Here we are, a week into November and, for the first time in nearly two years, a week since I have visited Ambeth. I’ve been writing my YA series about my fantasy world pretty much non-stop since last January, so it feels very strange not to be there. Oh sure, I’ve written other things in that time, work for clients, several short stories, ideas for other novels, plans and characters yet to come to me, just short pages of notes to be fleshed out at some future point, but Ambeth has always been the focus. I have four books in the series completed, the fifth one two thirds of the way done, the final and sixth one about half way. (I say final, though I have a feeling a book of short stories about the place is lurking in the recesses of my brain) I’ve edited and re-edited, passed them out to beta readers, wandered through woods and along country paths and suburban streets working out plot intricacies. I’ve even written the very last sentence of the last book – oh yes, I know exactly how the story ends, and the remaining pieces, the path that will get me there is becoming more and more clear.
And it’s not to say that nothing is happening with the books this month. Oak and Mist has just gone to the editor, while books 3 and 4 are out with beta readers, plus cover designs will be underway at some point as well. But I’ve not stepped through the Gate myself, not spoken with the characters or re-read familiar passages, wanting to get the words just right. And why, you may ask, is that so? One word. NaNoWriMo.
This month I’ve had to focus on a new book. It is November, National Novel Writing Month and I, along with millions of other writers around the world, am taking the challenge to write 50,000 words in one month. I must say I wasn’t sure, when I signed up, that I would be able to do it. 50,000 words seemed like an awful lot to complete in thirty days. I wondered whether they had to actually be in any sort of order, whether just typing out 50,000 unconnected words would count, you know, if I came down with a massive case of writer’s block and was unable to think of anything. I had visions of my family peering wide-eyed around the study door at me as I hacked away, wild haired and red eyed, desperate to finish. But so far, touch wood, it’s been pretty smooth sailing. I’m about 20,000 words into my novel, working up an idea I’ve had for a little while, and I’m really enjoying the story. It’s in first person POV which is new to me – in Ambeth all the characters get a turn to speak, their stories weaving together. I’ve written passages that have made me laugh and made me teary, each section I write leading into another idea. And so far, I’m still managing to keep up with family and work commitments, only Ambeth having to be sidelined for now.
The characters are still there, waiting for me to pick up the threads of their lives once more, half glimpsed figures in the glowing woods, silver fish words in dark leafy ponds, knowing I’ll be back soon. But the interesting thing about doing this is that it’s made me realise that I will have to leave Ambeth again in the future, as other books, other ideas come to me, other characters wanting to tell their tales. But I think, like all significant firsts, Ambeth will always be part of me, no matter what else may come along later.
There may be a day this month where I can’t resist, where I have a spare few minutes and I will go and visit. Or there may not be, depending on how things work out. So I write, and I think, and I see stories waiting in the woods. And once NaNo is over, I know I can go back there once more.