The problems with Prequels and short story writing

I have taken a break from novel writing. I wrote a prequel to my YA Dystopian/Sci-fi/Action Adventure series – The Song of Forgetfulness – a few months ago, and to be honest, it was more difficult than writing the first two.

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Why?

Well, because I needed to explain some of the backstory whilst avoiding having my heroine, Adara, know more than she does in the prequel than in the following books. It was quite gruelling. I changed it so many times that I became confused as to what version was the correct one.

Then I did a silly thing.

I uploaded the un-edited version onto Createspace and KDP. It wasn’t until I got the Proof paperback copy that I realised my mistake. Thankfully, I hadn’t started promoting it and only sold a few copies.

Note to self – don’t do this again!

Anyway, as I said, I decided to go back to short story writing and began working on Crow Bones, the title story in my next anthology. To my surprise, it was even more difficult to write than the prequel Whisper Gatherers, which is over 60,000 words. This story is a mere 9,000.

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Sylvia Plath once said that a writer needs to be, ‘An expert packer of suitcases.’ She was right. Choosing the right words to tell a story, especially a short one, is crucial and difficult. I’d been allowing myself the luxury of going with the story and letting it wander this way and that. A bit like I tend to do when writing a novel where I allow myself to be generous with words in the first few drafts.

I admit I was struggling with Crow Bones because I didn’t really know what it was about. I was putting words down and making interesting descriptions, blah, blah, blah, but saying nothing. So I looked at my story and asked myself, ‘What is it about?’ When I answered the question, the words changed. The story changed. The genre changed. It is now Sci-fi. I got rid of unnecessary characters, over complicated plot twists, and concentrated on my theme – guilt and grief – and the new story came alive, as did the dialogue and characterisation. Finally, after months of struggling with it (It took only six weeks to write the novel) I have arrived at a version I am happy with. I think.

Here is the beginning of Crow Bones:

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The window is dirty. Blotches of grey obscure the decaying houses and unmended pathways before me. I’ll not clean it. I prefer not to watch as bit-by-bit my community perishes. I turn my eyes upwards, away from the sad scene outside.

Squinting, I observe the pale yellow sun hanging alone in the cloudless sky. Poor thing, its fire has weakened so. Causing our once lush land to succumb to frost and stone-hard earth. Now we drape thick coats around ourselves, even in summer.

The spots of grime on the pane look like tiny birds halted in mid air, by what? The knowledge that their existence is almost up, like the rest of us. Not yet, though. Stargazers say we have many more years before that fading star expires. So why do I feel as if that time has already come?

Because we are dwindling and can no longer repair our lodgings or roads. We have lost the spark to continue and thrive. The barley blight was tough on our community. My mumum and dadad, and many other of the older generation succumbed to the lung clogging disease. We became weakened by it, dying out like most of the other creatures in this shrivelling planet. Yet we adhere to the one-child rule. That was our shame, our guilt, and our crime, to allow two to germinate inside my womb.

I listen to my babe softly breathing and watch a piece of wall from my parent’s house opposite, crumble and fall, leaving a small hole like a puncture wound.

I hope you enjoyed reading the extract.

If you would like to know more about The Song of Forgetfulness, or my short stories, here are some links:

Book series site: http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.com/

Author Website: http://www.nicolamcdonagh.com/

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