The first draft of ‘The Rat King’ is done. It needs some work, and will definitely need a polish, but I’m happy with the result. It has a real ‘X-Files’ monster of the week vibe to me, and writing the next run of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’, it was nice to write something where I didn’t have to think too hard on its place in the Darkwood world–which has been an added trial in writing those next tales. The experience of writing this Victorian period story was sharpened by reading the fantastic book ‘Voices from Dickens’ London’ by Michael Paterson. I picked it up from a bargain book shop ages ago, and realised the other day I hadn’t read it. It’s not quite the setting for Darkwood and Hobbs as it’s largely early to mid Victorian, whereas my stories are late Victorian, but it uses writing from the time to paint a picture of Victorian London–and not the sanitised Christmas card Victorian London either, very much a warts and all Victorian London, which I love.
The blurb tease for ‘The Rat King’ is:
“Death by rat? Darkwood suspects foul play in the death of charity members. But can rats really be the cause? And if they are, who, or what, is driving them–and why?“
I have had a pop at doing the cover–and it looks awful, so I’m not sharing that here just yet. It needs work. It actually needs me to be an artist, or to have a budget for paying for a professional cover artist. Neither of those are likely to happen, so I will have to see what I come up with and hope people truly don’t judge a book by its cover.
As for the writing though, if you want a sneak peak of the beginning of the first draft, then read on…
The stand-alone serial nature of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ has given me the platform to get a lot of story ideas to the page, jumping around the Victorian era and the lives of Darkwood and Hobbs. However, as certain events have taken place I have had to put together a time-line to avoid having continuity issues. Deep into writing the second run I have come across another issue which I haven’t had to worry about before–balancing the elements which make up ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’.
The first run was essentially a ‘mystery of the week’ style format, and easily introduced Darkwood’s aunt and uncle, the long-suffering reluctant ally and eventual friend of Darkwood and Hobbs, Inspector Duggan. The series ending with the introduction of the first story arc element in ‘The Conspiracies of Shadow and Fire’, which served as a prequel and continuation of the series, and established the two main players vying for Darkwood’s guide stone–the Shadows and the Hellfire Club, and one of its villainous members, Lord Balmoral.
In my head, Darkwood and Hobbs have more friends and allies, and they need time to appear and become established as reoccurring characters. There are also returning villains, and not to forget the ‘deeper mystery’ of what happened to Darkwood’s parents, and the history of the guide stone. Plus there are certain character and relationship developing events for and between Darkwood and Hobbs. All of these has required some placement or element of story arcs within the stories I have planned. This has also started to dictate the stories I want and need to write.
It’s been three months since my last blog post, but the first draft of my latest novel is done. I’ve said previously how this was a ‘surprise’ novel, as I knew this was going to be a longer project, but I hadn’t appreciated just how long it was going to be. At 300 pages and 117,586 words (as this draft stands now) ‘The Slaves of the Underworld’ is my longest story for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ series yet. Thankfully, with a good plan, it all came together easily and flowed nicely. The only difficulty I had was with a co-worker–sorry–character, who I found to be quite unlikable, and I found this to be a bit of struggle, for if I didn’t like him, then would my readers take to him, and would Hobbs’ friendship with Peter reflect poorly on him–my main character?
After my previous downer of a post where I admitted I was struggling with motivation towards my writing, I can happily say I’m back on track. My solution was to find a better place for my writing to fit into my life, so that I can balance my hobbies and my time more comfortably. I now write on Friday mornings only. Up at 6, work from 7 until 12. With tea breaks of course, I mean, let’s not turn writing into hard labor… I’m tapping out about 3000 to 4000 words, and in my current project that seems to be a chapter a week. So it feels satisfying enough for me.
Sitting down to write has been a little tough lately. I don’t get writers block, in the sense that I can’t think what to write–I plan too much–so I always know what I need to get down on the page. It’s just that writing relies on me wanting and being able to write. I’m just getting over a cold, which has dragged on for about a month. It left me feeling pretty wiped out, lacking concentration, and just wanting to sit and be. Prior to that there was some stuff going on around me which made me feel very set apart from everyone as I did not think or feel in the same way as everyone else seemed to, it kind of compounded some personal wider established thinking around this, so I was a bit distracted, in my own head and feeling a bit stressed and miserable. So, it hasn’t been the best time for writing for me. All that is heaped onto some struggles I have with writing in general.
February was a good month for writing. I managed to reach the end of part 1–a third of the way through–my latest project. At 40 pages, “The Darkwood Mysteries (17): The Slaves of the Underworld”, is shaping up nicely as a novella, perhaps even a novel length by the time I have completed parts 2 and 3. My plan, which I talked about in my last post, has held up. Chapters are pretty short, which is what I wanted, and the story I have had in my head for a few years now is getting onto the page without too much effort. I’ve managed to get a few full days of writing in, starting at about 6:30 or 7 am and then working through until 5 or 6 pm (with lunch and plenty of tea in between of course!). This was always how I used to write, and I’m glad to be getting back into the swing of it. It feels much more satisfying than a morning or afternoon, and an hour or so in an evening here and there a couple of times a week.
I’m going to share chapter two with you now. And disclaimer time again–I don’t consider I have a first draft until I have finished the whole story, as I often revisit sections and chapters as I am writing to make tweaks or changes, or move things around, so these shares are very much the rough that comes from the writing desk before they’ve been studied and edited. Please forgive typos and any wonky writing that comes through. After the ‘hook’ of finding Jack Hobbs committing himself to the workhouse, chapter two reveals why he is in this situation, and sets up the inciting incident–entering the workhouse–which will propel the story forward, with Hobbs in a very different place to the usual Darkwood Mystery.