Monday, 23 July 2012

Misguided Beginnings and Finding the True Path

Well, shot myself a bit in the foot, but appear to have been able to limp back. To fully explain, I'm going to leave my entry for yesterday unedited (which I didn't get to post because of internet troubles, but I've worked out a way around it now, I think). And afterwards I'll tell you about today.

Starting from Scratch.

I am sorry Ben, I ignored your advice to my own detriment.

Instead of continuing on with the final book in my trilogy, I decided to start something completely new. Within minutes I realised that these next two weeks are going to be a serious test of my dedication to the challenge.

I started on the next book on the list, which is really the prequel for another story I have wanted to write and have quite a few notes on. All I knew about this story was that it was a historical romance which ended with her escaping from France with him, and them getting married. Not really a lot to go on. I didn't even really have a starting image (I just have the end image of the wedding), so couldn't even begin by describing that and seeing where that led me. (also, these two characters are the parents of my main character in the next book, so don't even know what they are like.)
So I started a few different ways, and realised they were more a brief summary of my main characters, rather than an actual story. So then tried just starting a scene: you come in with him being told by the hostess of the party that uninvited guests are always welcome, when they are my Lord Averley. I thought it would be a debutante party for hopefully my main character, and it is her mother greeting my main guy.
But he couldn't come here for her, because they have not already met. So he's come to meet up with someone else.
That led to secret messages and I soon found that I was in trouble of just making him the Scarlett Pimpernel, who has already been wonderfully written. But I did want him to have a purpose other than being an aristocrat, and decided it would be fun to write an adventure book, that just happened to have a very satisfying romance in there. So, not the Scarlett Pimpernel, what else is sure to involve adventure? Thought about smuggling, but then couldn't think of a way to make sure he was also honourable. So hit on spy. James Bond for the 18th Century.
I started to write a new opening scene where my main character is escaping from a village earlier that day with secret documents.
Then came the huge problem. What are the secret documents? Who are they from? Why are they secret? I can write with enough detail about English society around that period, as long as I get to stay vague as to what year it is and what is happening other than the Gunning Sisters having been a hit and Mr. Brummel is leading society. But first of all, this was France, and second, if he's going to be a spy, might actually need to know something about politics and international affairs at the time!
This caused me enough angst that I almost threw away the idea. Instead, I went to grab a cup of tea.

On my way back, I glanced at my bookshelf and noticed Matthew Reilly's 'The Seven Ancient Wonders', and thought that archaeology is something I know a bit about and remembered (possibly from Lara Croft Tomb Raider the second movie) that Napoleon was supposed to have mounted a expedition to Egypt. So what if my main characters get in a race with Napoleon to find some ancient Egyptian artefact that would change world history?
I started to read up a bit on Napoleon's expedition, which really just pointed out to me how very little I knew about the period, and so did what any writer does when stuck, went and had a nap.
In my dream I started working out a brilliant story and writing it down, but on waking up realised it wasn't quite as good as I thought it was. (It did involve my main female character passing herself as Chinese, Indian and then French. But totally worked in the dream.)
So came back to the computer and started doing some random history searching for what was happening at the time, which just reinforced that I knew nothing. So tried to continue writing the story as vaguely as possible, thinking that if I got something out, then I could check out the details etc. later. I know this is not the desired way for historical writing, but remember my aim is to write first drafts to see if I like the style, not spend weeks doing research and then finding out I suck at writing action sequences.
So have now been working for many hours, and have a total of just over 3,000 words, which still hasn't really helped me know where to go or even when I'm setting it.
Now I have become caught in an awful time pressured loop: can't write until I have done more research, don't want to do research because I have no idea what I'm writing and can't waste time researching anything that might not be useful.
I still think there might be something in doing a Napoleon race to save the world from Egyptian artefact, but not sure.
I would need to work out how they could actually know anything, since this is really at the very beginning of Egyptology and very little was known. Then I would also have to work out what Ancient Egyptian artefact I was going to get them to find, and its powers.
Though, instead of starting in France, if I start somewhere I know like Oxford, could get myself going before needing to seriously panic. Not much at Oxford has seriously changed in the last three hundred years, I should be pretty good (except for the girls, need to take out the women, of course).

So, the next two weeks are going to be interesting. My biggest fear is that I just won't be able to make myself keep writing when I don't know where I'm going and don't have anywhere near enough research at hand. Can the academic in me let go of the reigns to let the creative youth just make it all up and then in the second draft check out if it all works? Also, I am now 10,000 words behind, if I don't use anything I've done today. So it is going to be a long two weeks, but hopefully fun.

So that was the end of my post for yesterday.
This morning I woke up, had breakfast and sat down to write and got struck by fear. In the night I had thought of a few ideas, a few starts, but it was no good. I realised that my Muse just wasn't with me. He might be with me on the idea in the future, but right now wasn't really interested. He wanted to complete the trilogy I had started. Wrap it all up nice and sound while it was still fresh in my head

(Yes Ben, God agrees with you.)
So I then moved over to my final book (I think), in my Sally Hunt trilogy, and started writing. I knew very little about this one, except of course all the characters. I won't tell you the end of the last book, in case I can convince you to actually read it, but basically it was a bit of a shock, even to me (I thought it was going to happen in this book), and left me starting this book from a totally different place.
However, managed to get 3,400 words done before gone to work and tonight, with full use of the flow (joined a new gym and had a really yummy dinner) I got up to 8,465. So, will need to keep working at the super pace as I'm one 10,000 word day behind, but my Muse has not abandoned me!
Will be interested to see how I manage to wrap it all up. I know there must be something big, but the big thing I was expecting already happened in the last book! So, like all of you, I will just have to wait and see.

And if you think an Ancient Egyptian/18th Century romance/adventure novel could work, let me know. All ideas welcome. Also, if anyone could suggest any good books to read about the period, that would be great.

Finally, just to let you all know what a sense of humour my God has: have been praying for either a motorcycle (cheap, but fun) or an old MX5 (hey why not be outrageous? I look really good in a convertible, except the end of my nose tends to get sunburnt and then peel, but still). I thought either of these two would add to my eccentric image which I want to cultivate as a writer. What is the point of spending the majority of my time locked away writing if when I come out I don't get to be weird? Well, guess what? Just got given a free Holdon Vectra, circa 2001. Might not be adding to the 'eccentric' element of being a writer, but my inner 'impoverished' writer is loving it. So big thanks to my Aunt Louise! (She is also writing a book, though hers is all serious. But when it comes closer to actually coming out, I'll tell you more.) 

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