In 2003 I finished my first full length novel. It was an epic fantasy--the first in a trilogy--and it was 167, 000 words. I then proceeded to write two thirds of the second book, which was around 100k when I stepped away from the project.
Like most teenagers first novels it was riddled with clichés and a stylistic disaster. I knew it wasn't as good as I wanted. I knew I had to improve my writing skill and try again when I had the knowledge to make it as awesome as I knew it could be.
And so I fell into a pattern. I'd write a novel (or two) then fish out Arqum and have another bash at it. I'd write 10k, decide it still wasn't up to snuff and put it away again. I think I have eight openings to Arqum now, started in different years. A weird Groundhog Day timeline of my developing skills.
Over the years the story has developed and grown into five books. All of my favourite world building and ideas are funnelled into the Arqum universe. Its moved from a rather cliché, bland setting to one bursting with the best ideas I've had in the past 11 years.
I know how wonderful I want it to be, but my abilities are still growing and changing. Even my tentative efforts to write a new first scene early last year seem clumsy compared to what I can do now.
There are several authors who have heavily influenced Arqum's development: Lynn Flewelling, China Mieville and Joe Abercrombie being the top three. Reading Joe's newest book, Half A King', has inspired me to fire it up again.... despite the fact I am in the middle of several other projects.
Do I think I am ready this time? It's too early to say. Probably not. However I can lay a lot of groundwork for when I am ready. I spent five hours today organising an immense Scrivener file with a section for races, animals and monsters, regions and cities, character profiles, religion, magic, several timelines and other world building. Each of the five books has its own file and each file contains a collection of smaller files for each of the character arcs.
However ready or not, nothing makes me happier than revisiting this world and these characters. Maybe I never want to be ready, because maybe I never want to give this story away to the world. Or maybe this time I will see it through and share my magnum opus with the world.
Either way, this is as good as it gets.