7/06/2012 by Patricia Kennon · No Comments
When my first book, Hush, Hush, sold to Simon & Schuster in 2008, I thought it was a stand-alone novel. That Patch and Nora's story would become a four-book series read across the globe never occurred to me. When my editor asked for a sequel, I agreed, not knowing that Crescendo would be the hardest book I've written to date. I hope I haven't had many diva-moments during my career, but I definitely had one while writing Crescendo. I remember calling my agent and lamenting, “I am never writing another book, ever. I'm not good at this. It's too hard.” I thought Crescendo, which I had to start from scratch after turning in the first draft to my editor (an unforeseen development I viewed as failure) had killed my joy in the writing process.
It turns out that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger isn't just a catchy tune on the radio. I learned a lot from rewriting Crescendo. I hope to never repeat the experience but I am grateful for what it taught me. It opened my eyes to the range of possibility in my stories and taught me to be willing to take my story in a vastly new direction. I learned that I'm capable of more than I thought I was. But perhaps the most important lesson I learned was that I'm an outliner.
I used to be a pantser—a writer who writes by the seat of their pants. I thought that's how organic stories are created—by a writer letting their creativity flow from them unbridled. I am now a firm believer in creating a developed framework for my stories before I begin writing. I think of my outline as a safety net. When I know where my characters are coming from, what problem they need to overcome, and how they are going to triumph, it gives me the freedom to take risks and challenge myself as a writer.
A few weeks before Crescendo went to print, despite feeling my career was over, I got the writer's itch. That quiet voice in the back of my head challenging me to take the lessons I'd learned and put them to the test. As much as I tried to shut out that voice—housework is my favorite distraction—I secretly wanted to succeed. I wanted to recapture the joy in writing. I just wasn't sure how. Before I could chicken out, I sent a revised ending for Crescendo to my editor, one that opened the door to a third book in the series. Enter Silence.
Filled with confidence and the writerly tools I'd gained from extensively revising Crescendo, writing Silence brought back the joy I felt in storytelling. I relished the time I spent with Patch, Nora, Vee and Scott. I found myself bursting into laughter at Patch's one-liners. Somewhere in the middle of writing Silence, something clicked in my brain, and I realized I'd learned how to craft a story. And not only that, but I loved doing it. I wanted to do it again and again.
Finale, the fourth and final book in the series, will be released this October. As I look back on Patch and Nora's story, I think it mirrors my own journey as a writer. Just as they were tested and refined, so was I. They acquired new tools and skills. I did too. Nora's self-revelation at the end of Finale feels very close to home.
I've said that if I ever write another series, I will know how many books are involved, and I will have each of them mapped out from the get-go. I think that's a wise plan. But I don't regret the meandering, step-by-step path I've taken with the Hush, Hush series. Along the way, I've pocketed invaluable bits and pieces of the craft of storytelling.
Becca Fitzpatrick is the author of the internationally bestselling Hush, Hush saga. Silence, the latest installment in this series, is released in the UK and Ireland this week.