I’ve come to realise that to write, to spend all those hours strolling around inside your head, you need to be different. I would suggest that many of us who write sussed this out at an early age. A disquieting, self-aware, maverick streak that sets you apart from the herd mentality.
Quite a few of us, too, need the distraction of shiny things, of cud-chewing conversation, of mindless TV, a little less than most. That’s because we have more exciting things going on in our heads.
And yet the world doesn’t go away. Lots of people want a piece of you. Family, work, friends. All part of the great plan, and all necessary to make you human. The writing process is a road full of speed bumps, too. Rejections, deadlines, edits, promotions. All of it designed to make you consider why we bother.
I know why I bother. Because I have no choice. If I didn’t, I’d be left with such a big hole, I’d probably fall in and never reach the bottom.
Personally, I think it helps to write a series, and by that I mean books set in the same universe with the same characters. Some people would argue that this is lazy, but I would say that investing time and energy in world building creates a resource that should be exploited to the full.
It’s also important to differentiate between ‘series’ and ‘serial’.
In series, the same characters/world are self contained in a unique story. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is a prime example of this overarching approach. A serial is a story told in many installments with a story line weaving through the books and leading to a single point of conclusion. The best examples of these are the Harry Potter Books and the Hunger Games.
Both paths, should you chose to follow them, are littered with booby-traps and pitfalls and it behoves the author to keep very good records and be prepared to re-read their own works when it comes to follow-on novels. Nothing worse than finding that the honey blond hair described in book one has become dark and lustrous by book three–with no hairdresser in sight. And the further you go along the path, the more aware you are of opportunities (or not) missed in planting clues early on. The truth is, in my case, that you end up writing all five books at once, dancing between the five of them like some capricious jester with a bell in your hat that rings every time you spot a glaring mistake.
But there is another side to consider. No one forced me to do this I hear someone yell, and yet that’s not true either because I genuinely believe that it’s bubbling away inside me and if I did not get all of it out I would spontaneously combust.
What is useful is to take a slightly less self-obsessed approach. This awarenes has grown on me probably because I’ve been doing this for a long time. And it’s beautifully summed up by someone who puts it a lot better than I could.
To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labor.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Number 2 in the artefact Quintet, The Beast Of Seabourne, releases October 24th.