I’m a fast writer, but even so, it feels like I’ve been working on The Knight Shift since… well, since forever.
Okay, so maybe not forever. But I feel like I’ve been working on this draft for ages and this book for a seriously long time, and as a result I decided to work out how long it’s been. BECAUSE TODAY I FINISHED IT. I forgot to mention that part. I finished it. I wrote THE END and added some acknowledgements and sent it to get printed so that I can scribble all over it because I am sick of looking at it on a screen. IT’S DONE.
Well, this draft is done. Then the beta readers and the scribbling and the edits again, but I’m hoping this is the final DRAFT and anything from now on will just be minor tweaking, you know? Hence why I’m printing it out. So that I can find the sentences that don’t work.
It has been four years since I started writing this book. I started working on it in the summer of 2011, which is bizarre to think about; I don’t associate it with that part of my life because 2011 was a complicated time, but apparently I did. I started it when I had absolutely no experience of university beyond what I’d heard from my sister. It was set in a nonspecific Northern university, loosely based on Durham. Several of the characters names were different. Everyone was straight. (Hahahaha.)
These early, somewhat abortive chapters ended up being the foundations on which I built my 2011 NaNo novel, a 60k-or-thereabouts novel called The Quiet Ones. You can read the summary I wrote for it during NaNo here.
Over the next couple of years I rewrote it — making the concrete decision to set it in Aberdeen was an important turning point, and it’s also the reason I considered applying to Aberdeen. I visited the city for the first time to do a bit of research two and a half years ago, in the Easter break of 2013, so while that doesn’t feel that long ago, it actually was. That’s when a lot of the key scenes got their locations — Kilau Cafe, where the book starts and finishes, is a cafe I visited on that trip.
Last year I planned to query it, but then decided I wasn’t happy with it and spent some time making minor changes and rewriting bits here and there. I’d done a lot of major rewrites before then; the fourth draft wasn’t as different to the third as the third was to the second, but that still distracted me for a while when I wasn’t feeling up to working on Butterfly of Night because of Ferguson and stuff.
(The Knight Shift, or The Quiet Ones as it was then called, is very different from my other books in that it’s WAY LESS ANGSTY. Like, this is SARCASM with a side-order of ANGST, whereas most of my books are ANGST with a side-order of SARCASM. Y’know? Anyway. No one dies in this one. So it’s basically comic relief, even though there are a lot of swords involved.)
And then this year I think I was planning to query it but I started rereading it and basically realised I didn’t like my own style. In fact I disliked it even more than I usually do. So I rewrote it in first person. I started doing that in… uhhh? July? Or something. It seems like way longer ago than that, but apparently it’s only July. So what has felt like MONTHS AND MONTHS has actually only been two months, and while that’s quite long for me when it wasn’t a major rewrite in terms of plot, I’m actually just being impatient.
It went through a brief phase of being 10 Reasons Every Knight Needs A Lawyer before it became The Knight Shift, and in celebration of having finished the fifth draft at long last, here’s the prologue. Because I thought you might like it. Enjoy!
I didn’t go to university to become a knight.
Okay, that’s probably not the best place to start. Let’s backtrack. I’m your narrator, Aniviel Smith. Call me Ani. No, really. Call me Aniviel and I’ll punch you in the face. When I went to university I had the same goals as most people my age: to get a degree, to put off needing to get a job for a few more years, and to get away from the parents who called me Aniviel. I mean, you can hardly blame me for that one, can you?
Knights weren’t really on my radar at all, but that shows how much I knew.
Now I need to stop you, because I can tell you’re already theorising about time travel or alternate universes. Forget about it. This was the academic year of 2013-14, which may seem like the distant past to you now, but I assure you it was absolutely the present for me at the time. And the only alternate universe involved was Scotland (let’s face it; it’s a pretty weird place).
From the moment I got to the University of Aberdeen where I’d decided to spend four years of my life, the wheels that would throw all my plans out of the window started turning. Pretty soon my big mouth, loyalty to friends, and homoerotic tendencies led me right into the middle of a mess I didn’t know existed: one that involved swords, and anarchists, and most terrifyingly enough, MI5.
I could give this account a lot of titles. Like Ten Reasons Every Knight Needs A Lawyer, except I didn’t have one, so that’d be hypocritical. Or Who Thought Knights Were A Good Idea?, the subject line of a forcefully worded email I’d like to send to MI5. Equally valid would be a simple question: How Did My Life Get This Weird? I even toyed with These Knights Would Say ‘Ni’ But They’d Get Sued, but that seemed too long to be a title, and besides, I might get sued, and I’m way too skint for that.
In the end, because I’m a massive nerd who can’t resist a pun, we’re going with The Knight Shift. I know, I know, it’s corny. And we mostly trained first thing in the morning anyway. But you can’t tell me what to do, because I’ve got a sword, and I sure as hell know how to use it.
Buckle up. It’s going to be quite a ride.
So. Now it’s time for proofreading, minor edits, and eventually… querying. I’ll keep you updated. :)