I spent a huge amount of time writing my latest novel, Solace Within, and I’m happy to finally release it upon the world to be savaged by critic and friend alike. I thought in celebration of its release, I’d make a summarised post about writing the book, my thought processes, and what the journey taught me this time around.
In keeping with my first book, I decided to follow the traditional three act structure (wiki) again.
My thinking was with the books being in a series, changing the formula between books would have left them feeling disconnected and oddly paced. I intend to try something new with my next book, but when I write the final installment in this series I will no doubt return to the three act structure. It’s prevalent in media for a reason, and mastering it as a necessary step to becoming a better writer.
I naturally improved my craft just by writing a book as anyone would, but I also spent a lot of time studying deliberately: everything from world building and plotting to character development and foreshadowing. I couldn’t even begin to list all the specifics that I learned. (If you’re looking for some resources yourself, I highly recommend Brandon Sanderson’s series of writing lectures on YouTube).
Looking back over my first book made me cringe at all the silly language and grammar mistakes I made. I’m sure in time, I’ll look back at Solace Within and feel the same way. Honestly, I already feel that way to some extent, and no doubt I will for every new book I release. Writing isn’t a skill you ever truly master (except maybe Terry Pratchett), you just learn a little more everyday.
While this time around didn’t take quite as long as my first stumbling attempt at writing a book, it still took much longer than I originally planned. It’s difficult to be unhappy when I think about how much I learned though. My next book will be immeasurably better for everything I learned from this one.
Writing A Series
Since this book was the second in a series, I already had the setting and characters figured out. I kept a monster document I called a ‘Book Guide’ (an idea shamelessly stolen from Brandon Sanderson) full of all those details as I progressed. You could argue that because I already had that information to hand, writing this book should have been faster and easier but in truth, I felt slightly trapped by my characters because they were already so established. I struggled to change them too drastically as it would have stripped away their identity, and so I felt compelled to introduce other new characters to shake up the plot. Maybe I just burned out from spending too long with the characters in this series. I just know I’m hugely excited about moving on and starting an entirely new project.
So What’s Next?
I’m looking forward to seeing what people think of Solace Within, good and bad. I’m proud of my work, but I’m always looking to improve, so if you do take the time to read my books, please feel free to let me know what you thought. I appreciate any and all feedback, it’s all helpful.
I already have 90% of my next book planned out. A science fiction novel revolving around huge mechanical crawlers traversing a desert planet. This time around I’m using Scrivener and am planning to close the curtains, shut myself in the house, and go full-hermit to complete the first draft in two weeks. It’s ambitious, but I’m looking forward to the challenge, with an eye to finish the book entirely within two months. I’m going to try and document the process here; it’ll be a struggle to find time when I’ll be writing so intensely but I’ll try my best.
I also plan to start posting regularly here on my blog again after having gone dark for a while to finish Solace Within. So stick your head in here from time to time to follow my progress, or just to let me know how your own writing is going.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes from Alan Watts,
“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.”
– Alan Watts