In late 2002, I had the idea for my debut novel, Searching for Steven. In spring 2003, I started writing it and it soon became apparent that it was going to be a trilogy rather than a standalone novel. For the next 13 years, the trilogy became my sole writing focus. And, yes, I know that's a long time to write three novels, but there were huge chunks of time in there when I didn't write at all due to getting married, having a baby, moving house three times, changing job several times. I promise I'm not quite that slow!
It would be fair to say that I know Sarah, Elise and Clare - my three protagonists (each the main character in one of the novels) - very well and it was quite tough saying goodbye to them. I didn't need to say goodbye to their home, though, as I decided that Whitsborough Bay was the perfect setting for future novels. It's a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town inspired by Scarborough where I live. And, if I'm honest, I didn't need to say goodbye to my characters either. Elise and Sarah both have cameos in my next novel and I plan on this being a recurring theme where previous readers will spot old friends and new readers will just see them as minor characters, not needing to know their backstories.
Last week, after working on my new novel, Bear With Me, since summer last year (with several chunks of time where I barely put fingers to keyboard due to the pressures of the day job), I typed "the end" and it felt pretty scary. Why? Because it's the first piece of work outside the trilogy and I have no idea how it stacks up. I did write a novella, Raving About Rhys, but it's linked to the trilogy and it was short and easy to write so I tend to think of it as part of the trilogy (even thought that would make it a quadrology. Is there such a thing? There should be!)
A new novel is a different matter, though. New characters, new stories, and a new approach. You see, Bear With Me is the first time I've written from two perspectives. And one of those is male! Hoping I've got the voice right for him. I might not have done. Which is another reason to be scared.
Now that I'm indie, I don't have a publisher looking at it and asking me to change this, tweak that, add this in, remove something. Instead, I'm relying on myself and my beta readers. I have two fabulous writing friends who have Bear With Me at the moment and, quite frankly, I'm terrified of the verdict. I've told them to be completely and utterly honest with me and I hope they will be ... but that doesn't stop me being afraid that it really doesn't compare to the trilogy and that there's going to be some very diplomatically worded feedback that basically says it's rubbish but in a nice way! If that's the case, I want to hear it, although I will be tightly cuddling a teddy bear whilst taking it on board!
A lot of writers have a period of doubt when they finish their work and I confess that I had that with the trilogy, but it didn't last long. I knew I had good stories and I knew I had interesting characters. It feels different with Bear With Me, though. I do think I have an interesting story but there's part of me thinking I may have tried to pull too many ideas together and not fully executed any of them. Or is that just because it's something completely new and different to the other books? Argh!
Every time I get an email through or a messenger alert, I wonder if it could be an initial impression from either of them which is ridiculous because I only sent it yesterday and they both have demanding day jobs and their own writing so I'm not expecting feedback for a couple of weeks at least.
In the meantime, I'm trying to decide whether to do another edit of Bear With Me or take a break and work on my Christmas novella. Actually, the latter is probably the best idea as reading Bear three times in the space of a few days probably won't give me the perspective I need to make any changes.
Depending on what my lovely readers say, I may be releasing Bear With Me next month ... or it could be early summer if I have a lot of work to do on him. I think it will be early summer, she says wishing she could feel more confident.
As I was reading through Bear With Me before I sent it out, I had a massive panic that the trilogy was it for me, that I couldn't write anything else, that Bear WIth Me was really "that difficult 2nd album" as they say in the music industry. Thing is, that would imply that it was hard to write and it wasn't. Aside from a hideous 5-month block last year where I barely had time to work on it, it flowed pretty well. But is what flowed a pile of rubbish? We'll soon find out.
Eek! So nervous. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out ...