What I’m doing wrong with my novel: it’s time to move forward

It’s a year since I released my debut novella The Office of Dead Letters and anxious readers want to know – when is the sequel coming out??

The short answer is: I am working on it. But I wanted to take some time to explain something stupid I did that got me stuck for several stupid months.

I stupidly got stuck on the beginning.

I started writing the sequel while I was doing the structural edit to The Office of Dead Letters. As with the first book, the opening was very clear to me. I knew exactly who my two characters were – I just didn’t know what they were going to do yet.

With all the bravado of a newbie author, I included that first chapter of the new story in the published version of The Office of Dead Letters. That meant that it was set in ink. There was no going back from that opening chapter.

Over the next few months, life intervened in a major way and I put my writing on the back burner. When I returned to the book – tentatively titled The Door of Inconvenience – it was in fits and starts. I couldn’t quite manage to immerse myself in the world and bring it to life.

And then in March this year, as I was drying my hair in front of my office fan – the time when all good ideas pop into your head – I realised that I was fixated on the beginning and I wasn’t moving forward.

The office fan. In front of which all good ideas are generated.

This is the biggest mistake new writers make. They don’t move forward. They circulate and fixate and meditate on the opening few scenes and they never progress.

That’s what I was doing.

OMG. Just like a fucking fan!! Round and round and never forward!!

It’s true that this next book is more complex. It’s a full length novel and there are more characters and a more complicated story (yes, more complicated than a space time anomaly in an alternate universe).

I also want to make sure I get the science of the Two Worlds right, and for it to have strong parallels in the real world.

But I wasn’t moving forward. I kept going back and revising and trying to figure out what’s going on in the beginning… Bad idea. I even pulled out an old story, determined to work on that instead. The shiny new thing (or shiny old thing) defence.

I was making excuses. 

It is always easier to chase the shiny new thing rather than do the hard work and finish the thing you’re working on RIGHT NOW.

So as I was drying my hair that day in March, I realised that I have to stop making excuses and just keep writing to the end. Yes, I may have to radically rewrite the beginning or even chunks of the middle, but I won’t know whodunnit until I get to the end! So I have to keep writing. 

And that’s what I’ve been doing. Each night, I go to a bar and drink 2 beers and write. Sometimes I only get 500 words down. Sometimes I manage 2000. It really depends on who or what is around to disturb me.

And last week, I finally reached The Point.

What is The Point?

There is a moment when I’m writing a story when I can feel all the threads pulling together. I can’t explain it. I feel it in my chest, I think. And I know exactly what the denouement will be. It’s so exciting! I usually write all my stories quickly just so that I can reach that moment – when I can see the whole of the story complete in front of me.

But of course, when you’re writing a novel, it’s a slow process. It takes a lot longer to reach The Point. And so because I’ve been worried that I wouldn’t reach The Point at all, I kept putting it off by focusing on the beginning or writing character studies.

But anyway, the point is – and there is a point – that I DID reach The Point. I now know exactly whodunnit and why and how. Yes, I need to go back and rewrite the beginning to make sure it ties in and makes sense. But that’s how books are written. You rewrite the beginning once you’re sure of the end. So there’s no point fixating on the beginning at the beginning. Just write, write, write, and then you can rewrite the start later.

So when can you expect to read The Door of Inconvenience in its entirety and not just the juicy and brilliantly written first chapter (if I do say so myself)? Stay tuned!

In the meantime, sign up for my newsletter so that you don’t miss any exciting developments!

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