As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m spending NaNo writing what has been referred to on here as Project Calamari, or as I revealed at the start of the week, the sequel to my first published novel.
A friend of mine joked that this would be my “difficult second album” but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. I spent a year writing things – good things I may go back to – that didn’t feel right for me at the time. I had a nagging feeling that I needed to be writing this novel, whether the first was sold or not. Indeed, in the summer, just before I got the deal for The Four Realms, I’d spent time writing some of The Thieving King.

I am a keen rewriter. I will do endless drafts of early chapters trying to get the tone right. I probably rewrote The Four Realm’s first chapter well over twenty times (fifty would not be that much of an exaggeration). Thieving King was originally the second half of Four Realms and only got split off when tonally it felt slightly different. Since then the first few chapters have been rewritten about a dozen times. Each iteration refines the story and polishes off some rough edges.
One of those times was for NaNo. Having accepted rewriting as part of my process rather than some tortured form of procrastination, it made sense that I write everything including rewriting some of the early scenes.
So most of this first third of the novel, already exists in one draft or another, although I don’t think that helps other than giving me a clearer idea of the checklist of things I need to cover in each chapter. This draft has seen a secondary character get a lot more rounded, punch up the action in one arc, punch up the empathy in another. And if I’m honest, it’s going pretty well.
I have had one disaster on Thursday though. I went to a NaNo write in at the library after work, and due to being so tired, I ended up writing complete garbage. It resulted in me having to dig out an older draft and replace most of the scene with that. Cheating under strict NaNo terms, probably? Do I care? When I have an error that big that’s stopping me moving on, not in the slightest. I have a novel to write.
What’s surprising is that Darwin (the character on The Four Realms book cover) is proving the hardest to write. He goes through a journey of emotions at the start of the novel and I want to make sure one leads into another in a clear arc rather than they all mix and just yo-yo between scenes.
There’s also still a slight nagging worry that if people like the first novel, they may not like this one. What if in 2 months time, everyone says X is their favourite character, and X isn’t in this book? I’ve just tried to shut it all out and worry about pleasing me for now. That’s more than enough work on its own.
But given all that, I have to say that if anything, it just feels so nice being able to properly write these characters again. I’m having a lot of fun doing so.