Archive for October, 2009

The Tough Chapters

Thursday, October 8th, 2009 | The Writing Life | No Comments

As I work on my latest novel about Eleanor of Aquitaine, I find myselfthinking about the tough chapters. The chapters that neither I nor my character want to write.

Now some will say every chapter in a novel is a tough chapter, and that is true. Sometimes the blank page stares back at us, and simply wants to stay blank. But I am talking about something altogether different.

Sometimes, there is a higher level of resistance, both from me and from my characters, about what happens next. Sometimes, someonemy characterlovesdies.WithAlais in THE QUEEN’S PAWN, in the first chapter, she is sent away from her beloved father, never to see him again. These chapters are emotionally harrowing, both for me and for the character. But these chapters get written, and re-written, and they make the book better.

Eleanor and I have been working not just with atough chapter, but with entire tough sections. We are getting the writing done, of course. She isEleanor of Aquitaine, after all, soultimately nothing stops her from doing what needs to be done. AndI am stubborn and as cussed as a mule, so I do not abandonthe workeither. We slog along together,Eleanor telling me herstory, and me writing it down. We constantly find the love in these chapters, so that the reader will be drawn in. But Eleanor had a bad first marriage, and most of TO BE QUEEN deals with that marriage.

As we work, pushing on in spite of the difficulty, I find that Eleanor did love Louis once. Or at least, she had affection for him. And these years are not just the years of a bad marriage, they are the years in which she built her spy network, when she went on Crusade, when she became a mother for the first time, and learned both the joys and the price of power.

SoI move through the tough parts, and get them down on paper, writing and re-writing asI go. It turns out that underneath the tough part lies gold .

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