I originally posted this while writing the follow up to One Summer in Santorini. It is 14 months on, and I have edited this post accordingly.
I begin this post by planting my tongue firmly in my cheek. I would love to say that I’ve unlocked the secret, that I’ve discovered the Holy Grail of writing, that I’ve figured it out! In truth, I have discovered a kind of secret sauce for myself. Other writers may benefit from my ‘process’, so if anything I say resonates, have it – it’s yours.
Reflect on book one
I wrote book one, One Summer in Santorini, for several reasons:
- My previous agent told me that the book I was writing at the time was my 5th book, not my 1st – too many characters and a multi-narrative. “You’re not Liane Moriarty,” he said. “Yet,” he added. He then challenged me to write a simple, linear narrative. Which I did.
- It was a love letter to my partner, Ben. We met in Greece and I borrowed (rather heavily) from our story for the book – the first half anyway. When I introduced a love triangle I was well into the realm of fiction.
- It was a love letter to Greece. Greece is a place where you go to fall back in love with yourself – and with being alive. It challenges you to participate in your own life. If you haven’t been, go.
- I had some demons to exorcise. I was single for half my twenties and most of my thirties. And by ‘single’ I mean I dated awful men who I changed or hid myself to be with. I wanted to write about a woman who calls an end to that, who won’t compromise herself again to be with someone.
I wrote book one on weekends and on evenings after working at a full-time job where I spent the bulk of my time writing. It was often hard to come home (usually post gym or errands) and sit down and write for myself. I did it, but it took a couple of years.
For the sequel, I had time. In 2018, we were on a year-long sabbatical. I had contract work, but I could dedicate significant chunks of time to writing. I started writing the sequel in February while we were still in Australia and I hit 10,000 words. I was reasonably happy with that progress, but my goal in Bali was to up the pace. After 8 weeks there, I finished the book at about 95000 words.
Celebrate the milestones
Every writer gets to decide what each milestone is. I celebrated when I got through an emotional part (if the writing left me sobbing or laughing out loud – milestone!), or I finished a chapter. The sequel is written in parts – and finishing each one was a milestone. Celebrating, by the way, included sharing on social media, pedicures, cocktails, massages, and congratulatory hugs from Ben.
The secret sauce
With book one, I had to knuckle down. I had to carve out time, and often had to force myself to sit down and write or edit or proofread. I had to self-impose deadlines and get others to hold me to account.
Being in Bali, with the luxury of time, the portability of a laptop, and being inspired by my surroundings, I had an absolute ball writing the sequel. And I worked faster, which meant there was continuity in the writing – the style, the voice, the narrative, character development. I had to work laboriously at that in the editing process of One Summer in Santorini, because I wrote it over such a long period of time. With the sequel, I’ve made the editing process easier on myself, just by writing over such a concentrated amount of time.
Most importantly, though, I let the story come to me.
This is the hardest part to explain, and is still my process. I start with only a rough outline, and I have no idea how many chapters it will take to tell the story. For the sequel, I didn’t even know how it ended when I started writing it.
When I got stuck, or I didn’t know what would come, I stepped away – sometimes for a few hours, sometimes days, and when I was doing something else – running, cooking, dodging scooters on the road – it came, the next part of the story. Then I would sit and write.
I’m so grateful that we made this decision to pack up our lives, sell up our stuff, leave our jobs and to live around the world. It was my special not-so-secret-anymore sauce.
While on sabbatical, I also wrote another follow up to One Summer in Santorini about Sarah’s sister, Cat. This book will be out early next year with the sequel to follow.