Writing the Dark Nest – A Series of Problems
Please note, if you want to read the whole Bird Series from the start, this blog contains spoilers from book one.
The Dark Nest was, without a doubt, the hardest book I’ve ever written. I thought writing the second and third book in the series was difficult, but this brought a whole new level of issues that I just hadn’t considered. If you ever think about writing a series, know what you’re letting yourself in for!
When I wrote Bird, I wrote it just as I’d write any story. You have to build up the characters, think about exposition, drip feed in the drama and add in a few twists. It was relatively simple.
Then came book two. If anyone has read my previous blogs, you’ll know I didn’t originally plan to write a sequel, but my readers were asking for more and I had an idea.
I made a conscious decision from the outset that The Birds was going to be a straight follow on from the previous story. The action literally picked up from where book one ended. I decided not to worry too much about filling in the detail for new readers, and they would have to read book one for everything to make sense. Then book three would follow on directly from book two, and it would be a trilogy that all fitted neatly together.
I still had to make sure that I added in enough detail to remind readers of what had happened previously, just in case there had been some time between reading the individual books. This was the trickiest part. It took me a few re-drafts to get it just as I wanted it. But I think it worked.
However, as I started to plan the fourth in the series, I knew it had to be different. It’s set two years later with a whole new selection of awful things happening to the characters.
As it’s a totally different story, I thought that it would make more sense if I wrote it so both a brand new person could pick it up and enjoy it, even if they hadn’t read the trilogy, but it also had to be satisfying for someone who was already familiar with these characters. However, that turned out to be quite a task!
The basis of the series is that Simon and Beth belong to a secret magical community called the Malancy. It’s all set in modern day London, and they are all seemingly normal people. But they have powers. In book one, this is the twist. Beth is suspicious that Simon is hiding a secret, and we only find out about the Malancy about halfway through when Simon finally reveals everything to Beth. This made explaining the Malancy very easy, as the characters and plot did it for me.
However, for The Dark Nest, all of that had already been established for the characters in the book, but I still needed to explain this magical community to new readers. With three books packed full of very important detail, I laboured over what to add in and what to leave out. There was so much that was relevant.
It became exhausting. I couldn’t see the wood from the trees. I was starting to feel so precious about some of the fantastic elements in the first books and I wanted to make sure new readers would appreciate all the wonder of the magical community. I was just too close to it.
This is where an editor is so helpful. No one can be objective about their own written piece. It’s just not possible. But an editor will be. My editor made me see just where I was going wrong. I was trying too hard. I was worrying too much about exposition and filling in readers on all the facts.
My editor made me stand back and think only about what people needed to know. What is relevant to this story? I took a breath and saw the whole project with a fresh pair of eyes and it was like a weight had lifted.
The magical community I’d created was quite involved. There were nearly 300,000 words all about it in the first three books. But if people wanted to know all about that, they’d have to read the first three books. For The Dark Nest, I just needed to set the scene of this magical world and explain only what was relevant to the story. All the other intricacies that I’d developed just didn’t need to be there. They were still there in other books if readers wanted more, but I needed to relax.
This might all seem terribly obvious, but the majority of my novels have brand new characters, brand new settings and brand new stories. You get into the flow of how to write that. Writing something both new and old was a task I just hadn’t prepared for. But now I’ve got my head around it, I know I’ll be able to do it again.
I hope you enjoy The Dark Nest. Whether you’re coming to it after the trilogy or you’re reading about Beth and Simon for the first time, I hope you fall in love with all the characters just as I have. And I’m sorry about all the drama I put them through!