Last summer a friend of mine told me, “If you sell The Swan Harp you’ll have to write two more books. Young-adult books sell in threes.”
My immediate reaction was panic. Two more stories in this world? I didn’t think I had two more stories to tell in this world! Yikes!
I planned The Swan Harp as a free-standing story. I had no interest in writing any more than one book in this world, and no idea that there might be more than one story to write. Ravi’s remark, though, got me thinking about the possibility, and simply thinking about it seemed to open things up.
There was a beautiful section I had to cut out of the first draft, ten thousand words, that was too good to throw away. Not that you can make another book just to use a chunk of story (although I suppose you can), and not that this particular chunk will appear whole, but there was a lot of culture, background, scenery, suspense, world-building and mystery in that piece that I could use even if I didn’t use that particular incident.
While I let the Muse play around with it for a bit, I found something else I’d written, almost a throw-away line, in The Swan Harp that tied in with that discarded episode and sparked some new ideas. Before I knew it, I was thinking about a story that fit naturally into the world. I began to feel excited about it. A few days later, another story drifted by and a whole arc fell into place, one-two-three, with each story following from the one before. I still hope that each of them will be self-contained, readable on its own, but more satisfying as a group.
The big advantage to new stories to follow The Swan Harp is that I already have that world. When I looked at my manuscript again, I found half a dozen places where other stories could grow out of this first one, if I watered and pruned and fertilised a bit. That was exciting because I’d had no idea I was making those spaces – yet there they were.
I’ve written a bit of folklore as a lead-in, and I may also write a couple of scenes that won’t appear in the book just so I have a very, very clear idea of what hidden things I’ll (eventually) be revealing. It was a treat to write that – it seems like a long time since I’ve written any folklore or myth.
I’m well-launched, now, with over a thousand words written and a very good idea of where this is going. I don’t know if I’d have even thought of a second or third story without Ravi’s prompt. I’ll keep you posted.