Today it’s been a tale of less Arkham and more working. Yup, I hung up my batarangs for a bit while I got some much needed words down on Grimblades.
Tempting as it was to blow the entire day chasing through Arkham Asylum, my conscience got the better of me and after a little housework (yawn – but fair’s fair when you’ve got an other half), I knuckled down to some serious writing.
I’m glad that I did. Some really interesting and surprising stuff came out as I began to embrace the Stephen King-ian method of story telling i.e. let the story take you where it wants to go. I’m actually really liking the way that Grimblades is coming out, so far. The dialogue and characters feel real, the story is fitting together in ways I never expected and it’s keeping me interested (one of the hardest things, I find, when you’re just over halfway through a novel is sustaining enthusiasm – there’s always that other thing you want to do or that short story you’re tempted to just ‘rattle off’).
After some Chinese take-away this evening, I’m going to have another session on it and see if I can reach the 63,000 word mark. That’s pretty much been my goal for the bank holiday weekend. Not bad, considering the Arkham intervention. I’m still around 15,000 words behind what I had originally targeted before the grip of flu, but at least I’m maintaining pace and not falling behind. I reckon the flu probably knocked me back three weeks in all, and as I tend to write 7,000 words a week minimum (that’s 1,000 a day) then I’m actually slightly ahead – if you see what I mean.
I’m hoping I won’t need a deadline extension. Maybe just for some final editorial tweaks at the end – we’ll see. One thing I will not do is rush it. I’ve been under unnecessary pressure too many times in the past and I won’t go there again. It’ll take as long as it takes (so long as that’s not a silly amount of time – authors take note: be nice to your editors, especially ones that write as well).
So, yeah, about 2,000 words plus today (which is over my usual quota, but when it’s flowing it’s flowing – I deliberately give myself ‘easy’ targets to hit, adhering to that age old adage of ‘under promise, over delivery’ – it’s worked so far…). If I can hit about another 1,000 tonight (doable – the missus is watching that fairly ropey One Tree Hill at 9pm, so I’ll have an hour of peace and maybe then some…), I’ll be just about there.
I’ve actually been building up to a big battle scene that takes place outside Averheim (it’s besieged by the army of Grom the Goblin King – don’t you just hate it when that happens?). Before heading straight into the fray, as it were, I wanted to make some fairly extensive notes and plans for how this scene is going to play out. Multiple viewpoints, ‘phases’ of battle, deployment etc all had to be considered, otherwise I could end up with an incoherent, repetitive mess. I do occasionally find that battle scenes are the refuge of the unconfident writer, the one place where they really go to town on overdoing it and overwriting it.
My belief is that battle scenes are tough to write because of this very pitfall. Like any scene in a novel, a battle scene should be choreographed. It needs purpose, milestones, objectives, complications – really, you should treat it like a mini-novel in itself. It’s way too easy to start throwing in visceral words and more onomatopoeia than you can shake a clanging, crumping, shlerking stick at. Repetition, that most perilous bugbear of mine and every author I’ve ever worked with (every single one, bar none), is a treacherous beast at times such as this. After all, there are only so many times you can cut, cleave, slice, crush, maim, roar, slash, bellow, hammer, thunder, crash, spear, spike, batter, smash someone – phew!
Big battles, you know the Agincourt, Waterloo style affairs with lots and lots of bodies, all fighting in regiments, catapults flinging and people dying or getting impaled all over the place – watch the opening of Gladiator and you’ll know what I mean – big battles are really hard to do. You have to think about individuals AND groups. You need a soldier’s eye view for the really gruesome stuff, the ‘in the trenches’ feel and a general’s eye view so you can figure out who’s winning and why.
They are fun to write, no denying that, and I’m looking forward to the attempted liberation of Averheim. All I’m saying is: planning is everything at these points. You can’t just say to yourself ‘Ooh, battle, battle, battle’ and hope it turns out all right. You’re on your way to narrative soup that way and the sections of books that people skip over (there’s a famous-ish quote attached to that, which I can’t remember – the upshot is ‘don’t write these bits’). Tread carefully, young padawans (and avoid cheesy Star Wars refs too).
Man, not sure where all that came from. In the time and the words it’s taken me to write this post, I could’ve been well on the way to that 1,000 words I was banging on about earlier. Still, this is more like stream of consciousness bloggage – just a warm up for the real deal a bit later on.
Thanks for listening (if you did, that is).