And so, for the next two or three years, I didn't write much—although, again, this is not strictly true. Early in 2010 I connected with an old friend on Facebook, and for most of the year that followed it seemed that I was writing long letters to her on an almost nightly basis. Clearly that fulfilled my need to write.
In amongst those letters, I did a little tinkering on book 3. Every few months I would return to it and start picking at it; it was like a scab that would never quite heal. As a result, I did an awful lot of polishing of the first few chapters, refining them until they were perfect. Gradually I was building up the picture in my mind of what it should be, and ditching anything that didn't fit that vision. Numerous chapters got discarded outright; others were torn to pieces, with the best bits being reused in other places.
Then, in mid 2010, I started playing with Blender. Perhaps if I couldn't make book 3 work, I could make the animated movie of book 1! This rapidly grew into a massive learning curve—in fact, I'm still learning—and for perhaps 18-24 months I was modelling instead of writing, giving my creativity an alternate outlet.
But every so often, while driving to work, or, uh, communing with the gods, I would have an idea; one more piece of the Array Wars puzzle that would slot into place. Each time it happened I would get briefly excited, read through the first few chapters, and then lose interest again.
Finally, however, the groundswell of new material became too much to ignore. In mid-2012 my long service leave came due and, with the odd week off here or there, I gradually started focussing on actually finishing book 3.
Now that I had made the decision, my biggest problem was that I felt guilty if I worked on anything else—but working on the novel still didn't appeal to me. I had more pieces, but I still wasn't convinced it would work—and some of those pieces didn't seem to fit as well as I'd first thought. Then, on one of my weeks off toward the end of 2012, I forced myself to just sit and write for several hours a day. Something clicked, fell into place, and at that moment my perspective changed.
I knew how to tie everything together.
I knew I was going to get it finished.
Of course, Christmas and work intervened, and for a while it seemed as though I was far too busy with non-writing activities to ever get back into it. But on my first week off in February 2013—I was taking one week a month, to spread them out—I put in a couple of days heavy writing, and midway through the second day, I finished the manuscript! And while the buzz didn't quite measure up to that first one, oh so long ago, when I hit 50,000 words on book 1, it was still a memorable moment.
What followed was a couple of weeks of exhaustive reading and re-reading, by myself and my proof-reader; fixing things that didn't quite work, catching all the tiny errors that have a tendency to creep in to something like this, and generally making it as correct as I could make it. After my hiccup with the second book, I wanted this one to be right.
And I've now sent it off to the printers. It's done. (And yet I just know that when I get the books, I'll open one at random, and an error will leap out at me...)
I'm very happy with the end result—but I've learned a lot along the way. The tone of this novel (and even the second one) has changed somewhat from the first one; as I became invested in my characters—as they became my characters rather than just George Lucas' characters with funny names—I wanted to give them their own stories. I wanted to treat them with respect—and all those funny names were just getting in the way.
Whether I've succeeded is for my readers to decide!
In the course of finishing book 3—especially in the final six months or so—I learned a number of things.
Perhaps most importantly, I learned (or perhaps relearned) exactly how much fun writing could be. Certainly there are times when it is not fun, but I have it on good authority that most (if not all) professional writers—yes, even the ones who make it look easy, the ones who churn out a new book every six months or so—go through moments of self-doubt where they feel that, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they just couldn't write anything decent to save their lives. I have felt that way numerous times while struggling to finish the book. Those times aside, however, the rewards—and I speak as someone who has no intention of making a profit from these books—are greater than the pain.
The other thing I've learned is that, while I really do enjoy writing dialogue, I struggle to juggle more than three or four characters at the same time. Scenes with multiple characters just give me the heebie-jeebies, to the point that in one spot in book 3, I actually went back in and sent a couple of characters away for the duration, just so I could cope with the scene. Of course, that changed the dynamic, removed a critical character from the right place at the right time, and as a result, well, to quote Burke, "a few deaths were involved"!
Which, in a way, was a learning curve of a different kind: killing a character who I hadn't planned to kill was, I must say, a great deal of fun!
Now that the Array Wars trilogy is finished, what will be my next writing project?
Well, having spent so long playing in somebody else's sandpit—it's the nature of writing a parody, I guess—I really want to branch out, write something that is fully my own. I have a few ideas, so we'll see what develops.
At the same time, though, I know I'm not done with the Array Wars universe!