Starting a new series

June 21st, 2015

At the end of last year I was running on empty. I’d just handed in the third book in the Hidden series, and was trying to work out what I was going to write next. But the mere thought of starting a new series made me feel sick – probably because I’d been writing non-stop for the previous seven years – so after a bit of humming and haaing I decided to take a complete break for six months.

I still had writing work to do, of course, because there was the edit for Fetcher’s Song (Hidden #3) to be got out of the way, and workshops and talks to prepare. Plus I had to advise Harry on his blog, though that seems to have fallen by the wayside for now. His new passion is ballet. Or maybe aeronautics …

harry flying

But all that stuff seemed easy once the pressure of a new book was gone.

Now the six months is nearly up (just over a week to go!), and on July 1st I’m going to formally begin the new series. And after such a long break, I’m feeling excited about it, instead of nauseous. I’m not totally sure what it’s about yet, and beginning it doesn’t mean starting to write chapters. It means getting out one of my big notebooks and starting to play around with ideas for characters, and the world ( it might be set in the same world as the Keepers, though I’m making no promises at this stage) and plot etc.

By a nice coincidence, I’m running a three-hour workshop next Sunday (28th) for the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre on plot and plotting. So I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to work out how I go about it. Except it’s never a neat, rational process that’s easy to explain. It’s more dreamy and frustrating and ragged (with short moments of intense excitement) and despairing (with even shorter moments of over-confidence). And quite a bit of fun in the mix as well – I don’t want to make it sound too awful, because it’s not. It’s just tricky to talk about. But there are handy tools, of course, that I’ve used on each book at some stage or another. So we’re going to be talking about those tools.

As well as planning the workshop, I’ve been reading. And reading and reading. I’m one of the judges for this year’s Tasmanian Book Prize and Margaret Scott Prize, and between those two prizes, there were roughly 90 entries. I have to get them down to two longlists of ten or so, to take to the next judges’ meeting, which is in four weeks. A lot of them aren’t at all the sort of book that I’d normally read for pleasure, so it’s an interesting process. But every now and again I really feel like getting out a fantasy novel, or maybe a detective novel, and curling up in front of the fire with it for an evening or two.

So far I’ve resisted the temptation.

And in between reading and workshop preparation? Eating apple crumble and other winter treats, going to bits of Dark Mofo, pruning the grape vine and the apple tree, and lots of walking on the beach. One of my neighbours has broken her leg, so I’m on the dog-walking roster. Here’s me and Cookie on a brisk June morning.


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