Monday, 30 October 2017

Keeping the story warm – Lari Don

Many things get in the way of writing a book. (Over the last few years, I’ve struggled through moving house, teenagers with exam leave, and constant elections and referendums...) But one thing that regularly gets in the way writing a book, for me, is promoting the previous book.

It shouldn’t take me by surprise, but it seems to ambush me every single time.

Whenever I finish a novel, I allow myself to start investigating new ideas, I get excited about one particular idea, I ask deliciously intriguing questions about that story and begin to consider the answers, then just when I’m ready to start writing – boom! Suddenly the previous book - the book I’d already said good bye to – is published and I have to start promoting it. The time and energy required to launch a book means weeks or months when it's hard to find time to settle into writing the next book...

I’m not complaining. I’m really not. I love that I have a publisher, Floris Books, who care enough to host a launch party, and send me to Aberdeen, Newcastle, Wigtown, St Andrews and all sorts of other places to talk about my books. I love meeting librarians, teachers, parents, booksellers and READERS! I love that. But at the same time a small quiet part of me just wants to settle down into a new story.

So, despite the fact that I have been out and about for all of September and most of October telling people about the Spellchasers trilogy, I have been trying to keep the new story warm.

I knew that if I waited until everything calmed down, if I waited until I had perfect writing conditions, I might be waiting around for ever. And I might lose the ‘what if’ and ‘what happens next’ excitement that makes me want to write this new story. So I tried to keep the story momentum going, even if only a little bit a day...

notebooks, on a comfy bed
Therefore, while touring with the Spellchasers trilogy, I have been reading 18th century collections of folklore on trains, scribbling ideas in notebooks while teachers sat kids in front of me in neat lines, asking my characters vital questions in bookshop cafes. And I have been writing actual words in actual sentences in hotel rooms (never easy, with a comfy bed right there, just asking to be snoozed on...)

But I honestly, I didn’t think I was getting anywhere. I thought I was just making a token effort. I felt like I was only writing tiny slivers of story. Half a scene here. Half a scene there. A snippet of dialogue. A thought about the baddie. A hint of a character’s true voice.

I thought I was just trying to keep a foothold in the story’s world, so that when I finally got time to think about it in peace and quiet at home, I might still have a wee bit of momentum.

But last week, I finally got a chance to stand back and look at what I have. To see how (whether!) all the half-scenes and snippets of dialogue fit together. I was delighted to discover that I had written 10 chapters! They need a lot of tidying, but the characters and their problems are there, and I'm now ready to write forward...

So taking the time to promote the previous book hasn’t stopped me writing the next one at all! All I had to do was keep the story warm, and keep my notebooks close by as I travelled...

Lari Don is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for all ages, including fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales, a teen thriller and novellas for reluctant readers. 
Lari is on Instagram as LariDonWriter


Joan Lennon said...

My autumn's been a bit like yours, Lari, with a foot in two stories - pleased to be talking about the one that's fledged and flown, but drawn to the new little baldy one in the nest. Part of the weirdness of being a writer, eh? Good luck with all your amazing events, and roll on, calmer writing time!

Lari Don said...

that's a lovely way to describe it Joan! And I love them both, the story that has taken wing, and the new baldy baby story that needs me to nurture it. Let's hope we both get time to settle in our nests with our baby birds as the weather gets colder! Lx