The Difficult Second Book

Science Fiction and Fantasy
23/06/2020 | POSTED BY Pete

…That Isn’t So Difficult When Your First Book Was Actually An Unloved Pilot

Gabby Hutchinson Crouch, author of the beloved Darkwood series, on writing
her second book Such Big Teeth.

wasn’t supposed to be a book. Darkwood was supposed to be a CBBC series. Part Avatar: The Last Airbender, part Steven Universe, part Maid Marian & Her Merry Men.

I wrote a pilot script in a hurry, out of several different ideas that had been in my mind for years, for a BBC Writersroom competition, where it was swiftly rejected.

By then, I loved the characters and the concept too much to just let it die, so, in quiet periods of work, I tried rewriting the pilot script as prose.

Writing a book from a script had a few surprising side effects. One was that the narrative voice naturally took on a conversational tone in the present tense, as if I was writing directions for a production team I was friendly with.

Another side effect was that, because I’d been thinking about a longer-term series, I already had a rough idea sketched out of how I thought a series of books might pan out.

I wrote the first half of the first book, started looking around for potential publishers, and happened upon a tweet about Farrago looking for genre comedy series, at just the right time. I had the synopsis for the second half of the first book planned out, and like a good little broadcast media writer, I had some loose ideas for a bigger story arc.

I’m not going to lie to you, mostly those loose ideas for an arc structure came from movies and video games.

One of my concepts for expanding the world in three books was as such: Isn’t it great when you’re playing a narrative open world game where after you complete one big boss level about a third of the way in a new chunk of the map opens up for you to explore?

Darkwood has a literal map of the forest in the narrative, with large parts of it still blank by the end of the first book, for Gretel to fill in. This is absolutely influenced by my love of games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

I also wanted to introduce some new fairy tale characters for the expedition into the uncharted northern woods in book 2.

I had a lot of fun coming up with the northern witches. I’d already had an idea that the north would be the territory of witches who could control larger, scarier animals such as wolves and bears, so Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks were obvious choices.

The third ‘witch’ was initially going to be The Fox Prince, but I decided I really wanted to go with a character from an obscure fairy tale that I love – the cursed youngest brother from the six (or sometimes seven) ravens story. I also wanted to open up a bit more of the antagonists’ territory, so we see a lot more of the huntsmen and their Citadel.

Also, because Darkwood is a trilogy, I got to use The Star Wars Trajectory, so the second story is a little bit darker, with the heroes suffering more losses. In the second story of a trilogy, you have to up the stakes while still leaving plenty of room for the third story to go. The upside of this is that you can leave a few story threads unresolved for the third and final story.

That’s Future Gabby’s problem to solve.

Such Big Teeth, the second book in The Darkwood Series, is publishing on 25 June 2020 – find out all about it here!

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