Monday, 29 August 2011

"Help! I'm trapped in a chapter!"

So I'm currently writing Chapter Eight of my book. Now Chapter 7 and 8 both used to be the same chapter, until I realised it was going to end up at like almost 40 pages long, which I think is a little excessive considering the previous longest was just over 20. So I split it. But I think it's safe to say that in my head it still feels like one chapter. Hence, it feels like I've been stuck on the same chapter for AGES!

Naturally, I'm starting to get a little bored...

Now I know that sounds kind of worrying. 'You're getting bored of your own book Ian? Wow, it must totally suck then!'

But no! I love my book, and I don't think it's boring at all to read, but writing is very different. Sometimes writing is amazing, and I get all excited when it goes well and I write something awesome. But other times, it is basically a job. I want to get published, so I want to get this book finished; I can't just keep it as a hobby. I have to write even when I'd much rather slob in front of the telly or read a book or something EDIT: I do actually slob in front and the telly and read books and stuff, just balanced with writing as well. And with this chapter, it was getting more and more like work rather than fun. And then I got stuck...

So imagine you work in an office or something. And then imagine you have a meeting every day. And then imagine if every time you had that meeting, the exact same things were said, and when you tried to get things moving, no one would listen. That's sort of how I am, or was, writing this chapter. I got to a point where I'd lost my vision a bit, and I was just writing words down and seeing where it headed. And each time I tried to write something, it wouldn't work, and I would have to delete it, and I would be back to where I was before.

So I'm rambling here!

I'll give you some specifics. The chapter I'm writing is about a duel. Specifically, three duels taking place one after another, with the main character involved in the final one. Here is a little taste of the first duel:

Helwit lost a point within seconds. The man rushed forward with huge speed, huffing as he did so like an angry beast. Helwit panicked, clearly expecting a slower pace, and foolishly raised his sword into a simple right hand parry. The bodyguard struck left, and Helwit was forced back with a heavy blow to his arm. A second, disappointment yelp from Anthony brought the fighting to a pause, only moments after it had begun. His usual grin faltered.

So as you can see, quite descriptive of the specifics of the fight. This is only a small section, this duel goes on for a few pages. Not all of it is quite as 'in the moment' as this bit, but you get the idea. So here is an extract of the second duel:

Rendill rushed forward, striking at his enemy with the perfect balance between aggression and precision. The sound of wood on wood filled the air, each blow parried in rapid succession like a rushed drum beat. The bodyguard flustered and practically ran backwards, almost crashing into Tarill who had to leap to one side to avoid receiving his own blow from Rendill's dancing sword. Eventually the bodyguard fought to bring a distance between them, and in the few seconds before combat resumed, he took a heavy breath and smiled with animal excitement. Rendill charged forward again, the air lifting his deadlocks behind him like a mane. He made several strikes for his chest, before arcing his sword down for a blow to the knee. The parry came just in time, forcing Rendill's blade almost into the sand. This was when Helwit would have retreated. Heck, this was when Dearon would have retreated. But Rendill was different. Instead, he raised his sword up in a powerful arc, taking the bodyguards sword with it, and locked their hilts and blades together. The man's eyes widened, and a moment later Rendill tugged savagely to the side. 

Yes my characters have strange names! But once again you can see I've gone down the route of describing the specifics of the fight. This duel is a lot shorter than the previous one, and there is a short rest between, so the style doesn't (hopefully) get tiring for the reader. But here's where I ran into a problem.

I tried writing the final duel in the same style, but it just didn't work. It felt tiring to read, a real slog that left me feeling cold to what was actually going on. Actiony style writing is good in small doses, but too much and it looses its meaning. 

But I kept trying. And then I tried the opposite. I tried taking away all action, and having the duel described purely as what's going on inside Dearon's head. (Dearon = main character!). But that was boring! 

I then considered just having the duel end within the first few seconds. Crazy I know, but so crazy it just might work? Well... no. It didn't work. I was quite clearly a cop out. 

Then I considered not even writing the fight, and just showing the repercussions after. But nope! I had to admit it. I was stuck.

Now I almost stopped at this point. I almost said 'you know what, maybe I should have a bit of time off my book.' I have a bad history with writers block. It's avoided me for the most part during this draft, but previously it's been a real bitch! I couldn't write for 2 whole years at one point whilst I rethought the book in my head. I tried, a few times, but I just couldn't do it. Mainly that was because a lot of things weren't that well thought through back then. I'm much more confident this time around, so I never considered starting again, but I had defiantly hit the wall.

I think a lot of it is that I've been writing the beginning of my book for a while now. And every other draft I've done save one, I've never got past the beginning. So now that things are working out, I'm just desperate to get to the juicy middle! The problem is my story is much more the slow build up type, especially in this draft, so the last thing I want to do is rush that. I'm taking my time with it, but getting stuck now is annoying. It was becoming hard, and I like things to be easy!

But I kept writing. 

Now there is a lesson I'm glad I've learnt. A few years ago I would have stopped here. I would have put the book away, and the next time I picked it up I would feel so distant from it I would have to start a whole new draft. That's the lazy option. EDIT: When I say 'put the book away,' I mean that I would end up putting it away for months. A few days or sometimes a week off is normal for me.

I don't want this blog to be me trying to teach people lessons about writing, because I'm still learning myself, but one thing I think any writer should remember is that you can't write a book without putting down some words. Trial and error is ok, and will pay off eventually. If there are lots of big problems with the draft you're writing, maybe you should consider taking some time out to think it over, and possible even start again. But if you are just stuck on one bit, think about how excited you are to write the bit after that, and then use that rush to keep writing.

It's still not finished, but I'm much happier with this chapter now. I ended up doing a mix between actiony and in the characters head in the end. I also ended up adding a little hint of something related to the bigger plot in there, and that defiantly spiced things up a bit. Here is a little extract:

They disengaged, watching one another as they moved around the pit. Cerillius stared with an inhuman, bubbling hatred, upsetting Dearon's focus as he moved to re-engage. He struck fast, over Cerillius's guard, but the man jolted to the side, swiping back at Dearon. Their blades met, trembling against each other's power, before Dearon retreated backwards. A victim of his own size, Cerillius lost balance, moving forward with an abandoned guard and into range of Dearon's blade. He swiped forward.

This is one of the more actiony bits of the duel, but you can see a few sentences that ground it with what's going through the main characters head. A good balance, I hope! Here's another extract:

In spite of his clear aggression and rage, of every tensed muscle and gritted tooth, Cerillius waited. His breathing was heavy, lifting his chest higher with each breath, as if every intake of air was channelled into his fury. Dearon was desperate to win, and yet at that moment even he had no desire to approach him. For a long time both men stood there, fixed to the spot, Cerillius's eyes on his as he watched the bodyguard's feet for movement. The afternoon sun bathed violent light over the pit. His nerves tingled with dry sweat. There was no wind to cool him, only the casual flow of air from his lips, exhausting his lungs. 

Just making things a bit more personal to Dearon really worked I think. It still needs some going over (there are a few oddly worded things I can see already in the extracts I posted) but you get the idea. I'm glad I kept writing!

So that's my rant for today! Hopefully I can get this chapter finished before the sun goes down.

Peace out! (I can't pull that off in real life, so I'm saying it here)


P.S. If you see any problems with the extracts I've put, please let me know, I like feedback! Also, contact me if you want to read what I've written of my draft so far.


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