I have been writing chapters on Aldred for about two years and am beginning to reflect on the process as well as how to move forward.
My first stage of writing a new chapter starts from some text that Aldred copied, glossed, or might have read. I imagine a scene or encounter linked to the text and then start exploring it until I reach some kind of conclusion or point where I seem to stop as the historian.
The second stage involves rethinking the whole thing on the rule of “show, don’t tell.” This means I rewrite explanatory sections into dialogue or interior monologues, or anything but the teacher voice in me. I may add characters or drama to bring it to life.
Here is where I usually stop, but feel the need to finish out the second stage by adding more sensory life: sights, smells, sounds, touch, feelings beyond thoughts.
On the language side of this equation, I find my prose dull, trite, uninspiring, not thought-provoking. I enjoy writers with either a natural style of language that is deceptively simple and yet words well chosen and evocative (Tolkien) or those unusual combinations of words that stop you in your tracks (Pratchett, on the humor side at least). Not that I want to sound like either of those authors, but I want my authorial voice to have some kind of richness, while staying close to the Old English environment of my characters and story.
For me, this language problem is tied to my goal to have some kind of spiritual depth, a book that makes you ponder life issues and truths (again, Tolkien, but not Harry Potter). I need to dive deep but have not done so, yet.
I am also wondering if I might benefit from going to an intensive writing workshop or retreat, just to plumb those depths. Two that came to my attention recently are: the Glen Workshop (the western one includes a favorite poet, Scott Cairns); and the Ecumenical Collegeville Institute at St. John’s College in Minnesota, where I took a sabbatical in 1995.
This summer’s plans are already in the works, including a visit to Aldred’s stomping grounds in England, but maybe next summer?