When I start writing a book, I do a thousand words across the first hour of my working day every day, leaving me the rest of the session free to work on scripts and pitches.
I slowly ramp that rate up as I get to know the characters and themes.
I’m currently averaging about 5k a day as this book heads towards the end, which shows it’s going well. It’s The Bear King, the conclusion of my reimagining of the Arthurian myth and how it might have arisen out of history.
On course for the delivery date, which will make my editor happy.
Finished the first draft of a movie script today. That seemed good enough a reason to celebrate. When you spend all your working day in solitary confinement hunched over a screen, trust me, you seize every moment to embrace life. Took myself down to my current favourite libation emporium, the Hagen and Hyde in Balham, South London (current, because I’ve lived all over the place, in the UK and the US, and fully expect to roll up in many more spots).
I’ve written before about how pubs are creative spaces for writers, where you can completely detach from the world-drone and disappear into your head. The dream-space. I like it there, watching the comings and goings, overhearing snippets of conversations, seeing stories manifest before my eyes.
The beer in the photo looks like orange syrup, and that’s not far off how it appeared when it came out of the tap. I like craft beer and trying new tastes. This was a new taste. It’s a Siren Craft Brew Soundwave Sour Session IPA, with sour being the operative word. It’s made with mango and passionfruit. Not to everybody’s taste, admittedly, but I like to go on a journey.
Also did some phone business with my agent while I was there. I take perverse pleasure in his clear irritation that I’m working while I’m kicking back in a pub, while he’s stuck in an office.
And if you fancy going on a journey too in the run up to Christmas, and you haven’t yet jumped on board, try out the new novel.
One of the things I quickly learned as a writer is that you need to feed the soul to stay creative. Spend your hours stuck in your office in front of a screen cranking out a word-count, you kill your talent by degrees.
As anyone who follows me on Instagram knows, I like to get out and about. This time of year I make the most of all that the Season of Gluttony has to offer. So I took myself up to Fortnum’s Lodge at Somerset House on Strand in London to feast on fondue, mince pies and mulled wine as an opener for the festivities (which last about two months or so in my place).
Everything in moderation, of course. Or: the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. Choose your quotation and run with it.
Message of the day for creative people: get out, mix with the flood of humanity, and the more unlike you the better, experience everything, enjoy, live life. The best thing is, you create better, so it counts as work.
Stepped my daily run back up to 7km. This week I’ve been heading out when it’s dark (with a head lamp to light the way). Totally different atmosphere, whether I’m tramping across Tooting Common or trundling through open countryside, seeing the occasional walker emerge from the gloom like a ghost.
Running has been an integral part of my creative process since I was in my early teens. Every footstep thumps up a fragment of a story. It’s meditative too. As you head out, you also go in.
Connecting with nature, that’s a big part of it, and the seasons as they turn around you. And anyone who’s read the author’s notes in Pendragon and Dark Age knows venturing out like this is also the way I like to connect with the past. Old drovers’ routes, Roman roads, ancient pathways that date back to pre-history. Following in the footsteps of the people who’ve gone before is a grounding experience.
Bridging the gap between ‘Game of Thrones’ and Bernard Cornwell comes the second chapter in James Wilde’s epic adventure of betrayal, battle and bloodshed . . .
It is AD 367, and Roman Britain has fallen to the vast barbarian horde which has invaded from the north. Towns burn, the land is ravaged and the few survivors flee. The army of Rome – once the most effective fighting force in the world – has been broken, its spirit lost and its remaining troops shattered.
Yet for all the darkness, there is hope. And it rests with one man. His name is Lucanus who they call the Wolf. He is a warrior, and he wears the ancient crown of the great war leader, Pendragon, and he wields a sword bestowed upon him by the druids. With a small band of trusted followers, Lucanus ventures south to Londinium where he hopes to bring together an army and make a defiant stand against the invader.
But within the walls of that great city there are others waiting on his arrival – hidden enemies who want more than anything to possess the great secret that has been entrusted to his care. To seize it would give them power beyond imagining. To protect it will require bravery and sacrifice beyond measure. And to lose it would mean the end of everything worth fighting for.
Before Camelot. Before Excalibur. Before all you know of King Arthur. Here is the beginning of that legend . . .
Pendragon received a lot of attention, including an award nomination. Dark Age takes the story to a new level, showing how the Arthurian myths we know may have arisen from history.
Later this year you’ll find me lecturing on writing at the University of Oxford – open to the public, by the way. The event is Here Be Dragons: the Oxford Fantasy Literature Summer School, which will look at different aspects of the genre across three days, with a banquet thrown in for good measure in the fantastic setting of Wadham College. That’s the course logo above, by artist Minjie Su.
Arthurian fiction is a part of it (so, you know, Pendragon), but you can also hear about Tolkien, C S Lewis, J K Rowling, George R R Martin, H P Lovecraft and M R James, among others, from some of the brightest minds in the country (I slipped through the net).