I have started writing a new novel – Dragons Rising. It’s a fantasy novel set in my Neriador/Ladmas setting – the same place where Return of the Free is set. It involves suprisingly and wizards, and plots! The idea is that it’s a bit of a thriller/fantasy book.
I thought I would make some regular blog posts to track progress, motivate myself and keep you all informed about how I am getting on.
The plan at the moment is to do about 4,000 words a week and finish a first draft before the end of the year. So far over the last couple of weeks I have done 6,500 words – so a bit behind schedule already! I’m not going to worry too much about that, but will still aim to do 800 words a day Monday to Friday if I can – maybe if I go over a bit each day I will catch-up a bit. But the main thing is to keep writing.
I might mention some of the characters and themes as I go along as well. Also I’ll aim to start proper blogging soon as well – with a specific subject once a week – probably writing or history related.
So since last week’s update I have started actually looking at the sources for the Pontvallain campaign. First up is the Anonimalle chronicle – an English chronicle written at the Abbey of St. Mary in York, which covers most of the fourteenth century and is best known for its account of the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. It’s written in Anglo-Norman, so this week I transcribed a page of it and started translating it into English. The section that I was started with gave details of numbers of soldiers in Knolles’s army – suggesting that the army consisted of 2,000 men-at-arms (gentz darmes) and 6,000 archers (darchiers) – Jonathan Sumption thinks this can’t be right if you compare it with some of the other figures, so here the chronicler must have been mistaken.
Luckily I did GCSE French so I can just about read most of the text and get the gist of it. For the rest I have been reliant on an excellent resource called the Anglo-Norman Dictionary. More resources on how to use it can be found at the Anglo-Norman Online Hub. Fantastic to have this and easy to use as well – it provides examples of usages and variants of spellings of each word.
I have a feeling I might be using it a lot over the next few weeks!
st by Juliet Barker about the English Kingdom of France at the end of the Hundred Years War – I’m thinking GRR Martin might have based a lot of his history of Westeros on these events – terrible intrigue mired with chivalry, assassination, massacres and mystical inspiration!
Also playing Crusader Kings 2 – not sure how I missed this before – shines a light on the convoluted personal politics of the Middle Ages like no other game I have played – the combat system is rubbish (just sums!) Will probably blog about this a bit more sometime.
Since last posting an update to the Naked Writer series at the start of October, I have made some more progress getting my research sources ready for the next section of Stonhearted. I have now sourced pretty much everything I was hoping to source – including a copy of an Anglo-French chronicle that I needed to get on inter library loan. The last couple of weeks have probably been the busiest of the year for me work wise – especially last week, so hardly any writing work got done. Now I’m back from that and hopefully ready to get on track again.
The next few weeks will consist of a lot of reading through sources, which will include transcribing and translating some. It should be fun and I’m looking forward to seeing what I will find out.
I am also in the process of typesetting the next issue of Alt Hist ready for copy-editing. That’s a lot of fun as well and I am really looking forward to seeing it out before the end of the year.
Still at the research for the next volume of Stonehearted! Nothing much to report other than that.
Not much done over the weekend, but otherwise I have made some progress on getting ready to read through the source material references I have gathered for the Pontvallain campaign. That includes matching up events with each of the footnotes in Divided Houses by Sumption, and also gathering copies of the source material. Nearly finished on getting the source material, much of it has come from archive.org – which is the historical writer’s friend! (more on that site another time). When that’s compiled I will be starting to translate some of it – most of it is in Latin or French, so the plan is to use the Sumption footnotes to make sure I just translate the few pages I need from each source.
Other than that I am gearing up to produce the next issue of Alt Hist – I have gathered all the author manuscripts together and will be typesetting these this week.
I am listening to Robyn Young’s Brethren – it’s OK, but I wish it was a bit faster paced. Just started reading an ebook from my local library of People’s Queen by Vanora Bennett, which is based on the life of Alice Perrers, Edward III’s mistress. This is right on the money in terms of the time period that I write about, so its fascinating to see how the author portrays things. As with much of historical fiction a lot of the characterisation and interpretation of what actually happens is speculative. I think the author is doing a great job on this at the moment!
So this week since the last post I have been concentrating on research rather than writing. I decided that I need to commit to getting the sequel to By the Sword’s Edge out at some point soon – and the only way to do that is to firm up some research on the Pontvallain campaign of 1370, which is the stories setting.
And the other major part of the research programme has been to look up some of the primary sources for the campaign so I can get to grips with some more of the detail. I have used Jonathan Sumption’s Divided Houses as a starting point to get primary source references. Again I’ll probably post a list of these and their availability at some point as well.
That’ it. Will probably post more infrequent – perhaps a couple of times a week.
So this last week was a big wash out for me – big time. Absolutely no new words at all.
Away for business and then caught a bad cold, lots of travelling and although I know I should be, I just didn’t do any writing.
That’s it – not much else to report!
On non-writing news, I finished reading A Feast for Crows – it was good! Ended up being better than I thought, but I was initially confused about where half the characters had gone. I guess that’s what happens when a series just gets too big –
too many characters and too tricky and disorientating to keep switching. Tricky though if you don’t read the next book straightaway – so I suppose I’ll need to get on with A Dance with Dragons!
While I was away I picked up a mass-market edition of Umberto Eco‘s The Prague Cemetery. I’m half was through so far and enjoying it immensely. Much better than the last Eco I read, Baudalino, which was a huge disappointment. The Prague Cemetery covers some of the same ground, but from a 19th century setting, of Foucault’s Pendulum, which was ace!
Not a great deal to report unfortunately for the last few days. I did a couple of hundred words on the 11th and another couple of hundred on Friday, 13th – getting into a new character in Chapter 2 of Dragons Above. I’m enjoying writing the new character – an ageing Field Marshall – but simply had a lot on my plate with work at the moment – not necessarily time-sucking, but more mental energy sucking, I think!
I’m hoping to get into a better routine with writing next week – I think I just need to commit a certain amount of time from my day to make it habit forming. The problem with grabbing a few words here and there – which I have been doing recently – is that sometimes those short moments of time dry up, or if work is intense the last thing I can think of is writing. So I think that’s where having a firm time and schedule can help get things done. I’m also getting back into running at the moment, and I’m following a training plan to build up my stamina – and because I have a firm schedule I tend to commit to doing the runs that I might otherwise decide I can’t be bothered with.
Perhaps I need a writing training plan to keep me on track?
Only a few words since Saturday. Definitely seem to have a problem picking up the writing at the moment. I think it’s because with Dragon’s Above it is very much a blank canvas. I know where the first chapter is going to end, but that’s it.
Well I have finished the first chapter now, so that leaves the rest of the book. Rather than just wade into the next chapter, I decided I might be better motivated if I do a little bit of planning. Not a lot – just get to know something about the characters I am going to write about – or at least the main character of the next chapter. What I am trying to avoid is doing loads of outlining. Dragons Above is the short novel that I am writing to keep myself writing every day while I more thoroughly plan the next installment of Stonehearted, which as its a historical novel I need to do research on (to some extent at least).
So I have made some notes this morning and feel pretty happy that they give me some basis to keep moving forward, and what’s more I am quite excited with the ideas for the characters and setting that I came up. I don’t think they’re groundbreaking, but they’re of enough interest to me to keep writing.
First a little update on words. 109 since Saturday – that’s it!
Here’s the stuff I came up with for Dragons Above.
Dragons Above – Main Characters – their conflicts.
Injured in dragon bombing attack
Wants to get back home to Throfunar to marry his betrothed, Frea
Do his duty for the dwarves – but not sure as to the point of the war.
Technical interest in defeating the dragoneers
After his injury he becomes obsessed in engineering and how to come up with a weapon to defeat the dragoneers bombing.
He is crippled by the attack – wheelchair and partially deaf.
He thinks Frea won’t want him. Throws his energies into weapon design.
He’s a love-smitten technie nerd.
Field Marshall of the Alliance. Currently appointed field commander of the Army of the North.
Responsible for protecting the borders of the Locked Kingdom and has been charged by the Garland Council with the ultimate defeat of the Lord of Despair and his armies.
Maximilian is a famous general, who in his prime was an undefeated leader of men – during the Wars of the Hundred Cities and the War of the Intercession, he never lost a battle. Called out of retirement by an Alliance sick of defeat after defeat, Maximilian has struggled to rediscover his lost successes. He is old, and his memory is not as good as it was. He wants to rediscover his lost powers of leadership and generalship, but he knows that he can’t.
Against the effects of old age – he is proud and can’t let go and admit himself incapable. He is too hard on himself – he has something to offer, but the pressures of leadership are too great for him.
To hold the Alliance of men, dwarves and elves together.
To defeat the Hosts of Despair.
To protect his son who is anxious for a field command.
Hosts of Despair
Religiously motivated, end-of-days militants who believe that the peoples of Midgard must pay for the offences to the gods with blood.
Armies consist of human, dwarves and elves who have lost hope or that are just cruel enough to love killing.
Lead by the Lord of Despair, an unseen warlock of unknown provenance – at least by his enemies. The Alliance spy services are intent on finding out more about the Lord of Despair and have attempted to capture high-ranking Host generals to question them and also to infiltrate into the Lord of Despair’s Headquarters, but without any success so far.
The Lord of Despair supplements his followers from the three main races of Midgard (humans, dwarves and elves), with other creatures – dragons and various other monsters of the northern mountains where his fastness is located. He also works in uneasy alliance with the enemies of the free people of Midgard – orcs and goblins, who now invest much of the Locked Kingdom. He sees these creatures as a punishment from the gods and sees no harm in encouraging them, although they are opposed to any alliance or control by him – as yet.
Other characters to develop later in the novel
Lord of Despair
A mother character – mid-30s? Which side? What’s her role? Minding the castle/farm while her husband is at war?
Apologies for not posting more regularly about my writing this week. Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been doing. All words are for Dragon’s Above – chapter 1.
Tuesday, 3rd September – 299 words
Wednesday, 4th September – 371 words
Thursday, 5th September – none! I did do some stuff for the Alt Hist website instead – posting an interview with Priya Sharma, one of the contributors to Issue 5.
Friday, 6th September – 144 words
Saturday, 7th September – 76 words – we had someone over at the weekend, so pretty difficult to write!
What I am finding a bit disappointing this week is that my word count per day is going down. This seems to be partly because I am often only doing a single session a day and leaving it at that. Partly I think that’s explained by having a lot of work on at the moment, but also I think I need to be a bit tougher with myself and force myself to hit a target of at least 500 a day.
I promise to do better this week!
Finished How to Read a Novel. Not the book I was expecting, but a good read nevertheless and inspires one to read more novels! Still reading A Feast for Crows (which I have been calling Feast of Crows by mistake in previous blog posts!) I am not sure what to think of this book. The writing as ever with GRR Martin is great, but the characters don’t particularly seem to be going anywhere (I am half way through). There’s stuff that they are doing, but none of them are in particular danger as far as I can work out, and I am left thinking so what. I’m hoping it will pick up a bit soon.
Monday was a fairly slow start to the week yesterday – quite a bit to do at work and when I did take a break I didn’t feel that inclined to do any writing. My main session was 353 words on Chapter 1 of Dragon’s Above at lunchtime. The words flowed pretty well and I enjoyed what I was writing. I often feel more at ease writing the start of the novel as I don’t feel the same pressure to move the story along fast – instead I can show a scene at greater leisure.
Also I submitted one of my short stories, Bring on the Night, a medieval horror/fantasy to a new market. It’s been to four so far, so I keep bashing away with it and the other ones that are doing the rounds.
Back to Feast of Crows now that I’ve got through most of the backlog of Alt Hist submissions.