Lightning in a bottle: trilogy draft complete

We’ve done it!

Oh gosh, we’ve done it.

That pretty much sums up how I feel. Paula Harmon is currently writing the last chapter of book 3 of our co-written Victorian mystery trilogy (edit: she’s done it now), and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

We knew it was coming, of course. Ever since we started writing book 3, at the beginning of the month, we’ve had chats on Messenger about how we’ll finish the book, how we’ll wind up this phase, how much of a gap we’ll leave before the next books (yes, there will be more books).

But I still feel sad.

That probably sounds really daft. After all, finishing a book, or a set of books, is a good thing, isn’t it? And we’ll have plenty more to do together; not just co-writing more books, but editing and polishing books 1-3.

It’s been such an experience. From the first, tentative exchanges of plot and idea, to setting up folders on Google Docs, to both of us getting completely sucked into the story. Words, words everywhere. Waiting for the next chapter, squeezing writing time into every nook and cranny, bouncing ideas backwards and forwards, knowing we only have so many chapters, so many words left.

I didn’t know the phrase ‘lightning in the bottle’ before I read an interview with Gillian Flynn about the huge success of Gone Girl. I’m using it differently here, since I have no idea how the trilogy will do in sales terms. I mean it in the sense of a challenging feat. World Wide Words speaks of ‘trapping the essence of some elusive creative process’, and yes, that’s it.

We’ve been so lucky, Paula and I, to get to do this together. We originally planned this to run quietly alongside other projects, to know its place. But it soon became clear that our characters and our story weren’t going to play ball. They barged into meetings, they interrupted conversations, with what they were going to do next. They just wouldn’t shut up. And when something like that happens, you have to grab it with both hands and hitch a ride.

The stats: Book 3 (The Case of the Deceased Clerk)

  • 18 days to draft.
  • 25 chapters, with a final length of 54,602 words
  • Paula wrote 13 chapters, I wrote 12 (alternating).
  • Biscuit consumption: moderate (at least on my side, I can’t speak for Paula although I’m sure she’s been good)

Trilogy stats overall:

  • 2 months to draft from start to finish. We had our setting-up call on 19 January and today is 18 March
  • 158,944 words in total: 54,243 for book 1, 50,099 for book 2, 54,602 for book 3
  • 77 chapters in all
  • A crowd of characters; our protagonists, their families, their friends and acquaintances, the people and communities they meet in the course of solving cases. I haven’t counted up, but we’ve made an awful lot of people, some of whom reappear in further mysteries. We need to get our series bible sorted, definitely.

And as our carriages drive off into the sunset, that’s it for now. There will be further updates as we try and wrangle everyone into submission in the edit, but for now, I suppose we just have to wave our handkerchiefs and wish them well.

The featured image is lightning by Diamond T Design and it is in the public domain.





3 thoughts on “Lightning in a bottle: trilogy draft complete

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