Wrestling with the Octopus by guest author Susanna Beard
When my debut novel, Dare to Remember, a psychological thriller, was published in February 2017, my second book, called The Truth Waits, was well under way.
I’d started writing it in that nerve-racking period when I was waiting for responses about my first novel from agents, then from publishers, so, as all that takes quite a long time, I was some way down the line with book two when the excitement of actually having a book published (number one) kicked in and I was thoroughly distracted from my writing.
It’s often said in the publishing industry that the second book is hard to write, but after my efforts to finish the first and the inevitable ups and downs involved in getting it published, my reaction was: “how hard could it be?” Surely the biggest hurdle was behind me now, and the writing would flow. Now, having completed a highly regarded novel-writing course and learned my craft, I would have no problem churning them out.
How wrong I was.
I loved my storyline. I was delighted with the setting and had developed the characters I wanted. The Truth Waits was going to be a thriller, starting with the body of a young girl, Margryta, washed up on a remote beach in Lithuania. It would follow the journey of Anna, who finds the body and is forced to face her own secrets while uncovering those of the girl.
But I fell over the plot.
My first novel had unfolded as I wrote it. I knew the bones of it, but didn’t know the ending, which revealed itself some time after the halfway point. I assumed the same would happen with the second story. But when I got to the half-way point, I had no idea where the plot was going and how the story would end. Then I made the mistake of changing the beginning, before I’d got to the end – which meant I had to edit the entire first half, more than once, before I was happy with it. When I got back to writing the second half, I seemed even further from reaching the end. Perhaps I was procrastinating, or perhaps I thought the denouement would become clear if I immersed myself in the first half of the story. When it didn’t I began to worry. Then the worry turned into panic.
I agonised over the options. Should my main character, Anna, a British businesswoman with interests in Lithuania, go all out to find the killer? This wasn’t ever going to be a police procedural – not my thing, and particularly not one set in Lithuania! Rather, I wanted the focus to be Anna’s growing self-awareness, caused by this external tragedy. How could she get involved with finding a killer, learn about herself along the way, and not get involved with the police? Should her partner, Will, who she met soon after she found the body, be somehow bound up with the death of the young girl? There were many options, but none of them wanted to reveal themselves in a flash of inspiration.
It was like wrestling with an octopus: the minute I managed to detach one sticky tentacle from my arm, another would come and clamp itself around my neck and I’d have to untangle myself all over again.
When I submitted the first manuscript to my editor, she liked it but felt it needed more work. I agreed. I took another hard look at it. I rewrote one of the characters and the majority of the second half, so that the outcome was completely different. I was pleased with the result.
But my editor wasn’t. She complimented my hard work but didn’t like the dramatic character change, or the new ending. My heart sank. But I’m nothing if not determined. I took a deep breath, decided I wasn’t going to waste all the hard work and noted her comments, dealing with them one at a time. I also gave myself a tight deadline to get it done, which spurred me on. By now I was beginning to hate this book, but with my jaw locked and my shoulders aching from the effort, I reworked the ending. At last I was satisfied with it.
Finally, almost three years after I’d started it, The Truth Waits was finished. To my enormous relief, my editor liked it, and there were only a few line edits to complete. I was overjoyed and I’m delighted that it will be published this November, in paperback and ebook form. Having had a break from it now (while writing my third novel) I’m falling back in love with it – especially now it has a stunning cover, evoking that wonderful beach in Lithuania, which I visited back in April 2016.
I learned a lot from this experience – like my main character, Anna, I needed to go through a difficult process to find out about myself. I thought I was a ‘pantser’ – writing a story by the seat of my pants, without knowing where it’s going – but I’m not. I’m definitely a planner now, and my third novel, carefully planned, is almost ready to go to my agent after only a year. I loved writing it and I loved the process. In the end, I learned my own truth from The Truth Waits.
I hope you are intrigued enough to want to read it now. It’s available to pre-order at https://amzn.to/2nz1R19
About The Truth Waits
Anna has everything worked out – a successful company, all the comforts she needs and no ties. But when she stumbles across the body of a young girl on a deserted beach in Lithuania, everything changes.
Anna is compelled to uncover the story behind the tragedy, despite concern from her partner, Will. Everything points towards sex trafficking, but as she searches, her own deepest secrets start to surface.
When Will disappears without a trace, Anna is pulled further into the murky world of organised crime. Time is running out for them all, and there’s a killer out there who will stop at nothing.
About Susanna Beard
Susanna is fascinated by human relationships. She can be found people-watching wherever she goes, finding material for her writing. Despite the writer’s life, she has an adventurous streak and has swum with whale sharks in Australia, fallen down a crevasse in the French Alps and walked through the sewers of Brighton – not in that order.
Her passions include animals — particularly her dogs — walking in the countryside and tennis, which clears her brain of pretty much everything.
Susanna’s debut novel, Dare to Remember, was published in February 2017.
She aims to keep writing, and never to get old.
Visit Susanna at www.susannabeard.com, email her on firstname.lastname@example.org, like her page on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @SusannaBeard25 and you can buy her book on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2MEwnVy