This is something I’ve had a lot lately. Slowly but surely word is getting out that my debut novel, Obsession, has been put on hold in favour of a prequel novella called The Bluebell Informant. And, as with all things in this life, people have been asking me what exactly is the benefit of me working so hard on a novella when I have already completed several drafts of Obsession.
Well today I’m going to address these questions and explain why writing a prequel novella was the best thing I could possibly do for my novel.
As we all know, a novel without a decent grounding in character backstory is rapidly going to crash and burn. When I’m reviewing other people’s books, you can always tell the writers who haven’t fully thought through a character’s backstory; their actions don’t make sense, the backstory changes mid-way through the novel – schoolboy errors basically.
Now, whilst I knew precisely what world I wanted to set Obsession in and I knew where roughly what had happened to my main character in the past to make her the way she is, I wouldn’t have been able to sit down and draw a timeline of the key events. Everything in her backstory was a vague slurry of ideas in my head but it hadn’t fully formed into a cohesive storyline.
The Bluebell Informant is really the beginning of the story that is picked up half way through by Obsession. By writing the prequel novella I was able to properly formulate my character’s backstory into something that I can now recite as though it were a chapter of my own life.
Explains the Novel
The other tremendous advantage of writing a prequel novella is that it properly irons out the wrinkles for the later book. When I was writing Obsession, I had some key points that I knew had to be covered, but the journey between these points sometimes veered towards the unsteady and implausible ground of uncertainty.
As a reader, I expect a prequel to explain something that happens in the original novel. That’s not to say that the novel itself shouldn’t be able to stand it’s ground without the prequel to back it up, but having a prequel gives an audience a deeper insight that they may well have suspected was true but never knew for sure.
As a writer, the prequel does exactly the same job for me. As such, I have written The Bluebell Informant in such a way that it explains something I knew was true when writing Obsession but I didn’t explicitly add to the novel. As such, I now have a deeper understanding of the events that happen in Obsession, so much in fact that I now know exactly how to get my characters between those vital points in a way that will be thrilling for my readers.
Practice, Practice, Practice
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a thousand times; editing is key to the success of a book. To give you the low down, I was on the third draft of Obsession when I decided to postpone in favour of The Bluebell Informant. At that point, I had spent approximately 40 hours editing it to that point and the vast majority of those edits were changes to the storyline that, by my own admission, I still hadn’t perfected by the time of writing the prequel novella.
In comparison, I am half way through the second draft of The Bluebell Informant and I have already spent an equivalent amount of time editing so far.
‘Why spend so much time editing the novella?’ I hear you ask.
Well, the answer to that question is actually irrelevant in many respects. When editing it is not the quantity of time you spend editing that is important but the quality of the work you do. In the instance of the prequel novella, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to happen in the story and, as the length is far shorter than in a novel, I ended up with a first draft that covered precisely the events that I felt needed to appear. No more, no less.
I didn’t need to waste time honing the story to make it work as I did with the novel, a process that I now know was solved quite quickly by writing a prequel novella, but instead could move on to the important stuff. Sentence structure, personalisation of individual characters, making the thing readable.
This is the sort of stuff that a lot of indie authors fall down on. More often than not, we’re so elated that we actually finished the book that we rush to get it out there and, as a result, send out shoddy work. We are so keen to get it out there and loved by our public that we spend very little time doing this delicate work. The problem is, of course, that the delicate work is by far the most important phase of story writing.
Because I’ve been able to move straight on to this delicate work, I’ve probably had more practice of it in the last month than I have had in the last year as a writer. And practice, as we all know, makes perfect.
So, In Closing, writing a prequel novella may seem like a pointless waste of time but for me it has made the task of redrafting my novel so much easier. I’m planning on releasing The Bluebell Informant sometime in the near future but, in many ways, its value is far greater than any commercial gain or increase readership that may result from it.
The prequel novella has given me more focus than I could have asked for. It’s solved many of the problems I have with the novel itself, expanded my character’s backstory and given me valuable experience that I can use to edit my later work.
Not to mention, I had a great time writing it.
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before the end of the month to see a sneak peek of The Bluebell Informant as well as more reviews, news and stories from me.