On Writing

Book Two Progress Update

I wanted to write an update on how book two of Sand Dancer is going, partly for my own accountability, and partly so my publisher will see this and not hate me aha.

Back in August I completed the first draft of Sand Dancer’s sequel which came out at a whooping 195,000 words. That’s a lot of words. Too many, you might say. I took some time to really think hard about those words and what on earth I was going to do about them. I was adamant that I couldn’t split this book in half because it just wouldn’t work, dammit. All the exciting climax would be lost and the story would become slower paced as a result. As mentioned in my previous update, I really didn’t want to lose my precious Gaisland chapters!

I spent some quality time stressing over this before crying to my publisher about whether splitting the book would be better.

Of course splitting it is better. More books are always better, right?

I’ve mentioned before that the original draft of Sand Dancer was much bigger and I ended up splitting it up, so I knew this was going to be possible, if painful. My biggest problem was deciding where to split, what to keep, what to add, and how to rewrite the ending to be just as satisfying. Okay, that’s four big problems. Writing can take up a lot of time, but so can thinking about writing, and I did a lot of thinking between August and now. Creating a reverse outline helped me to understand what parts of my book was flagging and needed swapping around or changing.

Splitting this book in half and creating a whole new one gave me a chance to play around. My Gaisland chapters not only remained, but expanded into new and more interesting scenes. No longer did certain areas feel rushed. I admit, I worry that this sequel will be slower paced compared to the first book, but hopefully editing can help tighten that. I’m grateful for all the people who reviewed my book and I have taken their feedback on board whilst drafting this sequel. Namely, to focus on areas that need strengthening; a more consistent pace, more character development, and a main character who is less of a brat.

This sequel is all about the Fire Walkers, so I wanted to explore what their current life is like, how they’re treated by not only Sandarian society but the other kingdoms, and to delve into Fire Walker history. This story is also about how Mina feels about her fire magic, how she learns to control it, how she handles other character’s reactions to her powers (angrily, hah), and what all of this means for her.

So whilst this book has split in half, it has also grown as I’ve rewritten the ending and tightened up my original draft. This is, for all intents and purposes, a second draft.

Writing a second draft takes time.

You know what also takes time? Real life. It literally takes time. It steals time from under you.

I set myself a goal of completing this sequel in six months which was ludicrously optimistic of me. Real life commitments have gotten in the way of that. When I wrote Sand Dancer, I had a lot more free time which is now taken up by a full time job (Gotta pay those bills!) and I totally underestimated just how much time and energy a full time job can sap. As we entered the darker autumnal months, I started stressing about that six month deadline now I was re-writing this draft. And then my cat’s health grew worse.

This is going to sound like a terrible excuse for missing a deadline, but my cat Valerie had been ill for a year with lymphoma. I was told by a vet last October that she wouldn’t make it to Christmas. But she’s a fighter and responded to steroids. For a whole year she kept going. I was hopeful she’d make it to this Christmas, but then she got worse in September and we knew her time was soon. To some people a cat is just a cat, but to me, Valerie was family. She was an everyday part of my life. She’d climb on my desk and harass the hell outta me but I loved her for it.

She was still active and still eating, and still harassing the hell outta me, so I couldn’t decide when her time was up. How can you make that decision? She was still Valerie, and she didn’t look ready to cross the rainbow bridge. For the entirety of September and October I lived in some limbo state where I waited for my cat to give me a sign she was ready. I spent as much time with her that I could. And yeah, I wasn’t really concentrating on writing like I should have been.

That sign came at the end of October and I felt I made the right decision for her.

So now it’s almost the end of November and progress has been slow, but progress is progress. The gods cursed me with two colds this month, which again hindered my progress, and I’m painfully aware of how close I am to the end of the year and I still haven’t finished this book yet.

Right now, working on this book feels like a slab of marble stone that I’ve been carefully chipping away at. It’s slow going, but I’m getting there piece by piece and the story is taking shape. I’m an iterative writer which means I uncover new details as I go along, and this story keeps revealing new things and evolving. I’m by no means a panster, I have an outline and everything! But maybe I’m lying to myself there.

I’m enjoying writing it.

It will get done eventually!

But like Mina, I’m stubborn. And I refuse to write anything that isn’t my best.

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