Two nights ago I completed the first draft of the sequel to The Chimney Rabbit, entitled The Chimney Rabbit and the Underground Mice. They say that everyone has one novel in them – at least I know now that I’ve got more than one. After so many years of writing without ever coming close to completing a novel, despite many starts, it’s a relief to think that my first book wasn’t a one-off.
Of course, it’s not done yet. I’ve still got to read it over properly, then carry out at least two full drafts before I consider it even close to complete. But there’s no rush for that. With The Chimney Rabbit still no closer to finding an agent than when I started three months ago, there’s no pressing need to get the sequel in publishable form. I think this is an advantage – it means I can leave the book in a metaphorical drawer so when I come back to it, I come back to it fresh. It’s very easy to be so close to your work that you miss the most glaring of errors.
Writing The Underground Mice went a lot more smoothly than with the first book. I started The Chimney Rabbit in March 2012, but because I had an enormous hiatus after Easter that took up most of the summer, I didn’t complete the first draft until the start of December 2012.
I’ve been much more disciplined in writing The Underground Mice. I haven’t written every day – sometimes I’ve needed to take a couple of days off to take some long baths and ponder where the story was going – but while the total time spent at the keyboard writing was probably comparable to the first book, the elapsed time is much, much shorter: I started The Underground Mice on the 14th of January 2013, and I’ve completed the first draft of 77,000 words within three months.
So what’s next? I’ll do a read-through (Scrivener produces excellent ebook output, so I’ll read through the whole thing on my Kindle, phone, or tablet) then get a draft copy printed at Lulu.com. This is so that my partner can read it – she’s a resolute Kindle refusenik, so it has to be a dead tree edition or she just can’t read it. I’m always amazed at the decent quality you can get from Lulu when printing a single paperback copy, complete with colour cover, for about £7 delivered. It would probably cost me more in printer ink to print a copy on my own printer.
Once I’ve done that, I think I’ll turn back to The Chimney Rabbit. I learned a lot from writing the sequel, so I think it’s time to see if I can apply any of that to the first book. When I wrote Chapter One of The Chimney Rabbit, I’d never completed a whole book – now I’ve completed two, so I’m sure there’s a lot I can do to improve it. Who knows? Maybe I can improve it enough to catch the eye of an agent.
After that, I’m not entirely sure. I’ve got some ideas for a third book in the series, but I’ve also got an idea for a stand-alone prequel, set in the same universe but several years before the events of the first book with a different cast of characters.
I’ll just have to see which story grabs me and demands to be written next.