Writing a book, or should I say ‘The Writing of a Factual Historical Book’ as I’ve never written a novel, for me comes in Six Stages.

Stage One is the best period: you’re hungry to start on the new topic. It’s fresh, it’s different to the last book, and it’s getting you away from Stage Five. The thrill of doing new research gives you a focus and a desire to learn. Stage One is good.

Stage Two is probably the most productive. The research is starting to reap its rewards. You’re starting to have ideas, the creative juices are flowing, and, if you’re lucky, new insights or possibilities are springing to mind: either a new hypothesis concerning the main character, or a breakthrough in your thinking about the chronology. Just, something … I like Stage Two. It’s where the vast majority of a book takes shape.

Stage Three is where the majority of the book is actually written. You’re ‘in the groove’: Ideas are flowing and, hopefully, because you are immersed in the topic, any previously-held theories either make complete sense or you look at the page you’ve just written and wonder how something so nonsensical can ever have been committed to paper. Sadly, it is usually at this point that Stage Six from the previous book rears its ugly head, but never mind ….

Stage Four is where things start to drop off. You have written the majority of the book, and are trying to tie up loose ends: for example realising that a major character from earlier in the book makes a short reappearance and you need to balance whether to repeat his story to remind readers of where he or she featured or simply state what happens next. By this time the ‘glamour’ of a new work is gone and you are looking forward to the death of the main character as a release from your daily grind.

Even when that happens there is still the Introduction and Conclusion to write. I always write the Introduction before the conclusion, simply because it includes notes on the sources: readers may not appreciate how much time and effort goes into ensuring that there is a list of relevant abbreviations in the Introduction! By contrast, the Conclusion is a blessing: the end of the main text. As you may have guessed by now, Stage Four is pretty hard work and is not my favourite place to be, at least until I’m writing the conclusion!

You may also have guessed that this is where I am now. The grind of finishing Constantine off, especially collating the sources and the abbreviations, means that I haven’t had the energy or the interest to continue typing in the evening in order to produce a blog entry. That is my excuse for not writing a blog recently. And I’m sticking to it.

The observant may also have guessed that I have almost completed Stage Four: today I finished collating the sources! Which is handy, as the manuscript is due with the publishers in November.

So only the second half of Stage Four (finish the Introduction and write the Conclusion) and Stage Five (Maps and Illustrations) to go before submission!

Then it’s wait for a while before Stage Six: the dreaded Indexing. But that happens after you’ve already started the next book. Enough of that: I am happy and don’t want to depress myself by thinking too far ahead. Stage Five awaits!