It is a feature of the peculiarly UK conception of the separation of powers that Parliament, the executive and the courts each have their distinct and largely exclusive domain. Parliament has a legally unchallengeable right to make whatever laws it thinks right. The executive carries on the administration of the country in accordance with the powers conferred on it by law. The courts interpret the laws and see that they are obeyed. – Thanks, Lord Mustill.
I’m equal parts nervous and excited today, because tomorrow brings the start of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. For those not familiar with this annual tradition, the idea is quite simple – authors commit to starting a new book in November and writing 50 000 words before the month is up. http://nanowrimo.org/
I’ve done this once before, in November 2012, when I wrote the first 50 000 words of Ivory Terrors. It took me much longer to actually finish off that book (which ended up about 150 000 words long), but I’m not sure I’d have managed it at all without that initial boost.
It’s quite a stressful commitment to make on top of a full time job, but it’s a great way to get a novel off the ground, and it gives you an amazing sense of just what you can achieve when you put your mind to it and prioritise writing above all else. If you divide it up equally, you need to write 1,666 words each day of the month – though I found I tended to do a bit of mid-week writing, but mostly make my word count up by marathon weekend sessions. At times, the relentless pace and the need to write on those days when my heart wasn’t quite in it means that not everything I wrote that month survived the later cull – and most of what did make the final cut required heavy editing. But a first draft is never going to be a perfect draft, even if you spend years agonising over it, and I’m a strong believer in the principle that it’s always better to have written something. It’s easier to edit a slightly ropey scene than to stare at a blank screen.
This time around though, I suspect things may get a little more challenging than in November 2012. At that point, I’d already written the first two books in the Cavaliers Series, I had a very good idea of where I wanted the plot to go, and I knew my characters and my world inside out.
Now, I’m starting something completely new. In some respects, I think that makes it even more important to get some serious writing done in a short period of time, so that I can immerse myself in the story and start to understand it. With the exception of a few tiny pieces, I’ve written nothing but The Cavaliers since April 2010. The thought of writing something totally different is both exhilarating and terrifying. I’ve mapped out a plot and written myself little bios of all the main characters, but in my experience, until you actually start writing, you don’t really know how things are going to turn out – I’m a big supporter of the old saying that you know a book is going well when the characters start behaving in ways you didn’t expect.
The new book is called The Separation of Powers. I’ve been thinking about this one for a while, and I’ve hinted at it in a few blog posts recently. It’s going to be different from the Cavaliers in a few ways – it’s basically full-blown fantasy rather than paranormal or urban fantasy, it’s in the first person, and while I hedged my bets slightly with whether the Cavaliers was YA, NA or adult, this is definitely adult – which doesn’t mean full of sex and violence (thought there’ll inevitably be a bit of both) but is more to do with the age of the characters and the themes and outlook and writing style. I feel like I learnt so much about writing from the Cavaliers Series – from pure experience, from reviews, from beta readers – and I hope I can take a lot of that with me, and that all the changes (especially the change to first person) won’t mean I have to go back to the beginning of the learning curve.
There’ll inevitably be more about both my experiences of NaNoWriMo over the next few weeks and about the Separation of Powers over the next few months, though forgive me if I’m not blogging very regularly over November – the book writing will always have to take precedence. Wish me luck – and if you’ve got a new book idea floating around your mind, I’d strongly recommend giving it a go yourself.
In the meantime, here’s my first attempt at a Separation of Powers blurb:
Most twenty-something Advisers have only two interests in life – progressing through the ranks of York Tower and finding someone eligible to settle down with. I’ve only got two aims too: bloody revenge and absolute power. I don’t expect you to like me, but perhaps you’ll begin to understand me. Just don’t expect a Romeo and Juliet story. This is really more of a Romeo and Tybalt affair.
A Ruler will say he wants to declare war on a rival county or have a rebellious peasant executed. But it’s an Advisor who will draw up the maps, come up with a plan, and ensure the death warrants are signed in triplicate. Once upon a time, the Advisers wanted more. They dreamed of a world where they would use their intelligence to do what was objectively best for the country. They declared war to get it, and for decades, the Rulers, Adjudicators and Advisers fought and the Commoners suffered. Finally, the Fae Queen forced an uneasy truce, which has held for a hundred years.
Now, the bonds are starting to weaken. Tara’s twin brother Gene was meant to be the saviour of the Advisers, the one who’d usher in a new era of respect and power, maybe even revive the old dreams. But Gene is dead, stabbed while a thousand Advisers sobbed and a thousand Rulers cheered. Tara knows there’ll be no justice for her brother – despite the truce, the Three Great Powers are still technically at war, and for a Ruler to kill an ambitious Advisor isn’t a crime but a patriotic duty.
Tara may not have her brother’s strength, charm or fighting skills, but she’s got intelligence, ruthlessness and cunning – and she’s going to destroy the Rulers, starting with the young Duke who murdered Gene.
Tara isn’t going to let anything stand in her way. Not her friends, not her family, not innocent bystanders. Certainly not the rules of the Separation Treaty or the customs of the Advisers. And above all, not her traitorous attraction to the man she’s meant to be destroying. She’ll cut out her own heart before she gives in to her feelings – but she’d rather cut out someone else’s first.
And once revenge is out of the way, she can start thinking about power. Tara has no wish to make the world a better place – she simply wants to ensure she’s the one on top when the dice stop rolling.
The Separation of Powers is a modern fantasy novel with a female anti-hero and a political flavour.