As a writer, I can’t ever pretend to have had a plan. I prefer to say that I’ve plodded along, working out what feels right as I go; that’s felt somehow more right.
When I wrote the first book I had published – Fall From Grace – I did know that I had a second story inside the creative darkness of my soul, and I was fortunate to write, and then publish, as well. Inspired Quill have helped me develop as a writer by pairing me with some very talented editors, who help me see where I need to develop and improve. Peter Stewart, Austin Bonecutter (I promise you), Antonica Jones, and Sara Slack (who doubles up as IQ’s Managing Director) have all written up copious notes on my work so far, and I’ve become a better writer as a result, but I can’t say any of that was planned – I became a better writer because I was supported by excellent editors, and because I was accepted by a publishing house, but that hadn’t been planned; I was picked out of the pile of submissions and my improvements began there.
When Book 2 was finished, and I was waiting for Publication Date, I wondered what I should work on next. I’d then completed two fantasy novels, and that was very pleasing (I am quite the geek), but I wanted to make sure I was expanding my writing abilities to try different genres – or, perhaps, different shades of my favourite genres. So, for about six months, I pottered with my writing.
Please believe me, I tried to find a better word than “pottered”, but I failed, so “pottered” it is. I wrote some short stories, which was fun as I can’t very easily write to a short word length (it’s a skill that some people have naturally, and I admire those who do), and I also created a few different drafts for full-length novels that, as yet, haven’t gone much beyond a few thousand words (in the case of one particular story, several times as I tried several ways of writing it … and then left it on the back burner as I still haven’t figured it out).
But, in the meantime, I had an idea for a story that was bubbling away in the back of my mind, although I hadn’t done anything about it as I had so much else to think about – blogging, trying these other storylines, editing, and leading about two or three other lives at the same time. But the story idea was still there, and it wouldn’t go away; a science-fiction story about a prison world. I’d first had the idea when I’d been peering in the window of Woolworth’s – shows how long ago this was – and saw a jigsaw box with the cover picture of an alien world with two moons in the distant sky and a small compound on the planet’s surface. My first thought, unbidden and coming from nowhere, was, “I wonder if that’s a prison planet. What sort of stories could I tell on there.”
And so the Elysium series began to take shape.
I say “series”, although – once again – I hadn’t intended there to be a series of tales in this universe that I’d begun to create. I’d just admired a picture on the front of a jigsaw box and thought, “There’s a story in this.” However, as I worked through the book, I found myself liking the characters more and more. In fact, I was sorry to lose one of them towards the end – I shall leave it as vague as that, as I want you to read the thing and find out what I’m talking about, after all – and wanted to learn more about the others.
I always create character biographies before I start, and these usually get fleshed out and enhanced as I work my way through the book and find myself guided by the characters themselves. As these biographies became more fleshed out, however, the characters’ backstories became more fascinating to me, and their interplay with each other, as well as potential for growth as individuals, really set me thinking; where else would this characters go if I gave them a chance? What would happen next after the final chapter of the first book?
And the more I thought about it, the more compulsively I felt to continue with this universe. To be honest, I was vaguely stymied, because I hadn’t considered the full implications of some of the world building I’d begun to develop about a year ago. I’d created a background of elemental powers that a select number of humans could use, based on a quirk in their genetic structure, but hadn’t really given much thought to how that worked, how far it could stretch, or whether everyone’s powers were the same, or if there were regional differences based on personal ability, genetic or racial characteristics, and so on. The moment I started considering that, I began over analysing the situation and wondering how the entire process worked – until I realised that it was my world that I had created, and so could develop the history to match the storyline.
That said, I need to make sure it’s reasonably authentic, however, and I need to do some research soon on the scientific principles behind what I’ve created, and I actually think this will help me develop my storyline further, as I’ll have some sound principles to understand and build on … I hope. I’m no scientist, so anything could happen, of course.
As a result of all this work, I’ve managed to already explore the worlds even further through book two, and have written about 65,000 words and brazenly said to my publisher that I’d get this book to her by the end of the year, and that I could happily commit to a third book by the middle of next year. No problems; that’s absolutely fine. I can do that easily.
Except that deadlines sometime become an interesting challenge for me, and Sara has now set me the challenge of getting the first draft of book 2 to her by the beginning of December – just over three months from when I’m writing this post. The very thought of committing to any sort of deadline when it comes to my writing always fills me with utter dread, and I wish I could tell you why – I can only assume that it’s something to do with the determination to work according to my own pace and my own creative flow, but the more I use that as an excuse, the more I will end up like Douglas Adams and just love the sound of a deadline as it goes whooshing by.