I’m almost a full week into my first ever sequel (if you don’t count short story cycles – I first did those in primary school), and I’m kinda sorta actually getting hopeful and having fun? The trick is – I’m writing it for the second time. I’ve had a few thousand words written in it at a certain point in late 2017 (I think?), then it got rejected for a local grant I’d applied to, and I let it sit.
Until a few things happened.
#1 I had coffee with my editor (it was late summer 2018, and an occasion in itself – we rarely meet in person, since we live a couple hundred kilometers away), and she not only cheered me on for a few other things at the same time (yup, sometimes I am a baby who just needs someone to hold their hand), but strongly recommended I try a different form of outlining, the act-by-act grid of parallel plots (to see where my plotlines and their characters were at certain fixed point in the novel’s timeline). And it actually worked.
#2 I faced some “hard” decisions – which probably saved the novel in the long run, because I couldn’t have forced myself to start writing it again otherwise. I’ve cut several characters out that I’d had troubles connecting to, accepted the fact that the first few thousand words had to be *uhkhm* recycled for the greater good, and indulged in two side plotlines just for the author’s gratification. (I have a hunch one of them is going to be severely edited, and another maybe even discarded later, but we’ll cross that mountain when we get there.)
#3 I wrote two shorter things in the first half of winter 2018/9 – an as-of-yet unfinished novella length queer historical military paranormal romance thingy (it has other tags, too, if you’re interested), and a short story which actually got sent out to an anthology submission call. I’d also cheered my partner on in writing and sending two submissions so far this winter – it was quite the pace for both of us, at this point in our lives – and, in return, she started to cheer me on for Izazov krvi‘s sequel. And I guess I relented. (Have you ever seen two writers in one room pounding away at words for hours, day at a time? The cat is not happy. But talk about accountability!)
#4 Courtesy of my favourite editor, again, I went on to discover an incredibly inspiring blog on the craft of writing, by the American author Dean Wesley Smith. I’ve (probably) never read any fiction he’s written, but I’ve devoured as much as I could (before my eyes said no) about writing. My favourites so far include this and this. To go hand in hand, here’s a blog by a British author whose (historical queer paranormal romance sort-of mystery) novels I’ve loved in 2018, KJ Charles, and here, here and here are my so far favourite posts by her. Who wouldn’t crave going back to their manuscript after reading the likes of these? Important note: “remember to have fun” was probably the message that had the most impact on me. Somewhere between the short story cycles in primary school, mentioned above, and drafting out anything later than, say, 2015, I’ve forgotten writing actually is all about having fun, for me.
#5 Thanks to my partner, I’ve managed to go to the first on-site writing research “trip” that I remember taking, ever! It took us a whole three hours, and we didn’t even leave the county, but I’ve walked the streets my characters are going to walk (a century and a half ago) and I’ve seen several houses they might have lived in! The experience in itself has already inspired one of the weirdest scenes I’ve written so far, and it was awesome.
#6 And, of course, I’ve managed to tell my crappy, annoying inner editor (who sounds nothing like my actual editor, thanks goodness) that this whole process is just about writing. It’s not about the responsibility of writing a book for any actual readers. Nor about the responsibility of adding to our country’s short lineup of genre novels with prominent (unburied) queer characters. And, most definitely, not about the responsibility of writing something meaningful.
Sure, I’d like it to be. I’d also love it if people loved it. But that’s not why I’m writing it. I’m writing it because I’m having fun. And because I’ve been writing for 23 years – making it, apart from reading other people’s prose, the only thing I’ve stayed true to, most of my life. Sure – jumping from years upon years of short stories, to multi-character, heavily plotted out novels (in genres I’ve never even dreamed of writing in!) has been annoying as frak.
But I think I’m done with excuses.
Now do excuse me while I write the next sentence.