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I began my writing career with a Space Opera trilogy (my Abendau world). It has something like 15 point of view characters – all written in close point of view, with their own individual voices. It’s not a huge world for Space Opera but it has multiple star systems, extensive systems of goverance and considers the social and cultural set up of much of that world.

Quite a bit to bite off for my first writing project. Ambitious, perhaps. Since then I’ve enjoyed writing standalones (not that they’re simpler, per se – using Belfast as a sf setting was far from straightforward.)

To be honest, I thought I was done with series writing, that I only had one big, complex world in me. Then I wrote a 300 word flash fiction piece about a race of Storm Mages. And that got me thinking, and it started to grow and I’m starting to get ready to draft that world (the small matter of two books to release and two to finish, first, but details, details….)

It seemed, therefore, a good time to consider what I learned from writing my first series that I can take into a new one:

  1. Don’t worry that it’s not fully planned. That’s not my process, much as I’d like it to be. My worlds exist somewhere in a black hole in my mind – and writing seems to open up that black hole. It appears I’m destined to be a pantster forever.

  1. Don’t be afraid to drop in some references to far-off places in the early work. Who knows when it will be useful to have a place to expand to? My Ferran hub in Abendau was mentioned from book one, but not fully explored until book three.

  1. Also, if you have a big world, enjoy the space it gives you. You want a new planet? You have the world to insert one.

  1. Point of views. How many is too much? How many too little. As I said above, I had 15 in the Inheritance Trilogy – with 3 central key ones holding the links between the three books. Was that too many? I’m not sure. I can’t think of any which didn’t add value. But it’s a lot to hold onto, a lot of different mannerisms and inflections to remember. I might go simpler this time. (Although I don’t think I planned to go complex last time.)

  1. It will take time. I’m afraid, for a while, I’ll be writing and not releasing (although I do have some stuff that will hopefully find a home while I’m working at it.) That’s okay. I’ve been a writing machine for five years – to play, to take my time, to see where plotlines take me and why will be lovely.

  1. Don’t worry if you don’t have a file with all your info in it. Don’t worry about Schrivener, if that’s not your bag. I open a Msdoc and I type. And then I take that same doc, save it as version two, and I type again. And again. Until it becomes version whatever and I feel it’s finished. Nothing fancy. Nothing clever. Others would be aghast at working like that, but it works for me, which makes it okay.

  1. Be proud of having ambition. So many of the great books were ambitious. The Stand, The Lord of the Rings, Dune. Gone with the Wind. All ambitious. All the better for it. Better to have egg on your face than to wish you’d done more.

I’m at the point where I’m looking forward to starting, but savouring the wonderment of the world. I’m at the stage where it’s only mine. Where no one else’s opinion counts – not editors, or publishers, or reviewers. It’s a magical stage, this – because, for now, this world is my secret. I’m going to be selfish and hold it close for just a little longer.

More about Jo and her work can be found at


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