Wednesday 1st March 2017
Tonight in the pub I got to rant about one of my huge bugbears as a writer.
As I learned to swordfight, I became increasingly aware that the fights you see on screen look nothing like the fighting I know. I started to spot openings, I could see the weakness in the fighters on screen and in a very short time, sword fights in movies were ruined for me.
One of the things I love in fantasy are swords. I mean, I love those huge, bastard, impractical anime swords that dwarf their wielder. I love those dashing rapiers. I love lightsabres. And gunswords? Oh man!
But chatting to people, there are a ton of writers who want to professionally publish very sword-centric, fight-heavy fantasy stories but don’t give a shit about the basics of blade mechanics.
Now I get it. I’ve taken my nerdery to the next level, and often the sword-fights are part of the story but not the entire story. You don’t need to know as much as me to write a decent fight.
BUT… and this makes me want to tear my hair out in rage…. A lot of writers trying to become professionals actively avoid trying to educate themselves on the basics. Reality just ruins things apparently.
I cannot begin to tell you how dumb this shit is. If you want to make it as a professional either in traditional or indie publishing you need to stop it.
The other day I wrote a scene set on a construction site. I took the time to check with a friend who’s a stonemason that I’d got the basics right. I did not need to become an expert on stonemasonry, but I want him to read that scene and not grit his teeth because I got some major point wrong.
I make a lot of mistakes. I overlook a lot of things. We all do. But where someone points out an inaccuracy that breaks them out of the story, I work to fix it.
That means, I’ve changed things related to cooking, horses, guns and a whole host of things. I do not want to alienate potential readers by not showing that at least I’ve attempted to get it right.
Even fantasy novels need attention to detail.
So when people say they don’t want to even attempt to get their swordfighting right, I want to fucking scream.
I’ve seen some people argue that it’s because real sword fighting is a lot slower and less dynamic, that an accurate swordfight would be boring on the page.
Sorry, but bullshit.
It’s just laziness. Sorry, but it’s shit writing. Because if you don’t try and get this one element right, you’ll not get other elements right. And trust me, even if you do pay attention to detail, they’ll be plenty you get wrong.
And if you think, “Adrian, you’re being a bit extreme” you’ve seen nothing compared to that person who is an expert on pottery and has just 1-starred your book because you didn’t even attempt a simple google.
If you want to be a professional, at least try to pay attention to detail!
I came to a conclusion about my fatigue today. I think it might just be that I’m not sleeping properly. It would make a lot of sense (and explain why I’m punchy today). I don’t have physical fatigue (I can go to the gym and lift heavier weights) but I just lack focus and concentration. Lack of quality sleep is a symptom of my illness but I’m still not sure if it’s psychosomatic.
I keep telling myself that as I don’t know whether it is my illness or not I shouldn’t take any chances and take the day off ill tomorrow if I don’t feel any better. I know I won’t, because I hate giving into illness, and that annoys me so much.
I spent the morning planning the next scene in the novel. This is the chapter before the big action scene and the point I came to realise today was that it’s responsibility is to really set this up. So I also spent some time thinking about the action scene and where the excitement comes from that.
I came to the conclusion that it’s probably from the number of enemies. The odds are stacked against our hero and the excitement comes from him taking on an army.
I’ve very conscious that as this series goes on (whether it be for 3 books or 20) the odds need to increase. I look at books like the Dresden Files and how Harry faces greater and greater foes. I have a rough plan for something similar with these books.
But the net result was that I came away with a good idea of what I need to set up in this scene.
And because attention to detail matters, I was sat in the pub trying to figure out how one of the gadgets the hero will use, would actually work. 90% of that discussion will not end up on the page… but attention to detail, motherfuckers!
Things are starting to move along with planning our storm chasing trip this year. We’re already researching vehicles and today we started gathering a list of places we want to visit if we have down days. The problem with storm chasing is that whilst you do drive thousands of miles, you’re not always guaranteed a storm. So we want to have a list of places in each state that we wish to visit should we find ourselves in the area without a storm. This is another reason I love chasing!
I’m going to be starting to compile that list tomorrow.
I was teaching Swordfighting again tonight. We finished off the section we were doing. I was supposed to swap to another group in a couple of weeks but I’ve asked – as we still have 9 sections to do on the translation we’re working with – whether I can continue with the sword & buckler group. I reckon at the rate we’re going we’ll probably still be going through it when I come to go to the US.
Lots of roadworks on the way home so as a result it was really late when I got in. And yet, despite feeling exhausted, I couldn’t sleep
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.