For the last lifetime I have been trying to sort out the chaotic mess of a book that will be the basis of a series. It will follow on from The Green Woman, which is already written, polished and quite presentable. Angel Haven was going to be a single book, but like Topsy, it grew. The first job was to sort it out, split it, and make two books out of it. Easier said than done. I split it okay, and sorted out the first part. I even expanded the first part to make a reasonable YA length novel (63k). The second part though, is much harder.
The first volume sets the scene, the atmosphere, the new characters, the threat, the new baddies, the things that are going pear-shaped in paradise. In the second volume we get to the conflict. When your antagonists are Goths, conflict means fighting. And I hate writing fighting.
A writer whose skills in writing fight scenes I much admire is David Gemmell. He makes it sounds easy, all those uppercuts and nifty leg work. Swordplay has never seemed so effortless. Much as I would like to emulate him, I have a basic problem. Before we get to the ‘play’ part, we have to deal with the ‘sword’ bit. Fantasy novels are full of swords. Swords and bows and arrows. And horses. I tried to get rid of them, but in a rather makeshift utopia that scorns violence, there aren’t going to be too many surface-to-air missiles, or nuclear submarines to deal with the rampaging Goths. When you’re fighting characters out of Beowulf, you inevitably end up using good old swords, and bows and arrows. In a ‘green’ community nobody is going to reinvent the internal combustion engine, so you also end up using faithful old Dobbin.
So we have swords, bows and arrows, and horses, none of which I have any experience of whatsoever. Nor do I have any experience leading troops in the field. In order not to look foolish I am leaving a lot of the actual fighting to the imagination. While wriggling out of describing how you decapitate a Goth with a homemade sword riding a Dobbin, I am also wondering how many other writers get themselves into similar difficulties. Fight scenes are difficult to do well. How many times have I read the long drawn out ‘action’ scene of a sword swinging down with such descriptive, long-winded prose that a blind, three-legged sloth would have had time to avoid it? Or the other extreme where the skinny kid with a penknife nips into a breach in Goliath’s defence and bingo! Goliath’s dead.
Am I the only one to loathe and detest writing fight scenes? Does anybody else long to be able to sneak into their pre-industrial world an honest to goodness Kalashnikov to rub out the enemy at the pull of a trigger, or a nice, uncomplicated nuclear missile? Is there anybody who actually enjoys writing about sword fighting? David Gemmell obviously did.