Harvest Moon at Eyre Hall #amwriting #HistoricalFiction #JaneEyre

I have some important news for readers who enjoyed the Eyre Hall Trilogy and for future readers too, of course!

I’m writing a prequel, which takes place at Eyre Hall on and around the early September, 1865, during the Harvest Moon, thus its title, Harvest Moon at Eyre Hall.

Photo by Larisa K on https://pixabay.com/es/

I chose this moment and this title because it takes place roughly two months before Halloween, which is the setting for book one, All Hallows at Eyre Hall. Significant events in all four novels take place on and around the ancient, time-honoured festivals in their titles. I’ve harnessed the power of traditions and rituals in literature and life to shape our world view and bond societies, but more about that in a future post.  

It sounds strange, I know, a prequel to a sequel, so, I think I should briefly explain why I’m so excited about this new project.

It’s not exactly new, because I started jotting down ideas and planning over a year ago. In fact, I’ve done most of the outlining (yes, I’m a plotter, not a pantser and I’ll tell you why in a minute!), and the characters are already there, as they are the same as the first novel in the trilogy, All Hallows at Eyre Hall.  

Now let me tell you about my reasons for writing a prequel, because there is more than one.

In the first place, book one, which is over 112,000 words long, is too long for a first novel in a series, compared to other trilogies. Most editors suggest novels should be are between 70,000 and 100,000 words, in fact, the shorter the better, and as a reader, I tend to agree. My second and third novels in the trilogy, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall and Midsummer at Eyre Hall are both well within that number at around 80,000 words each.

Secondly, I’ve learnt so many things along the way, that it seems a pity not to prepare a second, revised edition of my first novel, which will be a little shorter, but worry not! None of the plot, action or characters will be missing, because I’ll be including the removed scenes in the prequel.

However there will be some words I’ll be doing away with, because I’ll be tightening the prose, something I’ve learned to do in the last seven years since I started my career as a writer. Unfortunately, I used to ramble, a bit, and although the tendency is still there, I have since made a conscious effort to curb that inclination and edit very carefully.

To be honest, when I wrote All Hallows at Eyre Hall, I didn’t know what I was doing as an author. I thought because I’d read and analysed thousands of books for my profession (I was an English language and literature teacher for over 30 years) and for pleasure (I’ve been an avid reader since the age of twelve!) that I knew how to write a novel. So, I did what Stephen King, and many other experts on the matter recommend, I sat down and wrote with an idea to write a sequel to Jane Eyre (and here’s why), but no specific plan.

Pantsing was a wonderful experience, my characters grew a life of their own and I set off on a creative and thrilling  journey into Victorian England. I researched and wrote so much that I realised one novel wouldn’t be enough, and on the other hand, I was also getting into a rut. I discovered, the hard way, that not knowing where you’re going is exciting, at first, but when you have the constraints of time and space you really have to put an end to the wandering and start planning the journey or you’ll never get home on time!

That was when I stopped pantsing and started planning ahead. I read blogs and books on structure, plotting and story arcs, I took an online course, analysed some novels with this in mind, and then I sat down to plan my own way of outlining. I wrote this post about my plotting process some time ago, but I need to write another post on the subject, because although that’s what I did a few years ago, and it is similar to my present process, since then, I’ve adapted, decluttered and simplified my plotting method (more about that in another post).

So, I’m making All Hallows a little shorter and a little better. You’re probably wondering what the prequel’s all about. Will it just have the missing bits in book one? Not at all, it’s a complete novel which I’m really excited about writing.

In All Hallows, Mr. Rochester is on his death bed, more or less delirious, bad-tempered and very unattractive. I was very hard on him and I still stand by that interpretation of his character, based on his actions, omissions and lies in Jane Eyre, but some of my readers had difficulty coming to terms with this ‘unromantic’ and villainous Rochester.

I had presumed any reader who had read Wide Sargasso Sea (see this post about this prequel to Jane Eyre by Jean Rhys), and reread Jane Eyre, would have read between the lines and realised Rochester was totally unworthy of Jane, but it took me years to come to that conclusion and my readers only have the few hours it takes to read my novel. So, I’m making amends with a prequel.

In Harvest Moon at Eyre Hall, Rochester is not yet on his deathbed, and I’ll try harder, (I have another three hundred pages, so I think I’ll manage it!) to convey what’s been happening in Jane and Rochester’s lives and how their marriage has eroded over the previous twenty-two years.

There’s a long process ahead which I’ll be sharing with occasional updates, and hopefully Harvest Moon at Eyre Hall and a revised edition of All Hallows, as well as a box set of the four novels in The Eyre Hall Trilogy, will be published before the next year’s Harvest Moon.

Over the next few months as we’ll all be coping with the Covid epidemic, we’ll be staying at home and more than ever, and although I wish the worry and suffering it is causing all of us were over, I will be making use of the quiet time ahead by reading, reflecting and writing.

By the way, just in case you were wondering, The Eyre Hall Trilogy is not the sad story of a failed marriage, it has plenty of action, romance, suspense, engaging characters and twists and turns. There are some dark aspects and a few nasty villains, but overall it’s an exciting story set in Victorian England.

Stay safe and happy Friday!

(I have some more publishing news, but I’ll leave that for another post).

#IWSG Plotting & Pantsing #amwriting

This post is written in response to the insecure writers support group’s monthly prompt.

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January 4 Question: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

I’ve been thinking hard about this question all day, and I can’t think of an answer. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a writing rule which has influenced me so strongly and negatively that I wish I’d never heard it.

I’m not aware of following rules when I write. I do listen to other author’s advice and opinions, and I’ve read many books on writing, but I’m aware I have to adapt this information to my own way of writing, my story and my characters. I’ve always trusted myself to write on my own gut feeling. I write because I have great fun recreating imaginary worlds, characters and stories. I’m mainly concerned with pleasing myself, although I also worry about not boring or annoying potential readers. What’s the point of that?

The single most useless piece of advice was probably don’t plot, just write and go with the flow. I’m not sure exactly who said it first, but I’ve heard it a lot. It might work for some people, although I doubt it, but if I did that I’d end up with a disjointed mess, not a publishable novel. Writing, plotting, planning, editing, re-writing, re-editing, re-plotting are a constant cycle in my writing process.

Some people attribute this idea of not plotting to Stephen King, but he never actually said he didn’t plot, he said he didn’t use ‘written outlines’. He said he starts writing and lets the ‘patterns’ develop later.

“I start a book knowing just two things: the basic situation and that the story will create its own patterns naturally and organically if I follow it fairly…and by fairly I mean never forcing characters to do things they wouldn’t do in real life…For me, the first draft is all about story. I trust that some other part of me—an undermind—will create certain patterns.”

On the other hand, other authors, such as J. K. Rowling or Ken Follett , don’t start writing their novels until they’ve worked out a detailed plot outline.

It seems that both approaches work, as they’re used by successful authors who write excellent novels.

This is how I’ve done it in my first five novels (three published and two in process).

My first phase approaches King’s advice (pantsing).

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1- I start with some characters, usually one or two at first, and an idea or situation, which I explore.

In order to explore, I start writing my story, not knowing where it will go yet.

I don’t start serious planning until the idea itself has developed into a complete story with more characters, scenes, places, etc and I’ve convinced myself I’m interested in pursuing the idea and telling the whole story.

This is a crazily creative period which usually takes about one month to write 20,000-30,000 words.

2- At this point, I start outlining my plot. I divide it into the basic three-part dramatic arc; exposition, climax and denouement, which are subdivided into about 30 chapters and 40-50 scenes.

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Perhaps Follett’s approach relies too heavily on outline, but I can see that it helps, especially if your novel is a complex web of characters and events spanning various decades.

More about my writing process here.

Although plotting versus pantsing is an interesting debate, I wouldn’t say it’s very helpful for authors, except that it helps us reflect upon our writing process. We each have to find out what works best for us and our type of novel.

However, if you’re very intersted in this debate, this article is enlightening and Ken Follett’s Mastercalss on his blog is priceless advice on outlining.

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Happy New Year to all fellow Insecure Writers!