Most of us, I would guess, begin with the single thought ‘I want to write a book’. We do not realize the commitment, hard graft and discipline needed. But hey, that’s alright, we learn those facts quickly. If we continue we do so is because, having learnt the lessons, still think it’s worth our while to inhabit strange imaginary worlds and sacrifice large parts of our ‘leisure time’
We write that first book but, what of the second? Now, I have never written two stand alone books, when I began I believed I was penning one book, somehow it turned itself into a series, don’t ask me how. I could not tell you. A lesson I appear to have missed ‘Plan your series before you begin’ do not make it up as you go along. If do not plan, then, oh then, best beloveds, insecurity will be increased tenfold.
When I wrote Ellen’s Tale (a one off) I decided to set the tale in the world of Archives. An historical research project. Fine. A student tries to piece together a 50 year old story of great significance to the world. All she has are a few transcribed interviews, a more experienced archivist and books of the period.
Many people may not like the style of having different characters narrating basically the same story, but I thought I had moved the story along reasonably well. It is set in 2161. So much back story, which I had learnt can not flood the story, hints, and references is all. I had Ellen leave her safe home at the end and I apparently killed off the archivists as well!
Well, somewhere half way through Ellen my mind had ordered me to write a second book, The Storyteller’s Tale. One needs a cliff hanger; I was present for that lesson!
So a series was being created, patchwork style. I knew the structure of the 1st book would become tedious over a second book, but how to keep it near enough to the first for it to remain a series. After a little while I decided this archival material could be just the one person narrating her story. This time archivists listened to an original recording. No other version of events. Okay. I smiled and breathed my relief – it worked. I should have stopped there. Ellen was abroad in the wilderness with companions. How on earth could I present archival material in another, I wanted to write a third.
This took me months to figure out. I was even planning by now, not winging it. Complicated planning. Jack’s Tale, the 3rd, caused me so much anxiety I almost gave up. After a great deal of angst I found an answer. Ellen is the narrator through most of this book, a collection of her letters (without the answering ones) and some journal entries continue the story of her and her companions. And at the major catastrophe of their life she takes up the recording machine and conducts her own research programme.
If I had been a nail biter I would be minus all the ends of my fingers after I launched Jack onto the world, I wasn’t at all sure this change of reporting would work. Somehow it did. My regular readers were still with me.
Last year I took a chance on a 4th, The Ancestor’s Tale, and wished I hadn’t. I had run out of ideas and variations. Not for the book, no I had always known I wanted some of that back story. The Great Climate Wars that had been responsible for 8 billion dead! But the way I started it was dull, dull, dull – even I didn’t want to read account after account of doom and gloom. I know, I know, it is dystopian but even so.
Well I was laid low, as some of you know, spending more time on/in my bed than upright. Between the dozing and sleeping my mind was let free to wander. The anxiety about structure vanished. I wasn’t writing anything, anytime soon, so why worry?
In this freedom the answer worked itself out. The story is still being pieced together by the Archive. The story line now encompasses the period from the Great Wars right up to the current time 2161, but now there are some memories not recorded, indeed may never be so (the end of the story hasn’t been written yet:)and will be lost to the archivists, some that have been confined by a time restraint and so must wait until they can be included into the unfinished Chronicles. I love my imagination.
I have also worked out how the 6th and possibly last tale will work and be connected.
The present worry, one that is beginning to consume my thoughts and cause an upflare of anxiety again, is how can I write the 5th?
When this series is finished I shall write one offs only:)