Three things that writing my sequel taught me…

So, yesterday I finished Book 2 in the DARK GIFTS trilogy.

Well, not ‘finished’, exactly. More like ‘completed the start’ of Book 2. Because from here,  a whole process begins: developmental edits, line edits and copy edits. At the end of that, in exactly a year’s time, Book 2 will hit the shelves! (Here’s a teeny, tiny, cover-concept teaser.)


But I’ve completed a full first draft and sent it off to my editors – just in time for summer to finally arrive in London! I’m going to be spending my first afternoon of leisure swimming in Hyde Park’s Serpentine lake, but right now I’m cowering indoors waiting for the midday heat to abate. So here are three things I’ve learned from writing my sequel:

It was easier than I expected to get back inside my characters. The first draft of GILDED CAGE was written two years ago, the second draft sold a year ago, and I completed my final revisions six months ago. Since, then, I’ve been busy making a documentary. So I was worried I’d need time to ‘remember’ my characters’ voices. (Book 2 is told from six different perspectives.) Not so. They were there and welcomed me back like old friends. I’d really missed them. This is why writing tips always say it’s vital to know your characters. I don’t detail everything about them in advance, but when, for example, I needed to list what Silyen is fond of, I knew the answers instantly.*

It was much harder than I expected, physically. It’s ironic: the life of a writer seems like the laziest imaginable: get up, sit at desk, write, stop writing, go to bed. But when you are doing this day after day – partly because you are on deadline, but mostly because you love the place your head is in and you don’t want to leave – it is gruelling. At times, I was spending 16 hours a day at my desk. Also: eating far too many biscuits. Neither my back nor my waist is thanking me right now. One friend who’s been a novelist for years goes to the gym every day. I moved house mid-draft, and have discovered there’s a swimming pool just up the road. When writing Book 3, I’ll make sure I follow her example.

The unexpected is where the magic is. My trilogy sold as a complete manuscript of Book 1, and two 2-page outlines of 2 and 3. I know where this story is going. Some of the trilogy’s final scenes have been in my head from the moment I started writing. But not even the most ardent plotter will have 300,000 words worked out piece by piece. So your characters surprise you. One unexpectedly won my heart in Book 1, and is now a firm favourite. There are several deaths in Book 2, and some happened later or earlier than I’d anticipated. One sub-plot from the initial synopses has gone, because it felt reduplicative of one I found more enchanting. So when I sat down and read back my completed mansucript, it was like reading a book for the first time, even though I’d written the whole thing.

And that’s the best feeling. Now I just have to wait and hope that my editors agree!

(*The smell of old books, pistachio macaroons, and his trusty Ludd riding boots.)


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