on book four. This has been hammering on the door to my brain for some time. It will be the final book in the series, although I’m sure Byrhtnoth will be back again for more adventures. This is the book where everything is resolved and Byrhtnoth finds what he is looking for – whatever it is!

I know where it starts – a few months after book three and I know where it finishes, with everyone happy, all loose ends tied up and the villain suffering a long deserved and horrible fate, perhaps. I know roughly what happens and when. I had even – shock horror – written an outline! Well, I scribbled a few sentences on a piece of paper. Not quite the back of an envelope – I actually bought a brand new notebook. I was able to identify the midpoint and the inciting incident. I numbered the sentences, let’s call them chapters for convenience, there were twenty two. With an aim of about 100,000 words that gives an approximate 4-5 thousand words per “chapter”.

On 28th July, I started to write. I returned to my aim of writing 1,000 words a day or 7,000 a week (Sunday to Saturday). After the first week, I was over 8,000, the second 15,000. By 17th July I had added around 4,000, but I had been away for five days and done no writing at all. I had visited West Stowe and Sutton Hoo, so I think that counts as research (more about that another time).

The author at West Stowe, channeling Byrhtnoth.

As the word count mounted, to 20,000, then 25,000, I started to worry. I know, stupid isn’t it? The words were flooding out, but were they the right words? I don’t want to go into any details but the book starts with a conflict between the two main characters. It was what I had planned, but it seemed to go on and on. I could hear my editor asking when the real story was going to start. There was no action. Everything was static, apart from that journey, and a return. All other characters were periferal, apart from that woman who…
There is fear and despair, misunderstanding, sacrifice and near death.
And I didn’t think it was what I should be writing. If this was a romance: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl, it would be fine, but that is not what this series is about, well, only partially. It is not what the reader would expect.

But I couldn’t stop writing. What should I do? I had to let it all out, otherwise I knew the words would linger, festering in my brain. Perhaps I should remove them and use them somewhere else – that historical romance that seems to be waiting to be written, sometimes in the future? I carried on. I knew that some of this plotline would remain, but most would need to be dumped. After all, this was the first draft, that’s what they are for.

Four weeks in and I had reached 30,000 words and, with relief, I could see the main plot approaching. I remembered my outline. I got it out, to work out how many of these troublesome words I would need to delete. I did some calculations, stared at the outline, re-did the calculations. According to my plan, I was at exactly the right point!

My rough outline had included this long ramble through the psyches of my characters. I still think it is too much, an indulgence on my part, but I couldn’t say that it was a mistake, it was there in black and white.

I will continue to write. I hope the words come as easily as they have so far. It has been easy, with nothing much going on. Soon life will start again and I will be forced away from my computer.

And the opposite of Writer’s (I’ve checked the apostrophe) block? It’s something called hypergraphia, a recognised condition connected with epilepsy. I don’t think it’s as serious as that. Or there is graphorrhea: writing in excessive amounts, sometimes incoherently. That sounds more like it.
Is it because I have a plan?
Perhaps it just means that I am becoming a more experienced writer.
Just don’t let it stop.

Now, I must go, I have another couple of thousand words I need to get off my chest.

Plotter or Pantser, or something in between?

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!