I’ve written a a number of novels. There was that Fantasy space opera I started writing when I was 16 and got some 90,000 words in. Then the NANOWRIMO experiment that turned out the foundations for a pretty good novel (really should get back to that some time). Plus tens of other writing projects and experiments. But this book, The Thieving King, second in a series I’ve yet to sell… well, it’s the second novel I’ve started with a view to actually selling.
And in approaching it, I’m coming to learn a bit about my own process.

Beginnings are important to me. Not only do they drag the reader in, establish character and plot, they also set the tone for the book. And that tone is important to me, it’s as much for me as it is for the reader, a tuning fork by which to write to.
And so, despite having a good chunk of this novel already written (from back when it was the second half of the first book) and knowing most of the ins and outs of the plot with absolute clarity, I’ve found myself writing a lot of first chapters this past week.
There’s part of me that wants to say that I should not worry about whether it is good or not, and just move forward with the draft. However I’m learning to trust my instincts and submit to my own process.
But this isn’t about the actual quality of the writing, that’ll come with revision. If this novel was a film these first chapter rewrites would be about art direction rather than script.
Some drafts are too light, some too heavy. I seem to be doing a surprisingly natural job of incorporating that all-important ‘plot catch-up’ essential to make this book also work as a stand-alone novel. I have some ideas about how I could play with that, push that idea further, but that’s for future drafts.
I’ve realised that there is a third character hidden in this first chapter. A character that never speaks or reveals their emotions but who this chapter is really about. And that character is the city itself. The challenge is represent this character correctly.
And this is why the tone of that initial chapter is so important. Not only do I have to accurately portray the city, but show how the events of the last novel are changing it. Nothing stays still in the real world and my fantasy city is no different.
It’ll probably take a few more drafts before I hit the tone I’m looking for, and then I’ll be surging ahead. I can’t wait, as this book is going to both challenging and fun to write.