You finish a trilogy, have a cup of tea and get your breath back, and the question that hits you, like a slap round the back of the head, is ‘So. What’s next’?!
What’s next? After the numbing crash of farewell?
What’s next? After the inevitable vacuum of self-doubt?
What’s next? After facing the cold page and failing to write a single bloody thing?
What’s next is more tea and a long walk. And than, after that, it’s settling yourself down to start again.
I had forgotten (no, seriously) how much work it is when you build something new. Perhaps because so much of Ecko’s past is based in old RPGs, and so much of that creativity was done in an orgy of innocence in our twenties, when we did it for love and had no idea what a big thing we’d acheived. To do the same thing in your forties, somehow sandwiched between job and child and trying to sell your house and losing your Mum… well, I think I’ve said before that it initially felt like hitting Second Album Syndrome with an almighty SMACK and sliding down it to the floor going ‘ow’.
But. Trees from acorns and all that, you’ve got to start somewhere.
The ideas are the easy bit. When you start something new, its every synapse firing – you want to include this, and build that, and use the other thing. There’s probably stuff that fell out of the previous MS that’s just too much fun to leave on the cutting room floor. New characters seem to lunge at you from nothing – conversations spring into life fully-formed.
At first, it all goes off like fireworks. Great fun, but all over the shop.
It’s the structure that’s hard. The nine-tenths of the research iceberg that never actually shows in the finished manuscript. The minutiae of social and economic structures, of political history and new magic systems and who has the power and why – and exactly how MUCH farmland a city of thirty thousand people really needs to feed itself…
And, of course, you have to have a map (groans).
Anyway, after three months of facing that blank page, I’ve finally made it past that magical 20k and have something that is growing in confidence and structure. It’s been difficult, and I fully admit it – trying to find the time to write is hard enough, trying to find the time to build is a tall order, no pun intended. It’s very different, more urban and metallurgical, a detective story with (apparently) a bit of romantic thread… but we will see.
The longest journey starts with you getting off your arse, after all.