Writing the sequel; 3 things I learned
A few weeks ago, I finished the sequel to They Call Me Princess, which will be titled Revenant. While I am very pleased with the result, it did not go quite as I had expected.
As only my second novel, I found myself looking deeper at my own writing process, both the craft itself and improving my productivity. I am a slow writer and have always been, and this book took much longer than I expected. I usually blame my lack of speed on being both busy with too many things to do at once and my meticulous nature when it comes to narrative logic and pacing. This time, it was so much more, including trying to work during the craziness of a global pandemic.
Productivity. The most common writing advice you will ever hear is “write every day.” Many writers and editors will advise that you set a daily writing goal. I tried both and failed miserably. One of the difficulties I had writing Revenant was having periods of up to a couple of weeks at a time when I didn’t write. The reasons vary greatly, including writing two demanding short stories, convention demands, and learning a new career. The reality is that life gets in the way of writing, including other writing goals and interests.
However, this post is not about making excuses. I found that being persistent is just as important as being consistent, if not more so. Don’t give up on a project. For me, having a publisher and creator waiting for the sequel provided a strong incentive to finish. But, face it, I could easily have left Princess as a one-off and moved on. Instead, I found it’s more rewarding to pick up the work in progress after getting distracted than trying something new. Even more important, those periods of distraction often resulted in a better product
because they gave my subconscious time to work on story problems.
Late in the process, I discovered the benefit of writing sprints. Instead of plopping yourself down and forcing yourself to write a certain number of words for the day, simply set a timer and write for 25 minutes. Do it without corrections (good luck with that part) or deletions. Just write. You can do this several times over the course of a couple of hours and reach a surprising word count. Using this sprint method, anyone can reach a modest daily writing goal in only an hour a day.
When I first tried this, I expected a lot of garbage. I was frankly surprised at how good the writing came out and how much I kept. Sure, it requires a bit of editing, but you’ll need to do that, anyway. (Luckily for me, getting grammar and spelling right the first time has always been a strong suit.) So, sprinting is not just a great way to increase your total word count on a project, it is a great tool for setting a daily writing goal. If you can do one sprint a day, you will have a novel before you know it.
Writing Craft. The next thing I learned was working not only with multiple points of view, but with different voices. I generally prefer to write in a tight third person, which is a prevalent and versatile choice. However, stories in This Fallen World just work better in first person. As the story for Revenant came together, I realized I needed to write from the perspective of two different characters. I love the result and I really hope my readers will, too. The challenge was that each of the narrators are very different people. Consequently, they each needed their own voice. That was not easy, and I recognize I may be the only person to even see the subtle differences. Thankfully, I can cheat and point out the three POV characters spend a lot of time together and, therefore, their language would tend to be similar.
Even though it was challenging, working with the different voices was also tons of fun. Not only did it allow me to show the reader what was happening when Princess was physically out of the scene, it allowed me to dig into those characters on a level I couldn’t with a single viewpoint. The character of Scott was particularly rewarding; I’ll be having more fun with him in the future.
More than that, however, I learned how to use the different points of view to structure the narrative. I was probably between 30 and 40 percent into the book before I saw the potential. Honestly, for a newer novel writer, this was probably the most exciting aspect for me. This isn’t something one can really do with short stories. I’m not claiming any genius here, but it inspired the writer nerd in me.
Taking everything I learned writing Revenant, I expect the third book to be more complex than the first two. You can expect a more demanding adventure, bigger events, and more complex character dynamics. I’ve already started the manuscript, and it’s going to be a wild ride.