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Summer Camp

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July is upon us and with it has come Camp NaNo, the summer version of National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every November. As I did last November, I have once again set myself the (slightly insane) task of writing at least 50,000 words of a new novel this month. As it turns out, the timing of this couldn’t be better, for the summer brings a lull in the majority of my freelance work, and I have very little to do but twiddle my thumbs and rearrange my bookshelves until September. I have always written a lot in the summer. I’m not sure if this is due to the fact I was first accustomed to an academic year, and then to a freelancer’s calendar, both of which gave me plenty of free time from July to September, or if it’s because the days are brighter, and longer, and my mood is generally higher. Looking back on previous years, and previous summer projects, it is clear to me that I was manic throughout most, if not all of them. This year however my medication is (finally) balanced enough to take the edge of my moods, and I find I am left with the abundance of energy and optimism than is so sorely lacking in my life during autumn, winter, and most of spring, but–for the most part–none of the more serious side effects of mania.

Chasing Azrael by Hazel ButlerThe result of this is that this year, for the first year in a very long time, I find myself with a clear head, a good mood, and a distinct idea for what I would like to do over the next couple of months. I had originally intended to spend this time working on the second novel in my Deathly Insanity series, Death Becomes Me, however I have been continually attempting to plan that novel since the release of book one, Chasing Azrael, in April, and have found it an impossible task. At first I thought this was due to the complexity of the plot. I have since come to realise that I have simply been working on that world for too long, and I need a break from it. It took me the better part of five years to complete Chasing Azrael, going from first draft, through at least twenty re-drafts, to editing, to proofing, to formatting, and finally to release. Granted at the same time I was doing a PhD and starting up my own business, but even so it was a long time to be working on a single novel. During NaNo last November, I chose to work on another of the books in the Deathly Insanity series, Twisted Sister. I was unsure then, and still am now, whether this will not actually turn out to be book two, and Death Becomes Me book three. Regardless, the task of nailing down the plot of DBM was as insurmountable last November as it is now, and so I chose to work on a different novel, one with a plot I had clearly in my head already. Despite my surety on the plot, writing sixty thousand words on another novel, set in the same world, in such a short space of time, and then immediately going back to the seemingly endless work on Chasing Azrael seems to have taken it out of me. I was left completely incapable of concentrating on any of the novels in the series, and several months passed during which I wrote nothing fictional at all.

At length (and when I finally came out of my winter depression), I concluded that what was needed was a mental palate cleanser, and so I routed around in the various outlines I had for other novels and came up with one that I first thought up a couple of years ago, got very excited about, and then never had time to look at again.

Sinéad is very to the Deathly Insanity Series, for while both are based on the real world, one is Contemporary Fantasy, the other is Post-apocalyptic Science-Fantasy.  Although I had spent considerable time planning Sinéad already, I found immediately upon starting that the world is so complex, and needs to be so thoroughly understood (at least by me, as the writer), that a great deal more planning is needed than ever was for my Deathly Insanity Series. I’m not sure why this took me by surprise. Prior to writing Chasing Azrael I was working on a Fantasy series, one I hope to get back to some day. The complexity of that particular world–and the sixteen novels I had planned to take place within it–was such that I get a headache even thinking about it, six years later. And so I have found myself scrabbling over the last few days, firstly to plan the novel and built the world sufficiently enough that I could begin writing it, secondly to actually begin the writing process itself.

I am happy to say that my fiction-writing muscles haven’t completely atrophied in the long months since I last used them, and while I am quite certain that the first draft of Sinéad will be as terrible as most first drafts are, it is at least looking likely that I will get it done over the summer.

Then of course I have the long, arduous process of re-drafting and editing to look forward to…

Why do we do it to ourselves?

I don’t know about other writers, but I myself find that once a world has fully taken form in my head, I have no choice other than to write it, or it will drive me completely insane…

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