Happy New Year, guys. I'm so sorry for not updating for a while. I really wanted to get the manuscript finished in early January instead of February, and I tend to neglect the rest of the world when I'm in Extreme Writing Mode (e.g. eating, sleeping, contact with other humans, that sort of thing). But I'm delighted to say that early this morning, at 2:32am, I finally finished the first draft of Book 2. After spending the whole of today on a speedy self-edit, during which I ensured there were absolutely no stray capital letters at the beginning of profanities1, I've now sent it to my editors and agent with an initial word count of 117,126 words – a little shorter than the finished version of The Bone Season, but still a fairly chunky manuscript. Now all I can do is wait and see what they think of it. I'm definitely not anxious.
On finishing a sequel
Finishing my first sequel is a big milestone, one I'd never truly thought I'd reach when I was writing in my teens. Just writing one novel is an enormous undertaking, and now I've written my second book of a long series, I can't quite believe it's finished. The process of writing Book 2 brought with it a wealth of fresh challenges, both difficult and exciting. It's made me smile and laugh, frown and ponder, stay up for hours thinking, jump out of bed with new ideas. It's brought on moments of anxiety, self-doubt and downright terror. It's brought on moments of pure joy. I've had some days when I've loved the manuscript to bits, and other days when I've found myself in a cold sweat, terrified of disappointing readers who enjoyed Book 1, terrified of being critically panned, terrified of being exposed as an imposter who simply cannot write. Generally really bloody terrified. But despite a few stumbles, I've absolutely loved writing this book – even more than I loved writing The Bone Season. There's something giddy and wonderful about returning to an imaginary world, exploring and creating new swathes of it, and getting to know the characters on an even deeper level than you did before. Now I've seen a whole host of different events through her eyes, Paige is even more a part of me than she was when she left Seven Dials at the beginning of Book 1. I feel like I've returned to an old friend. Of course, there are lots of new things, too: new characters, new settings, new dilemmas.
I can't say a great deal about the book itself, but I can talk about the process of writing a sequel. In some ways, your debut novel is your biggest challenge, especially when you're writing a long series. The Bone Season marked my first appearance in the world of books. It's the book with which I'll be most strongly associated for the foreseeable future. When it went out, I knew that if a reader liked it, they might just pick up my next book. If they hated it, however, they might never pick up one of my books again. That's a daunting prospect, especially when it's your debut novel – your very first attempt at a story that's actually gone out into the world, written when you still have a hell of a lot more to learn.
The second book doesn't have that enormous goal to carry out. If you buy the second book in a series, it's very probably because you liked the first one and want to see more. That, however, is a whole new level of nerve-racking, and a whole new level of responsibility that this book is carrying on its shoulders. I know there are readers who enjoyed The Bone Season, who spent their time on helpful, detailed reviews and their hard-earned money on a copy of the hardback – and I want them to keep enjoying the world and the characters as much as I enjoy writing about them. The absolute last thing an author wants to see in a review is the word "disappointing". I'd honestly rather see the words "this book is the worst thing ever written in the entire history of literature" than "I looked forward to this for so long, and I wanted to like it so much, but it let me down". It's a horrible feeling. You lose faith in yourself. You feel miserable and hollow for days. And I know it will be much worse when the disappointed reviewers are people who have waited with anticipation, who already know and love the people and places that have come out of my imagination.
When you write a book, you're always going to let somebody down. It's impossible to write a book that's universally loved. As I've said before, both the best and worst thing about literature is that it's absolutely subjective. As a writer, you can only ever do your best – but I don't want to be complacent or stop learning. I want to keep refining and developing my style. To make my best better every time I write.
I did read my first few reviews when The Bone Season came out, from both bloggers and professional reviewers, and I've had a peek at the a few more over the last few months. Some reviews gave me a huge burst of confidence. Some gave me a hefty kick in the gut. But through reading them, I have a fairly good idea of what readers generally liked and disliked about it. Looking over the first draft of Book 2, I feel my writing style has changed a lot. It's a little more descriptive in terms of setting, and a little less "choppy", with longer and more varied sentence structures. I've avoided multiple pages of pure exposition à la Chapter 1 of The Bone Season, which I think was definitely the element of the book that drew the most criticism from reviewers. I've tried to do more showing and less telling. I've avoided the word "turn" as much as humanly possible. The good thing about laying the foundations of the world in Book 1 (which I've spoken about over at Great Imaginations) was that in Book 2, I was able to get straight into the heart of the story without worrying about the reader being confused. The basics have already been covered. There's still a lot more to learn – more clairvoyants to meet, more about the syndicate and more about the Rephaim – but I've tried to weave it through the book through more subtle means, usually with dialogue.
So, a summary of writing a sequel: it's terrifying, wonderful and a real learning curve, and I can't wait for you guys to read it.
Book 2 updates
So, yes. Updates. You've all been incredibly patient and supportive while I've worked on the manuscript, and I won't keep you hanging any longer than I have to. Updates will arrive on my Twitter first, then here. For the time being, the book is out of my hands while my editors read and make notes on it. I have my fingers tightly crossed that it will be out this year, but I can't confirm that just yet. Although I have a few working titles up my sleeve, we haven't yet decided on the final one, so I can't confirm that yet, either. I'm guessing the final title will be unveiled around the same time that the paperback of Book 1 comes out, which will be in the first half of 2014. I know this is all enormously unhelpful, but things are happening behind the scenes, the wheels are in motion, and I'll know a lot more once we've started the editing process.
On 10th January I'm off to India! It'll be my very first time in Asia, and I'll be visiting Chennai, Delhi and Jaipur, in that order. I'd love to see any fans of the book, or just people who like books. I'll be appearing at the Hindu's Lit for Life festival on 12 January at 2:50pm (the 'Tall Tales: Fantastical Stories from the East and West' panel with Ashwin Sanghi and Shovon Chowdhury) and 13 January at 2:30pm ('The Writing Life' with Jim Crace and my agent, David Godwin). I haven't been given my schedule for Delhi yet. In Jaipur, I'll be attending the Jaipur Literature Festival. As far as I know, both festivals are free and all are welcome to attend. Register for Jaipur here. Keep an eye on my upcoming events page for more information.
I'll be back to updating more regularly now. Thanks again for sticking with me. Look out for the first Crash Course entry within the next two weeks!
1 Ten points if you can find the randomly capitalised profanity in the UK version of The Bone Season.↩