With “The Gisburn Witch” out in paperback and ebook now, I’m looking forward to a busy and productive summer of ongoing promotion for the first novel, and work on the second book, of which the working title is “A Girl Named Sellers”. Unfortunately, the journey into the second novel has so far not been such a smooth one, a fact which has frustrated and baffled me in equal measure! I recall completing “The Gisburn Witch” and thinking, with a sense of accomplishment, that the next book would surely be easier, that second time round I would know exactly what I was doing.
Think again. If anything, the second book has been tougher to tease out; contrary to all my expectations it has been unbelievably difficult to prise all those threads of ideas and plots out of my head and into something tangible and coherent when presented on paper. I started work on the second book at the beginning of 2015 and, after several false starts and numerous chapters placed in the digi-bucket, by June I was not very far forward at all and was starting to bang my head against the proverbial wall a little bit.
Last week I went on my summer holidays with my family and in between enjoying sunny days out with my kids, I took some time to reflect on what was going on with my second book, why I was finding it so hard to get stuck into it. It wasn’t a lack of inspiration, I knew that. Halfway through writing “The Gisburn Witch” I began nurturing the idea of “A Girl Named Sellers”; to me it was an instinctive choice, a clear sequel. Instead, I came to the conclusion that the problem was two-fold, and concerned both my own expectations of and approach to my own work, and questions of presentation.
So, to address the first part of the problem: my expectations and approach. My approach to the second book has been completely different to the first. When I started writing “The Gisburn Witch”, it was a bit of a pleasure project, something I wanted to do for fun. I never dreamed I would finish it, let alone publish it. I had absolutely no expectations of my own work. The experience of writing it was liberating, cathartic. With the best will in the world, I don’t have this sense of liberation with the second book. By definition it is following on from something else, it has something to live up to, thus implicitly it carries a weight of expectation, my own expectations. I have given this some thought and decided to challenge myself to be more relaxed about my work. If something works, great, if it doesn’t, I will figure it out. This was my approach with the first novel and I need to try to recapture some of that with the second.
The second problem: presentation. “A Girl Named Sellers” is quite a different story to “The Gisburn Witch”, and a major difference concerns the time period covered. “The Gisburn Witch” covered over twenty-five years, a massive time period in literary terms which presented its own challenges but which I actually found quite comfortable. The beauty of such a huge period of time is that right away, it gives you a good structure to work with, and as a historian I find nice big dated timelines comforting. By contrast, “A Girl Named Sellers” will cover less than five years, with potential for ‘flashbacks’ to the past or even a dual narrative. I have grappled with how best to present this (hence the scrapped chapters!) and I think I’ve finally come up with the way I want to do it. But it’s been a long time coming.
So, at this point I have a couple of chapters under my belt and I’m not planning to scrap them (yet!). Onwards and upwards from here!