Q&A: Learn, Write, Revise

I’m writing a sword fight, but no matter how many times I feel like I’m writing it wrong. I can only get maybe 4 paragraphs out of it and that’s not even including the action or feeling. When I try that I just end up deleting it. Do you have any advice on how to write a realistic one? And what are some of the most common stances in sword fighting?

The first piece of advice is, don’t delete anything. If you’re writing a scene and feel it’s not working, finish it anyway. You learn by doing, and finishing the scene gives you the material you need to dissect your own work. This also applies to stories as a whole. If you’re not satisfied with the final result, you have more to pick through, and you can see what works and what doesn’t.

No one’s rough drafts are perfect. Everything takes rewrites. There’s no merit to presenting a final version and saying, “this was my rough draft.” Rather than mastery of your craft, it shows a complete lack of respect for your work.

The second piece of advice is to remember that, in written works, speed is conveyed by the length of your sentences. An action scene with entire paragraphs will read much more slowly than one where your characters are acting with a handful of words. Economic use of language is key.

Carefully consider each sentence in the scene, and cut them down to as few words as possible. (Example: Remove unneeded words.)

At this point, remember to give your audience time to breathe. This will naturally fit in the combat lulls. When characters break contact, and catch their breath, you may be able to afford a short paragraph, before going back into the fray.

As to learning about sword combat, I’d strongly recommend Matt Easton’s YouTube channel, Scholagladitoria. Depending on the era, and the cultural reference points, there’s an enormous range of possible styles, and different weapons. I realize, with almost 1,400 videos at the time I’m writing this, Easton’s channel may be a bit intimidating, but he’s always interesting and educational.

-Starke

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