Today’s post is a little different. I am talking about my current writing process and giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the sequel to Thorns and Fangs.
I actually finished the draft of The Dead Living, the sequel to Thorns and Fangs, in October last year. It had taken over a year to write and given me a lot of trouble (difficult second book indeed!), so I was really pleased to have it finally finished. But when I got it back from my super-helpful beta-readers, I realised I still had a lot of work to do.
Actually it was a lot more than that. Eager to get to the new characters and plot of the dead living, I’d skipped a lot of the development of Ben and Nate’s relationship. I’d left clues to what happened and I knew in my head exactly what that was. But I didn’t stated it explicitly, because part of the fun of reading is piecing things together for yourself, right? And then it struck me. Just like I’d done in Thorns and Fangs., I was writing a romance as if it was a mystery.
Finally, after an email conversation with Kaje, I realised that in my eagerness to get to The Dead Living, I might have skipped a book. The plot of book 3 (which I am tentatively calling Uprooted), made more sense coming between Thorns and Fangs and The Dead Living. And so many people had expressed an interest in what happened between the two books, that I realised I had to show it.
So my goal for February became to write Uprooted.
It was tough going. My confidence had been knocked and I was frustrated that I was still making the same mistakes I made when I wrote Thorns and Fangs. So I decided to experiment. I went back to writing by hand. I bought myself a new notebook in which to write (I am a stationary addict. Nothing makes me happier than our new notebook, and Japan has no shortage of cute notebooks!), and got to work. On my first day of writing I only managed 300 words. I was fighting what a good friend describes as ‘jerk-brain’ — the suspicion that you’re wasting your time, that everything I wrote was awful. But I kept at it and by the end of the first week I was hitting 3000 words a day. Even more exciting, the story was starting to come together.
At the same time, I discovered Monica Leonelle. She’s a fiction author who also writes non-fiction, describing how she maximises her writing process. She talked about dictation. It seemed like a fun way to vary my writing (going back to writing by hand in a notebook was a great way to shake off my writing blues, get myself into a better headspace). I experimented with the built in dictation on my laptop and when I got good results with that, decided to take a risk and invested an actual dictation software and mic (fun fact — I am using those now!). I’m still getting the hang of using dictation to its fullest extent, but I think that speaking the text freed me from worrying too much about it. And worrying has been the biggest hindrance to my writing of this book. Speaking the text gives me less time to think, more time to intuit the story. It’s led to some neat discovery moments.
Actually, this whole writing experience of Uprooted has led to some neat discoveries. I have discovered that even when I feel insecure about writing, I can still make progress on a story. I have learned how to combine a loose scene outline and dictation and that I can write to discover how to fill in the holes in my plot outline (next step: figuring out how to fill in the blanks in my plot outline as a plot outline level). I’ve also got a writing partner, keeping me on track as I go which is awesome. Maybe the best thing I’ve discovered is that productivity begets productivity! Over December and January, not only was I not writing, but I had a dearth of writing ideas. While working on Uprooted, I’ve come up with a premise for a mystery series and figured out the heart of the fourth Thorns and Fangs story.
So while I fluctuate between feeling happy with my progress and being daunted by the amount of work still in front of me (the downside to writing to discover the answers to plot problems means that you’re left with a lot of fixing to do at the end), I am also proving to myself that I am growing as a writer. When I encounter a problem I don’t give up and set the draft away to work on when I feel like it. I persevere. And as a result, I’m learning more about writing as a process.
All going well, this time next week I will be sharing with you a preview of Uprooted.