The Next Thing

Gaie Sebold, secret Santa

This month’s featured T Party member is Gaie Sebold, who’s just sold her novel, Babylon Steel, to Solaris Books – along with an option on its sequel. Great news! Just one problem: the sequel doesn’t actually exist. Yet. Here’s how Gaie’s getting on with “that difficult second book”, from her blog at

Have, for some years, moaned about inadvisability of writing sequel before first book has sold. Have shaken portentous finger at friends who contemplated such folly. Have sternly turned back on beloved characters and carefully constructed worlds due to fear that first book will Never Sell, and writing sequel therefore clearly an exercise in futility. Nonetheless have longed for chance to revisit favourite characters like dieter longing for chocolate.

Then, Lovely Publisher buys book (wheee! OK am obviously not over purely childish excitement at this yet) and Expresses Interest in sequel.

Sequel! At last! Have already written outline, well, two paragraphs. Still, more than had when began first book. No problem. Can revisit beloved characters and put them through even more misery! Can explore dodgy byways and vice-riddled taverns! Can develop new and interesting vices with which to riddle said taverns!

Leap joyously for ancient laptop and hit keys with such vigour that down arrow key leaps into air like spawning salmon and disappears under bed.

Get a page in and frown. Not sure what doing, actually. Look at two paragraphs of outline. Remember all stuff must get in from previous book in order for current book to make any sort of sense.

Go back to scene. Rewrite first paragraph as is pants, and boring.


Repeat another 8 or so times.

Manage to stop rewriting first paragraph long enough to finish first three pages, trying not to infodump all over page, but suspect am failing. Read result.

Argh. Have started sequel not with high drama or low comedy or discovery of mutilated corpse, but with characters sitting around having what is, basically, long and dull committee meeting. And not in even slightly comic or murderous way.

Dear Goddess, have obviously been hopelessly corrupted by day job and will never write gripping word ever again. Publisher will hate me. Will be driven out into street with Manuscript of Shame in arms like fallen woman in Victorian melodrama. Will become victim of second novel syndrome (even though sequel would be fifth actual novel have written, but logic helpless in face of self-flagellation) and laughing stock of entire world. Well, bit of entire world that ever hears of me in the first place, anyway. Characters glaring at me, drawing rude doodles on company notepads, muttering about not even getting any sandwiches and passing notes under table.

Retire hurt to watch Buffy DVDs and remind self how entirely brilliant Joss Wheedon is. Feel even more useless. Fall into bed and pull pillow over head to block out voices of characters still stuck in meeting and now definitely annoyed.

Wake up next morning and open document with trepidation. Characters still there, with arms folded, glaring at walls and refusing to look at me.

Move stuff around, trim dialogue, etc. Scene, however, still boring.

Decide to abandon scene for now, start next one and hope inspiration will fall on head.

Characters leap up with obvious relief, shove each other out of way in haste to leave meeting, go to bar and start fight.

While on train for work staring zombie-like out of window, realise that is no reason on earth or elsewhere why first scene has to be first scene. Can start with fight. Can break all information in meeting up into smaller bits and scatter around other scenes like garnish on plate of sandwiches. Can do anything, doesn’t matter, because…is first draft. Is not set in stone. Is not even set in ink. Will have to be changed several zillion times between now and final draft anyway. Of course, still don’t know what am doing, already have too many new characters and only about 5 paragraphs of actual plot, but hey. Have chance to write sequel! Wheee!

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