With a plot in place, writing can begin. I love writing. It’s my favorite part of writing. I immerse myself in my story while I am developing it. It fills my head waking and sleeping, and can sometimes cause downright embarrassing lapses in memory and attention in public places.
One of my favorite places for developing scenes, storylines, and characters is out in the pasture, mucking up after my horse. Mucking is mindless work. You can wander anywhere in your head and not risk screwing up your task, and no one’s around to overhear you talking to yourself.
I live for the point in the day when I can justify putting aside my housework and other responsibilities and write. My family and I call it “going to Caledon,” and they know that once I’m there, it’s tough to draw me back to the real world again.
I can “see” my characters as I develop the story. They hang out with me wherever I am. They can get downright pushy about wanting me to work on a chapter, even when I have other stuff to do. Sometimes I have to give in and start writing when I really should be doing something else. I ride a roller coaster of thrills and emotions with each of my books and put myself into the shoes of each character as I write their point of view.
I try to limit the points of view that I use in each story. Hearing too many characters’ thoughts becomes a confusing cacophony. I like to use no more than three points of view at most, though I was forced to violate that for The Brigand’s Promise, where I required four to tell the story properly. The Rose of Caledon has only one viewpoint; that of Kate. Myrhiadh’s War and Dragon’s Fire both have two. Less is more when it comes to getting into the characters’ heads.
When I write historical fiction, I do a lot of research before I begin writing, but for historical fantasy, I can research as I go. The internet is an excellent source of information. I also have an extensive library of books, so I rarely have to leave the house to find what I need. Sometimes my research takes five minutes. Sometimes it can take a few hours.
The details make the story. For example, in Myrhiadh’s War, Andrew hands Myrhiadh his handkerchief. She uses it. Then she and I both froze. Now what does she do with this soiled piece of linen? Twenty minutes of Google searches later, I had learned that she would not have given it back, nor would he have asked for it, even if the handkerchief happened to be his favorite, silk, monogrammed one. So she stuffs it into her pocket—a total of thirteen words in the book. But very important to the story.
The dates and moon phases in the Dragon’s Fire Series are all correct. Historical clothing is mainly accurate, though I have taken some liberties to design certain outfits in some cases. My heroines do more independent horseback riding in the first three books than would have been common in their eras. The time required to travel between points on horseback, by train, and by ship at varying speeds is accurate. I have been careful to keep track of how far apart cities are throughout the series for consistency. I keep a “dictionary” of Caledonian, so if you follow the stories closely, you will be able to tell what the characters are saying without the benefit of an English translation in the text, or at least you will be able to pick up on words and phrases that I use frequently.
Some writers talk about this weird thing called “Writer’s Block.” I can honestly say that I have never experienced this; or at least, if I have, I have never let it get the best of me. Some parts of a book can be harder to compose than others, but my attitude is, “Write something. Write anything. Come back and change it later,” and I have never been “stuck” in a book.
On the rare occasion that I haven’t a clue what to write in a scene, I will put down a few notes about what I am hoping to achieve. And then I move on to the next part of the book and keep going. Eventually, often with a manure fork in my hand, the missing pieces will come to me.
The Brigand’s Promise had a giant, gaping plot hole that haunted me for months after I finished the first draft. I let it sit while I worked on Book Five and started polishing the first three. When I was completing the editing process on Myrhiadh’s War, the idea for how to fix Brigand came to me, while mucking, of course, and I was able to fill in the hole.
The Rose of Caledon was the first book I wrote in this series. I had the whole story planned out in my head long before I started typing it on the computer. And when I sat down to type, I had no idea how to begin. I knew I could stew over it and never write anything, or I could write something stupid to get me going and start developing this great story that was spinning in my head and needing to come out. I succumbed to beginning the book with “Once upon a time.” You can read the original opening of Rose in my archived blog post from November 2017. It was horrible. But it got me going. And over time and rewriting and editing, the beginning morphed into something that was nothing like what I had first written!
So when people ask me how I handle writer’s block, I say, “Write something, write anything, fix it later.” But I don’t believe that I have ever experienced writer’s block. And I’m grateful for that.
There is little more satisfying than words that flow through my mind as quickly as I can type them onto the screen, and those, “Yes! That’s perfect!” moments when something in the story clicks into focus and comes alive. Writing new scenes that took shape in my head throughout the day is a thrill. I’m working my dream job. I’ve never had more fun writing anything than I’m having writing the Dragon’s Fire Series. And I won’t be stopping anytime soon.
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