Offers, decisions and yet more words

“I feel weird. I feel like the end of summer. Everything is too warm but fading away. And I’m really tired.” Centaury, The Winter Passing

It feels like it’s only been two minutes since I revealed to the world (ok, to my corner of the Internet) that I had written my first novel and given myself a pen name. In fact it’s been more like two months since I posted about doing this thing that scared me and my reasons why.

And it’s been a wonderful two months – still scary, but exhilarating and creative too. I’m still a bundle of self-doubt but am gaining confidence in my writing and the story I am telling right now. It’s led to some really exciting ‘I never thought this was possible’ stuff and associated celebrations, some marvellous and funny conversations with my beta readers and light shining brighter on what my future might hold.

I want to share some of this stuff in a bit more details with you:

  • The Winter Passing has been through a couple of readings by beta readers. I can’t thank those people enough (from the one who read the whole novel in a couple of hours to the one who hasn’t made it through the first chapter but has told me helpful things all the same). It’s a complete story in itself although I’m really aware I still have some editing to do.
  • It hasn’t just been read by beta readers and people that know me. It’s been off on a little journey to a couple of publishing houses too. And it fared well. Really well. Better than I could have ever dared hope. There have been heart-racingly exciting conversations and some grown up looking at contracts. My book, started almost by accident and created in a flood of words, was deemed Good Enough to be published. No-one is more amazed or delighted by this as I am.
  • But, my book isn’t ready. My story isn’t told. So those offers have been turned down for now (although massive thanks to the editorial panels at the publishing houses for their time in considering my novel and for offering contracts and advice). Maybe I am making a huge mistake and letting a one-off opportunity pass. I’m at peace with that. It’s taken the summer, and those offers, to know that it isn’t quite time right. Nearly, but not quite.
  • Because something rather lovely happened in July. Although The Winter Passing is a complete story and can be read alone, my beta readers fell in love with the characters and the world and they asked me if there would be more. They started to ‘what if’ me. And then I started to ‘what if’ myself. I decided to jump down another rabbit hole and see what happened to some of the characters after that first novel.
  • What happened is this: The Winter Passing got a sibling, The Ides. The second story, in what I think is a trilogy (working title is currently the Aubade trilogy), is now complete in first draft form (yes, since July I’ve written another book-length story. It’s utterly bonkers but somehow true). The Ides will be going out to beta readers this week and I’m excited to hear whether this think these characters, and their longer story, work for a second book.

The most important bit out of all this – more vital to me than publication – is that I am still enjoying writing and I’m still turning up to do it each day. That my imagination is revealing things to me all the time and that, just like with The Winter Passing, in The Ides I have written a story that I would like to read.

What next? I don’t really know, but that doesn’t worry me because I haven’t really had a plan so far and I’ve had the most amazing journey over the last six months.

I’m now going to take at least a month off writing fiction (mostly because the rest of my life has some big moments coming up) and then think about what feedback I get on The Ides to see where I go next.

Wherever that is I’m enjoying learning about my own ability as a writer and finding that maybe I’m good enough to have my words, my stories, published one day.

Introducing The Ides

I don’t know how long, on average, a novel takes to write.

The idea and characters for The Winter Passing have been spinning around my head for a long time and I’ve had a couple of false starts but at the end of March the words started coming and this time they didn’t stop.

Ten weeks and 118,000 words later that first story was told. I’ve spent the last few weeks revising and editing, as well as getting feedback from some beta readers. Whatever happens to that novel now – however, whenever it gets published – I am more in love with those characters than ever. I really missed them when I realised that adventure was told, that I had no more words they needed.

But that wasn’t quite right. The first part of their adventure was told but their story is far from done. They still have need of my words about love, loss, music and magic. They want me to tell the tale of the next part of their journey.

So, last week I started to write the first words of book two, chapter one, scene one. The second story from the Morrigan bloodline, the one I’m currently calling The Ides.

I’m a couple of chapters in now, about 12,000 words committed to this tale. I want to talk about it but can’t given barely anyone has read The Winter Passing. My team of beta readers is getting a lot of teasers at the moment, just so I can scratch the itch I have for talking about what’s happening, or might happen, to my characters.

So far though The Ides is dealing with grief, where The Winter Passing dealt with loss. It is about human relationships and their complications where the first book showed the place of nature and the simplicity of instinct. It shows the consequences of the characters actions in the first book and it already has a playlist starting to grow.

I know what is going to happen to these characters in the course of this story but I don’t know whether the words will continue to flow. I have even less idea of whether this story will follow the first out into the wider world. I do know I’m going to keep showing up and writing, writing, writing. I’m going to continue to fall deeper for the now familiar characters with every sentence I write, and that I’m excited by the possibilities some new characters are set to bring.

What I’ve learnt so far? Writing one novel was a surprise, a thrill. The idea of writing a second one seems to require even more courage – it’s not just something wonderful that accidentally happened, it is a commitment to writing that I haven’t dared make until now.

Starting to let go

It feels a little bit sudden to write about letting go of this book when I’ve only just started being open about having written it. But it is where I am at right now.

The Winter Passing is now in its third draft. Most of the rogue apostrophes have been corralled, the tenses have been kicked into shape. And a lot of the slack plot points and under-developed characters have been tightened and rounded.

It feels like it is ready for more than my inner circle of beta readers. Which means I have to be ready to let go of a story that has been just mine. That I have to be ready to take on external criticism and face a few fears.

Fears? Sure. I’ve found a few.

  • Can I write?
    Something that constantly bothers me and to which I sometimes feel more sure of an answer than at others.
  • Can I write a long story?
    It would appear that yes, I can.
  • I bet you think this book is about you.
    Will people who know me think I’ve based characters on them? Probably. But they’d all be wrong. All of the characters in The Winter Passing are entirely fictional. Sure, they might share a hair colour, or a profession with people I know but none of them are lifted out of real life. If I wanted to write a biography of someone inspiring, I would go right ahead and do that. This is just made up stuff from my head.
  • Have I written the book I wanted to read? This was one of the drivers behind starting to write. That I’ve read loads and loads of good books, great books even. I’ve fallen in love with characters and got caught up in stories. I’ve laughed and cried and been followed by their words and actions long after the last page is turned. But I’ve also been left wanting. Rather than wait for someone else to stumble on the gaps I wanted filling I tipped the story out of my own head. Is this the story I wanted to read? Pretty much, yes.
  • Can I do it again? Do I want to?
    I don’t know, but I think I want to try.

So, fears faced and still felt keenly I’m going to send my book out into the world on the next step of its journey. It will go first to an editor and then we’ll see what happens from there.

For me the characters are already chomping to get me to tell the next part of their story. And so, it is in a clean manuscript that I write again today, ‘Chapter One’.

I’m already excited and nervous about where this piece of writing will go.