I reckon I’m about three-quarters of the way through my first draft of my next book, my next Radwinter story, and after a great start in the National Novel Writing Month challenge, when I got over 60,000 words under my writing belt in November, and after a struggle to get the next 30,000 written over the last five months, I can see daylight! The first draft will probably be about 110,000 but that won’t be the final version, no doubt I’ll lop off whole acres of writing and slim it down and knock it into shape.
One of my problems, I’ve come to realise, is that although I know I write too many words anyway, my main character in my Radwinter novels is incredibly verbose – so I want to give the readers of the idea of his wittering, without being boring – a fine balance.
Back to my daylight… Over the last few months the words have come in dribs and drabs, forced out like reluctant toothpaste at the end of the tube. However over the last few days, I’ve begin to see my way through the tangled plot and I’m beginning to get the last scenes written. They don’t have to be perfect, but as long as there is something to play with, something to mould into a readable story. For various reasons I’ve been doing a lot of walking and it actually is a good way to puzzle out the plot and the rationale – I’m not claiming to be Dickens, I do a couple of miles, not a couple of dozen as he did!
Here’s part of a scene where Thomas Radwinter and his minder are doing some research, centred about a church where a client’s ancestor, the Reverend Jaarziel Hopper, was vicar two centuries ago:
We went through the litch gate which was jammed open with snow and we waded through the stuff towards the church. Instead of going in I went round the west end and struggled among the graves, each topped with a white cap, to the wall behind which Jaarziel Hopper had been standing.
“What are we looking at?” Roland asked and I showed him the picture again. “If this was painted to scale he’d be about twelve foot tall,” he remarked.
“Yes, curious, because everything else looks properly proportioned…”
I was pondering on the white lumps and bumps in the rough area beyond the church wall, too big for graves, maybe the ruins of some former building? There had been no buildings in the picture, just grassy meadow with trees beyond, much as they were now.
We both jumped at the sudden voice in the white silence and waving at us as she made her way through the snow, almost luminous in a bright orange snowsuit was the vicar!
“Hello again, are you lost? The footpath is over the other side of the Butts!” she said as she came to a stop, panting.
I told her I’d found an old painting which mystified me and I showed her the picture on my phone. She was very interested and I asked her what the lumps were.
“Maybe we should get Time Team to have a look – if Time Team was still on the telly,” she said, echoing what I’d thought. “This is amazing! These lumpy bits are called the Butts – I thought it was where they practiced archery in the olden days, but some people think it’s where the Vikings buried their treasure – we get people trying to dig here from time to time… they never find anything…”
“I’m interested because I was reading an old book about the area and it said a local bigwig found a burial site – like a burial chamber and went digging in it before scaring himself when the torches blew out!”
Well, that was roughly right. The vicar was intrigued and asked when this was, the end of the eighteenth century I thought,
“You remember you were looking at that window with a picture the old vicar Reverend Hopper in it – or so we thought, he was supposed to have struck a pact with the Devil in return for a crock of gold… I wonder if that’s the same story but made into a fairy tale?”
“Well it sounds likely…” I took a gamble. “There was a Monsieur Hopper involved in the dig.”
“He funded a lot of improvements to the church, not just the window, he had a new ring of bells struck…”
“I read about the bells in a church guide, Martin Christopher struck them, didn’t he, son of the famous Martin Christopher of Essex!”
The vicar asked if I’d like to look at the bells, since I knew so much about them. Well, I guess so… I was more interested in the lumps, the snowy Butts, but I guess I could ask her more about them if we’d already got into conversation about the bells… which, she told me had been given names by Jaarziel – Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obededom, all musicians the same as Jaar…
We clumped under the church porch and stamped about a bit to shake off the snow, chatting in a general way, well, the vicar and I were… I wonder what her name is… I would LOL if she was Geraldine like the Vicar of Dibley…
I was about to take off my coat but the vicar was opening the door and we followed her in and she led us to a very small door which would take us up the tower. I’d thought we’d take off our outer garments, but no, she led the way in her bright orange snowsuit. People were much smaller in the past I know, but as I squeezed my chunky self round the old stone spiral staircase I realised exactly how much smaller they must have been. I heard Roland say something behind me; he was six foot at least, so no doubt he was struggling.
It was dim and gloomy; the small windows we passed were covered with snow, but eventually we emerged into an area and there were the four bells, all cocked at an angle, no doubt waiting to be rung. The names were engraved on them, but I could only see Benaiah and Obededom. I took photos and made admiring remarks and waffled on about what I remembered about Martin Christopher. The vicar seemed impressed.
I cast around for something to ask, something to say, something which would make progress…
“So going back to this treasure, does anyone know what it was… it seems to have brought wealth to the vicar…”
“I’m not that interested in history myself, I think the church is here and now and we should be sharing Jesus as he is among us today… I guess if we could find the treasure it would be amazing! We could sell it and it could do so much to bring Jesus into everyone’s lives!” she was so keen and eager, but my heart sank. “No-one’s ever come across any crocks of gold, but there were a load of silver coins which he sold… we have some left, only a few… and there was a sword, someone drew a picture of it, a Viking sword, but that disappeared…”
“A picture?” my ears pricked up… there were pictures galore back at Athelmond Grange…