Sunday, 5 January 2014

Sequel nerves

I'm back!

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. 




Upcoming events

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!

Samantha


1 Ten points if you can find the randomly capitalised profanity in the UK version of The Bone Season.

40 comments:

  1. Congrats, Samantha! :) I'm so excited! Have fun in India.

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  2. It is really refreshing to see an author who is so honest and open about the highs and lows of writing a novel. It is something I have always aspired to do but have only got as far as a blog!
    I enjoyed the first book immensely and amvery much looking forward to the next imstinstalment. Thank you for making the writing process so interactive for us fans, it definitely makes you feel part of a stronger network of readership. I look forward to watching your career (and authorial voice) go from strength to strength!
    Best Wishes,

    Shona

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    1. Hi, Shona – glad you enjoyed Book 1. I try to give as honest a description as possible of the writing and publication process. Great to hear you're looking forward to Book 2! (Also, keeping a blog is a big step in itself. The commitment to updating is good preparation for writing a novel, IMO.)

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  3. Great, can't wait to read the sequel. Enjoyed your first book a little too much, the fun was over in just a few hours!
    Also, i will try to say this as 'non-wierd' as possible; god, you're pretty.

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  4. I really loved 'Bone season'. I really do not understand how critics complained about chapter 1, as I felt it helped me get to know Page Mahoney.
    I cannot wait for 'book 2' to be released. This is the first time I have followed a new author from the word go.
    I really hope it goes succesfully. :)

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    1. Some people liked Chapter 1, some didn't. But that's fine. It isn't everyone's cup of tea! Glad you're looking forward to the sequel.

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  5. Congrats on finishing! what a feeling!
    very much looking forward to what's next in store for Paige. The Bone Season was one of my favourite books of 2013 and I have complete confidence that you'll impress me once again :)

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  6. Hey Samantha Shannon,
    I loved your book so so so sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much and it was amazing and I am so looking forward to your sequel! Hands down, I am your biggest fan! Can you please give me a shout out on this comment? Pleeease! Please please, please with a coffee-flavored cherry on top? It will literally make my year :)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

    Thanks,
    and with much love,
    Maibel Bonnlia <3

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    1. Hi Maibel – I'm so glad you enjoyed the book! Shout-out to you :)

      Samantha

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  7. Hi Samantha,

    Looking forward to meet you in Chennai on 12th and 13th. I am from the city btw.

    Is it possible for you to do book signings and photos? I will be really glad if that's possible for you.

    Thank you.

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  8. Hi, Samantha. Congratulations!
    I have a question. You had mentioned in a previous post how the first person narrative helped you really break into the story, helped your protagonist develop a unique voice. Do you think one can achieve that for four different characters/perspectives? If so, can you provide any tip? Would be immensely helpful.
    Thank You.
    -Heidi Wolfe

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    1. Hi Heidi,

      You could certainly do that, yes, but you'd have to make sure that each voice was unique – and that's no easy task. Ideally, readers should know whose voice they're reading without having to flip back to the beginning of the chapter and check. I'm not sure it's the kind of book I'd personally like to read/write, as I like to have a close connection with the narrator, but that's just my opinion. The maximum I'd do is two voices, which is something I'm considering for later Bone Season books (purely because Paige can't be everywhere at once). Perhaps try writing a sample chapter for each of your four voices and show a sample of each to some friends to see if they can distinguish between them.

      Samantha

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  9. Thanks Samantha for a great book! It was a little difficult initially with all the new terms but having a dictionary of terms in the back and the great chart in front helped me. I am really looking forward to the second book in this series. Don't let any one with negative comments discourage you. You are on your way!

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    1. The world can be quite overwhelming at the beginning, but I'm glad to hear you adjusted! The glossary was a wise addition, I think...

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  10. I'm so excited that I actually caught a series as its happening. I just feel like I'm part of this big movement and, of course, it helps that you're so active in keeping your fans up to date on what's going on with the series. I'm just such a huge fan, and I'm counting down the days until the next book.

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    1. Great to hear! Hopefully there shouldn't be too many days...

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  11. It was so interesting to read about your thought process and feelings during the writing of Book 2. Now I'm more excited than ever!! Can't wait to dive into the next book :).

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  12. Wasn't the capitalised Profanity the word 'Fuck' , I remember it being posted on your twitter! :) One of the best typo's ever.

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  13. It's wonderful to hear an update from you, Samantha! I'm so excited to hear that you've finished the first draft of The Bone Season 2. It's certainly a book I'm looking forward to reading, hopefully this year, and I cannot wait!

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    1. I hope you will be able to read it this year. My editors are getting the first round of notes to me by the end of the month, so looks like things are moving quickly :)

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  14. Fantastic, you're an inspiration. I'm nearly at 20,000 words of try number 4, or what feels like try 20,000. Thanks!

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    1. That's great! Congratulations. Keep going.

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  15. Loved 'The Bone Season', and am looking forward to this second book. :-)

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  16. Welcome back to the world outside the writing cave! I don't think you have anything to be worried about. Book 2 is going to be amazing. I just know it! :)

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    1. I hope so. My editors both like it, fortunately!

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  17. Recently finished The Bone Season and am eagerly awaiting book 2! Yours was the first book I read in a while that I stayed up irresponsibly late to finish. I was terrified that you'd end the book on a cliffhanger and so pleased that you managed to resolve a storyline while at the same setting up a new one. I'm hoping to learn more about Warden and the other Rephs that rebelled with him. Congrats on a great achievement!

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    1. Thank you. I'm so pleased you enjoyed it!

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  18. Hi Samantha.
    Just wanting to say I feel blessed to have found your book, and even more so an author with her first published book.
    I'm excited to be able to follow you from so close to the beginning. I'm sure Book 2 will be just as amazing as the first, I'm extremely keen to read it.
    One last thing, I hadn't read a book since I was 16 and now I'm now 22.. 23 in October. So thankyou very much for bringing the joy of reading back into my life, forever grateful.

    Jarryd A.

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  19. Hi really looking forward to reading book 2. The first one is just brilliant really. I got some questions for you
    1. Was it easier for you this time around to start writing the book and finish it or write the book in general compare to the first one?

    2. Do you have like a written plan of the entire series like say for book one this is what is going to happen, book 2 this, book 3 this and so on.

    3. lastly how did you arrived on the decision to make it 7 books? do you always know from the beginning that it will take 7 books to wrap Paige's story? or did you intentionally decided to do 7 for other reason like say you have a story in mind and i want it to be a 7 book series so i will of more stories/plotlines to make it 7?

    thank you for writing one of the best books of the decade! you rock!

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  20. I just finished the first book today on my Kindle. I gave it a 5 star rating on Amazon the moment I finished. I rarely give a 5 star rating let alone bother to write a review. Next, I'm going to review it on Goodreads. You, have me hooked Mrs. Shannon, and I'm starving to reading the next. The wait will be brutal I think. It will be as brutal as waiting on Rowling during my HP years, and as brutal (hopefully not as long) as waiting on Martin to put out another Song of Ice and Fire. I have failed that The Bone Season will only get richer with each book. Thank you for your writing.

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  21. You are so brave for reading your own reviews and trying to learn from them! As a not-yet-published writer, the idea that people might eventually write their opinions of my work in the internet or elsewhere is terrifying in the extreme. I know some writers avoid reading reviews and just take feedback from trusted fellow writers. I don't know which I would do in that situation, but regardless, you are awesome and I am looking forward to book 2!

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  22. I just finished reading your book. My mind loved it as much as my soul. I can't say that very often. I appreciate all the personal sacrifices you must make as an author to give us such worthy material to read. Thank you!

    Do you have email updates on when the next book will be available for Kindle? If so, sign me up, please. Mlbritts67@yahoo.com

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  23. Im not concerned at all. I loved the first book and Im very confident of your writing. My god, you are so young and writes so well! It can not go wrong in the long term. I read a lot and I absolutely think that youre very talented.

    Greetings and support from Linda in Sweden (not Stockholm citadel though)

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