What I’ve learned over the years is that all that’s the same about the creation of each novel is that no matter what I do and how I begin they never go the same. That’s the reason why I chuckle when I’m asked about my process. There’s my approach, and then there’s how it actually goes.
There are, quite simply, too many variables for it to ever go the same.
For one, my approach, my process, is always evolving. I think that’s true of everyone. We’re always looking for a better way. Better means different things for different people, of course. These days a lot of what I do is narrative outlines. It’s how my brain works.
The most static part of what I do is what most people associate with writing a fantasy novel: world building, character sketches, maps, and all that. Given this is what’s easiest to explain, it’s generally what I point to as my process.
I’ve also discovered from drafting multiple novels that each novel has unique challenges and the circumstances surrounding it are always different. The strange part is that when I’m asked about writing a novel this is what I first think about, maybe because it’s the most personal, each novel like memories of a child…
Trust in the Forgotten. Riparia’s 1st novel. It was built upon the ruins of countless attempts to write that first good Ontyre novel. Thus, though it wasn’t the first, it was the first to be good. This one had a long evolution and will always have a special place in my heart.
Torment Surfacing. The first non-Riparia novel about Kasaria. It was loosely based on a discarded idea from a decade earlier. For that reason I wasn’t expecting much, and then was stunned when it unfolded with more ease than any other novel I’ve written.
A River in Each Hand. Riparia’s 2nd novel. There were no old ideas used, so it was exciting for that reason. Unfortunately, excitement became horror when I became sick early in the drafting process. Too little oxygen does strange things to your writing. I rewrote it a year later and it blossomed into a tale far richer than I’d envisioned.
Exhuming Truths. A Riparia prequel. Talk about evolution! Originally it was a collection of dull journal entries Riparia would read in A River in Each Hand. Then it became an extensive backstory reference. In the end, it became a novel.
Following the Essence Stone. Amatha’s story. When I drafted it last year I swore it’d be the last attempt to tell the tale because each attempt was a bigger disaster than the one before. It finally worked. It’s another Carrdia novel outside Riparia’s main thread.
So Others Might Remember. Riparia’s 3rd novel (if you don’t count Exhuming Truths, which she’s in only briefly). It required the most planning because each book in the series builds on the one before. It was the most complicated to write. I still haven’t read through it since drafting it last November. Soon, very soon.
Stealing Light. Vistanna’s first novel in Pannulus (in progress). The first attempt was in one POV, the second attempt in another POV. In the end I combined them, which was something I’d never done. Now I’m writing an end to suit the combined story.
Circumstances change, approaches evolve, and each book presents different challenges so the experience is never the same twice. I wouldn’t want it any other way. The most valuable takeaway from all this is that no matter the trials there’s always a way to work through them. For me, this many novels has proven that to be true.