• I’m back!!!

    14 November 2020

    It's finished.

     

    It's finally finished.

     

    I have shuffled, slowly and sluggishly, out of the creative wilderness, and the first draft of Archibald Lox: Volume Three is finally, finally finished.

     

    *deep breath*

     

    *and breathe again*

     

    I've always been a fast, efficient writer. Over the years, I've come to pride myself on it, always pushing myself along at a brisk pace, keeping the books coming, far more prolific than the vast majority of writers, with (or so I hope anyway!) quality to match the quantity. I've often said that I don't believe in Writer's Block, and I still don't. But reader, dear reader, there's certainly Writer's... PAUSE.

     

    I'd deliberately slowed up a bit after I completed my Zom-B series. I'd been writing and touring madly for a very long time, and felt like I needed a bit of a break. I didn't down tools completely, by any means -- just took things a bit easier. I finished my first draft of Volume One of Archibald Lox in 2014, then Mrs Shan and I had our first child, and it was nice (maddening, but nice!) to spend lots of time with my wife and son, and not have to worry about writing deadlines.

     

    I began chipping away again several months later, wrote the first draft of Volume Two of Archibald Lox over a nine month period from late 2015 to mid 2016. It was a BIG book, a real whopper, but I would have finished it much quicker if I'd been writing it a few years earlier. But that was fine. Even though I was taking my time, I was still making good progress, and all was well with my world.

     

    There was another long break after I finished the first draft of Volume Two, before I sat down to start Volume Three in March 2017. I ticked along nicely, writing about 100 A4 pages over the space of the following month. But then, on April 26th, 2017, I put the book aside "for a while"...

     

    ... and didn't return to work on it for more than three years, in June 2020.

     

    There were a number of reasons for the unseemly PAUSE. One contributing factor was that I didn't have the book mapped out to my complete satisfaction. I wasn't sure how many Volumes there were going to be at that point, and I was holding some key ideas back, planning to use them in a later book if I continued with the story past the third volume. That meant it was a bit light, plot-wise. It didn't feel dynamic, and I wasn't sure how beef it up and inject urgency, and fashion it into a match for Volume One and Volume Two. (Especially Volume Two. I'm REALLY pleased with how that one turned out.)

     

    Family life was another factor. When you have young children, and work from home, it can be tricky to focus. And although my son was growing and had started pre-school, we then had our second child, our daughter, and that derailed me a bit too. (Though, again, it's a derailment I've been very happy to have endured. I purposely prioritised family over writing. The writing probably didn't have to suffer quite as much as it did, but I've no regrets about spending more time with my kids than many father get to spend with theirs.)

     

    The third factor was the biggest fly in the ointment. When I wrote Volume One, I was so excited. I thought it was some of my best work, I loved the universe of the Merge that I'd created, I was looking forward to exploring it in more depth in future books and sharing them all with the world. I thought it was going to be another hit and that life on the publishing front would roll along merrily as it had for the last decade and a half or more. But then, after a few judicious edits, I sent it to my agents...

     

    ...and they didn't like it.

     

    I worked on it over and over, rewriting and editing like mad, but they still didn't like it. And when they finally sent it out to a few publishers, the publishers didn't like it either. And it began to dawn on me that as far as the industry was concerned, this was an unloveable beast, and I was going to have to self-publish it if I wanted to get it out into the world.

     

    Now, I've self-published several books for adults (as Darren Dash), and I've no problem with self-publishing. But I really never thought I'd have to self-publish a Darren Shan middle grade/YA book. It threw me. My confidence took a deep knock, and this joy of a huge project became a waking nightmare. If it had been a one-off book, I might have left it and moved on to something new, but I was in too deep to back out. Even though my agents and editors didn't love Archie, I did, and I felt compelled to follow him to the end of his path, to see where it would lead him.

     

    So I buckled up and pushed ahead with it as a self-published series, but it wasn't easy, and the last few years have been a dark, hard time for me. But this year, despite all the other bad stuff going on in the world, creatively I began to emerge from my fugg. When I released the first three Archibald Lox books back in the spring, an immense weight lifted from my shoulders. And when readers responded to the books with warmth and kindness and excitement and intrigue and joy... well, that gave me a lift the like of which I sorely needed. I hadn't lost my marbles. The books weren't the duds that the professionals had proclaimed. They might not make any significant bestseller charts -- I'm not very good at the whole promotional side of things, so it's hard to make people aware that these books exist, even though they've picked up some fab reviews from critics and readers -- but there was love out there for them, and that brought me back to my keyboard to pick up where I'd left off with Volume Three. I quickly figured out what I needed to change and add to make it work, and dived -- well, waded -- right in. I went slowly, and at times it was a real struggle, but on Friday 13th November, I typed the full stop at the end of the last line, and the first draft is finally in the bag.

     

    I still have a lot of editing to do on Volumes Two and Three, but that will flow smoothly enough, I think. And I've even had ideas for a few new books, the first time in a long while that ideas have been flowing through me and demanding to be fleshed out.

     

    People, you might not have been aware that I was out of the game -- even during the midst of my creative downtime, I released a few books for adults, so I've been keeping my hand in -- but trust me, I was, big time. But now? Now, my faithful, patient readers?

     

    I'm back!!!!

     

    :-)

     

    (Sorry for the length of this post, but as you can see -- it's been a long time coming!)

     

    And for anyone not yet familiar with my Archibald Lox series, you cn find out more about Volume One here: https://www.darrenshan.com/news/shanville-monthly

     

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  • Comments

    No AvatarJosh
    14, Nov, 2020
    During my YA years I read a lot of Darren's work, and it meant a great deal to me. Now I'm older with a job and family I don't get too much time to read and when I do its very rarely fictional. But seeing how much these books mean to Darren, the amount of effort he's put in, plus going of his own back and self publishing. Will I be buying the books? Yes 100%. Will I ever get round to reading them? Maybe not. I will continue to support Darren in anyway I can as a thank you for making those hard school years a little more bearable. I hope this series works out the way he'd like it to.
    No AvatarGage K Morse
    18, Nov, 2020
    book 3 HYPE :)

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