Winning Back Your Novel (Adventures in the Writing of “Our Skirmishers of Silk, Steel and Fire”)


Pencils and notebooks out time folks.Victorian writing

Here is another delve into my writing career (the word for me in uncomfortably close to ‘careen’). For you to take note of, or…if you so wish to say ‘Nah…I wouldn’t do it that way!

For those of you who have been familiar with my blog know full well how much of a problem I have with THE PLOT. This item coming down the list of priorities in my writing. Characters- no problem, narrative not so bad, humour- loads of it.



Anyway, as alluded to in my previous post having completed the first draft of Our Skirmishers of Silk, Steel and Fire I began to address THE PLOT. And in doing so a suspicion was finally confirmed.

Not only had my characters started to influence my writing, as in the previous volume ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’ Book Cover 9

(See Amazon Kindle “Of Patchwork Warriors” by R J Llewellyn)

I wish he wouldn’t do that

where they had snatched a sub-text and turned it into an entire facet of the plot; in this case they had taken hold of the whole durn book.

It’s not that I mind them having their moments of glory, adventure, romance, humour, clever schemes and narrow escapes, after all it is those aspects which give a book its flavour and zest. The issue in contention here being they felt inclined to fill every corner up with how they saw things and coped with them, BUT not allowing me to explain WHY these things were happening. Or if I did get a sentence in, matters came across as hurried and ‘Oh By The Way’ the empire is falling over and the emperor has gone vicious for no apparently good reason and I appear to have lost three minor characters who were to have conveyed certain major plot elements. Either that or there was only enough space for some other lesser characters to gather and engage in cryptic or enigmatic conversations.

(At this stage I should point out to new readers; it is my opinion I do not create these characters, they exist in another part of Creation and by some wonderous osmosis we have tuned into each other. You will appreciate I have a mixed blessing here.)

At first there was a problem of shoe-horning in ‘facts’ of the current geo-mystical-political situation in the world of this story. Some characters were unhappy at having bits of their own favourite business cut out and tried to be awkward in obstructing the flow of the narrative. Then there was the issue of avoiding the dire ‘Let me explain’ in which one previously minor character stands up and proceeds to suck the oxygen out of the flow by explaining some history or process with all the verve of a bad lecturer in economics; some successful authors get away with this; I’m not successful.

So stern and tough-love measures had to be taken, being the one who knew the world in which these stories were taken place I contrived to throw in events which I knew would fit in but were surprises to the characters. This did cause some flummoxing amongst the cast, so much so they quite overlooked me cutting out chunks of their personal activities and speeches. As is the case in normal life, they had to deal with the random and unexpected.

Since the narrative was now back in my hands I started to inject the themes encountered in history, not events, themes. Reading of political and military histories suggests there is a constant unpredictable factor be it natural such as weather, unknown folk rising suddenly, or established subordinates thinking ‘I Know Better’ and going off on a tangent; in addition you must also consider bodies of folk who have not read or forgotten the script. There is a military adage that no plan survives first contact with the enemy; thus the notion of some all-power (usually grinning) who until the last chapter is two steps ahead of the hero(es) goes straight out of the window.

In this novel there are Patchwork (ooohh, where have I heard that word before?) alliances which are fragile and not based on trust and no one is really in control of the situation, because no group really wants to work for another group. This gives an air of uncertainty and makes for interesting situations, hopefully the reader will as all writers hope ‘want more’.

This comes with its own set of problems.

For a start off it’s necessary to make sure every character is an individual but none of the lesser ones steal the plot in some unexpected way.

Secondly there should not be too much plot and sub-plots lest the reader eventually thinks….Uhh? and finally……Hah! Who cares!…..

Thirdly, structure. Even in chaos, there is structure. In writing this part of the series I ask myself a hard question. Would the background stand up to an historian’s scrutiny as a possible series of plausible events?


Still, nothing worthwhile in writing comes easy. At least it shouldn’t.

So far, so sort of good. There has been a lot of alteration and some deletion of banter and ‘business’. However, the atmosphere of crisis and varied approaches to it is starting to seep in; it is meant to seep in, all being well this series is a long haul (heck I’m only 67, plenty of time). And the central characters?

They are struggling to keep balance and focus (Well apart from Karlyn, but if you knew her you would  not be surprised. This said she is not going to be allowed to scamper and giggle through the whole lot; even if she is difficult to rein in).

In conclusion.200px-Advokat,_Engelsk_advokatdräkt,_Nordisk_familjebok

Never be afraid to let go on a tight narrative. Life is not ordered, predictable or convenient, so why should you story?

Re-rewrites, Highlights and Reality-Bites (A journey through writing of The Skirmishes of Lace, Steel and Fire-Part II of a Fantasy )


16 thoughts on “Winning Back Your Novel (Adventures in the Writing of “Our Skirmishers of Silk, Steel and Fire”)

  1. Plot is always the thing I find most difficult. Actually, I think characters are more important than plot, but stories do tend to need some sort of general direction or people think you are a surrealist or something. Sounds like you’ve got it all (just) under control, dear chap.


    1. Thanks Lucy.
      I prefer working with characters than plot myself, but found out after three volumes of reasonably humorous (self-published) fantasy novels and 1 copy sold…err I’d overdone the business…
      Happily part of the plot of this adventure is that linear Time is unravelling which allows me to get out of some of that pesky continuity.
      (I saw the VERY first episode of Dr Who when it was FIRST broadcast! Back in ’63….yessir by cracky!)


      1. Yep, Lucy has ‘The Gift’… Creativity & Hard Work combined.
        Ah the 50s weren’t so bad. Lads wore short trousers and by heck that toughened up your knees, and you could go to a local office of something and complain instead of spending 30mins on a phone to be asked if you’re having a nice day.
        And there were buses and trains!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sha’ Tara.
      There is this additional problem where I am durned sure I did not think of ‘that’ event.
      Realities and Imagined places becoming Realities are merging.
      Bless me (or words to that effect) but I wouldn’t miss it word the world!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Roger, I picture you like the two kids in Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, with your characters racing around like the Cat and Things 1 and 2, creating chaos. But I get the feeling you’re having fun. And Our Skirmishers of Silk, Steel and Fire is certainly an intriguing title.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A very incisive image Audrey! I hadn’t thought of matters from that perspective but it’s quite true!…Yes I am having fun, because no one in the book is quite in control of anything, plans keep changing.
      The title is based on the direction of the characters:
      Trelli- still new to her powers is fighting an internal battle to keep them under control and not give in to a ‘bloody way’- Hence she’s Lace.
      Arketre- At the end of the day she is a trained and hardened soldier. Whereas she does have a softer side, she will subsume this to take Hard Decisions. She’s steel.
      Karlyn- Is as peripatetic as Things 1 & 2 combined and volatile as the weather. She can flare, she can simmer. Combined with her talent for starting fires, she is the choice for Fire.
      The trio are still only on the borders of the main struggles which have yet to take place, hence they are currently skirmishers.
      I’m sticking with this title as it keeps me focused on the underlying theme of this volume, the brooding and exciting times before The War starts.

      Liked by 1 person

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