Thursday 2nd April 2020
I struggle to write when I’m stressed, and I’ve had a lot of stress over the course of this year. Even now there’s a hum of background stress that’s meant I’ve had to tear myself away from news cycles and start focusing on more positive social media.
And whilst I gave myself permission to just be for the last couple of weeks (bad diet, little exercise, no routine) I’m starting to put structure in place now.
In theory, I know now is the best time to write. Forced isolation is a blessing for writers and I’ve really had to fight the urge these past 2 weeks to feel bad at not having created anything. All those bullshit memes about how Isaac Newton or Shakespeare did their best work during lockdown haven’t helped.
I’m very conscious of the world changing around me currently. I’ve been content to observe those changes, whether it’s the widescale adoption of working from home, or how there’s an uptick in video on social media. I wonder how that will affect storytelling in general in the years to come, as well as the way I tell stories. Will people start to reject Grimdark stories for more hopeful narratives for example? I know for certain that A) everyone will be writing zombie stories for the next few years and B) no-one will want to read them.
I have the latest rewrite currently with my agent. One of the great things about having a top name agent is that their advice has helped me sculpt this book into something better than I thought I could write. The downside is that you are a lower priority than the big name clients and hence wait longer.
There’s a part of me that worries that the world has changed and no-one will want to read this story in years to come; that my moment has passed. But whereas other story ideas have come and gone (a book I wanted to write in March, no longer engages me as it once did) there’s something special about Black As Knight,
I was grateful to my friend Kate for just giving me a bit of validation on that front recently. Sometimes you wonder if your love for a project is misguided and it needs someone external to give you a bit of context.
So I’ve been looking at the second book, tentatively called Knightshade. I did a first draft a few years ago and after some beta feedback I’ve let it sit. However, over the last month or so I’ve done some thinking about it.
I think one of the problems that book has is that it’s a lot darker. I like that the world has moved on from the first book, but I think in trying to convey that I removed some of the light of the book. As a result, I’m looking at some of the sub-arcs and wondering how I can make them more fun.
Secondly, by way of a Batman example, I think this is too much Bruce Wayne doing things rather than Batman doing those same things. Even though they are the same character, it’s always cooler when it’s Batman. I’m thinking how I can work that in, and I think if I can then it’ll really help propel the story forward.
Plot-wise, I actually think the first draft is a lot stronger than the first book at this stage. I’ve learnt a lot since I first wrote Black as Knight and I think it shows. It’s no secret that I used Nolan’s Batman heavily as an inspiration for this series, and a couple of months ago, I spent a day or so watching videos talking about Nolan’s screenwriting techniques.
I blogged about villains a couple of years ago, but one of the interesting things to come out of my research day was this video on Nolan’s four act structure.
I’ve always said that great Batman villains are a contrast to him. The Joker is chaos, Batman is order. The Riddler creates puzzles, Batman is a detective. This video agreed with that idea and went further. The basic premise is that the theme of each of the movies is essentially a very simple question. Each of the escalating villains provides a possible solution to that question which Batman disproves by beating them, allowing Batman to answer the question through the culmination of the story arc. Watch the video if you really want to understand it.
However, this fits perfectly with what I’m trying to do with Knightshade, and explained to me what I felt really worked in that draft…. And more importantly, what I needed to do to really escalate that novel to be something far better than the first.
I also need to trim the novel down, although not by as much as I first thought. There’s some bits where it’s effectively a long transition between scenes (logistics of moving characters between scenes). It’s also these scenes that need to be more Batman and less Bruce Wayne.
Of course, there’s always a danger when you play with plot. You pull out one plot line and suddenly the entire thing collapses. I think I’m sometimes a little cautious and scared to do that, trying to hold up other areas of plot and carefully replace only what needs to be replaced.
But this doesn’t feel as much as a challenge in this novel as it has been in Black as Knight. I just need to think about any possible ramifications of making heavy changes to specific areas.
And so that’s what I’m currently doing. Part of it is just trying to chill out the last couple of weeks and not trying to force inspiration, but in the next week I’m hoping to do a lot of the mental heavy lifting to decide on the direction I want to take.
I’d love to get this rewrite done whilst waiting for the first book to come back from my agent.
I’d also like to write something new. I’ve got that idea for a historical fantasy novel that I was really pumped for back in February. However, I’m not feeling it as much currently.
I have written and submitted a short story this year so I have written something new in 2020. I submitted it to an anthology and recently heard back that it’s still in the running. That’s a good sign as mentally it was a real struggle to write after such a long time off.
I’d like to write a new novel, but it needs to be something that consumes me so that current events don’t throw me, I still need to scope out book 3 of the Shade Knight series, but I’d prefer something a bit different, as I’d prefer not to juggle a third book in the series just yet (not at least until this rewrite is done).
I saw an opportunity for a script writing competition last week but the deadline was the beginning of the week. I’m kicking myself that I never submitted anything but really the timescales were too short given everything else going on. Whilst scriptwriting isn’t really an aim for my career, I’d like to dabble in it if only to add it to my skillset. As a result, doing badly at it and learning from my mistakes now when it’s not a priority makes sense.
Aside from that, in the non-fiction area, I’ve brought The Climb back… and surprisingly it’s currently daily. I’ve come up with a structure for it that should help avoid burnout and running out of things to say – I’ll talk about that more on Monday.
I should be tracking my writing though, and despite having a database to track these things I’m not currently using it.
So, I’m still in the process of scaling the writing back up. I’m excited about Knightshade, and feel it could be the Dark Knight to Black as Knight’s Batman Begins. Hopefully I’ll have made some significant progress on plans next time I update you all.
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