The first draft is proceeding very well, although it doesn’t seem to follow any sort of chronological order at the moment! With my previous (non historical) writing I always managed to have some kind of plot plan and follow it in a logical progression from point A (beginning) to point B (end). With Despenser, I am finding that certain scenes are throwing themselves so strongly at me that I can’t write anything else until they are done – it’s quite weird. So I think it will be a case of writing up whatever comes into my head at any one time, then assembling it all a bit like a jigsaw and finally filling in the gaps. Of course it will all then need a fair bit of redrafting to make it seamless and to knock out any continuity errors! It is quite scary for someone like me (who likes to have everything planned to the last full stop) to write in such an unpredictable way, but on the other hand the process never gets boring!
I have just finished writing Hugh and Eleanor’s wedding night. It was actually quite a difficult scene to write as I wanted to get the atmosphere and the emotions right (as well as the physical details!). It is so easy to get a sex scene – of any kind – wrong, and end up with it either being farcical, clinical or pornographic. For some really cringe-worthy examples, see this site with the nominations for the 2009 Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award!* I think that a love scene (to put it more delicately) needs to be treated a bit like a recipe – you have to have just the right amounts of everything on the ingredient list, and you need to bake it for just the right amount of time in order to end up with a yummy, mouthwatering dish. So, with Eleanor and Hugh, although I knew what I wanted to write and how I wanted them to feel, it was a case of choosing the right words and not undoing or overdoing it. It took time. In fact it took more time than normal for me to write the amount of words I did, and I know it will still need redrafting. But, the essence of it is now right and I can leave it alone until the first complete redraft.
The next section to be written is that concerning Hugh’s exile and piracy in Autumn/Winter 1321. My head is full of port towns and ships – and some pretty unsavoury characters! I swear that I could even smell the tavern I was writing about the other night! Anyway, imagination only goes so far so I have also had to undertake some extra research into early 14th century ships, parts of ships, Cinque Ports – even naval battle techniques! And, as usual, it’s thrown up some questions that I can’t seem to find answers to on the Internet. For example: how does a single-sailed square-rigger, such as a cog, manage to get to dock without oars or an engine (as is used in replica ships today)? Sure, if the wind is just right it wouldn’t be too hard, although you still might crash into the quay (no rubber tyres to soften the impact then), and if the wind is wrong – what then? Would you be stuck out in the English Channel at the mercy of the weather for as long as it took for the wind to change? If anyone reading this has any answers, please help!
* Personally I would have chosen Ten Storey Love Song by Richard Milward as the winner – although they are all pretty bad in various sorts of eeeeewwwww-inducing ways. The eventual winner was actually not included on the page above for some reason – but I do think it richly deserves the award 😉