The 15-Year Sequel
November 25, 2020 was a pretty exciting day for me. I finished writing a novel that I had been working on for 15 years. That, in itself, was a pretty huge victory. But the funny part is that it was the sequel to a book I started writing only 2 years ago.
Let me explain.
Several years ago, I was reading this Time-Life book about different types of ghosts. Now, most of my readers will be way too young to know about Time-Life books, but here's the gist: in the mid-1980's, Time-Life (the magazine company) would put out these thematic book series wherein each book was about a specific topic. It was like a subscription, and each month, you'd get a different book until you had the whole set. In this case, the topic was Mysteries of the Unknown.
Anyway, at one point in time, I had quite a few of the series, and I was re-reading the one about ghosts (I'd had it for years, and really enjoyed going back and reading them again, because the myths always inspired writing ideas). I was reading a myth about a particular type of ghost: the utburd. I'd read the story before, but this time, it took root in my brain and gave me an idea. Now I don't want to drop any spoilers here, but I will say that my idea literally scared me so badly that I had to go get my husband who was watching TV in the front room and make him come to bed because I'd freaked myself out sufficiently that I couldn't sleep. That is a really rare occurrence, so I knew I had the kernel of something good.
Not long after that, I wrote maybe the first 40 pages of the story in my head. Enter Aria Rush, my protagonist, and her cousins Logan and Paul. I really loved the story, but I just couldn't make too much headway on it. I kept getting stuck, feeling like it was missing something. I also hated my working title: The Ghosts of Sheffield Glen. It sounded like a Nancy Drew book, which this decidedly was not.
I set it aside for a year, maybe two, but I couldn't get Aria and her family out of my mind. Her name became my gaming tag on many games I played, so certain was I that someday I'd get to tell the rest of her story. I never could get past about page 70, though, and I set it aside indefinitely, always hoping to get back to it somehow.
During the summer of 2018, I had the idea for Rise of the Moon, and made huge progress on it. Once school started again, though, life intervened, and I just couldn't finish. In the fall of 2019, though, I decided to try National Novel Writing Month and push myself until I finished it (which I did). About halfway through Rise, I realized it wasn't the stand-alone book I thought I was writing; it was the first in a series.
I knew there would be five or six books in the Arcana series, and once I finished Rise of the Moon, I started thinking hard about who the protagonist would be for Book Two. I toyed with a lot of ideas, and then one night as I was lying in bed trying to sleep (which is when most of my ideas come), it hit me: I could retro-fit The Ghosts of Sheffield Glen, and with a few alterations, I could take my unfinished project and it would be a perfect fit for the Arcana series. Bonus: I got to get rid of that horrible book title and Rush to Judgement was born.
It wasn't a perfect fit after all, and part of the retro-fitting process required me dumping my entire prologue and roughly half of my first chapter. That might not seem like a big deal, but I loved that beginning, so it was hard for me. I'd read it so many times that I could almost recite it from memory. But, as Stephen King advises in his amazing book On Writing, if you're going to be a professional writer, you have to be prepared to "kill your babies". This was the first time an edit really felt like that, but in my heart, I knew it had to be done. And once I committed to it, the rest of Aria's story started to flow.
(Full disclosure: I've only just completed the roughest of the rough draft, and I am pretty sure I'll have to do a good bit of tweaking because it still might read like two different novels once I actually read it from beginning to end.)
Anyway, finishing Rush to Judgement is probably at least as big an accomplishment for me as finishing my first novel was, in the same way that you get an enormous sense of satisfaction when you finish off a jar of spices you've had in the back of your cabinet for 10 years. Not that I've ever had that happen...(as I side-eye the industrial-sized shaker bottle of Adobo that has moved from at least two houses ago).
Thanks for hanging in there, readers! My next blog will likely be the publication announcement for Rise of the Moon, so stay tuned!