Sunday, October 3, 2010

Evolution of a Novel Series ~ How it came to be.

Two years ago, after I had signed a contract with Abingdon Press for my stand alone novel 'Surrender the Wind', I sat down at my computer and wrote three words.

Winter came early.

In my mind's eye a heroine by the name of Darcy Morgan appeared. The year is 1778. The setting is the Maryland wilderness.

In the opening Darcy is a little girl, with a head full of ringlets and large dark eyes. In another room her mother is giving birth, and Darcy is bewildered by the event going on.

I titled the novel Beside Two Rivers. In my notebook I wrote: the place ~ along the Potomac River in Maryland. Time ~ the Revolutionary War era.

I kept writing, and when I had enough chapters to submit to my editor, I sent them off. She called me and said as is, she could not accept it. I asked her why. She went on to tell me it had to do with two characters in the beginning chapter, female slaves. This is a soft spot for some readers. But I think Barbara was seeing something deeper. This novel needed to evolve into something more.

I asked her if I could change the characters and resubmit. I could and a revision began. These two characters that I reinvented would turn out to be more than just blips on a page. They would change the course of the book.

One character I rewrote became Fiona Goodall. Fiona is British, middle-aged, the housekeeper to Reverend Matthias Bloome, who helps him raise his daughter Eliza after his wife's death. Fiona is the most loyal individual you'd ever want to meet, full of warmth and devotion. She never leaves Eliza's side if she can help it. Although she is a servant, she gives sound advice and pearls of wisdom to Eliza when she is in need of guidance.

The other character evolved into Sarah Carr. Sarah, also English, is a mild young woman with a big heart. She has an impediment. One leg is shorter than the other, and so she limps, and endures being less than perfect in people's eyes. Sarah's story will be told in Book 3, Beyond the Valley. But she appears in Book 1 which sets up some of the scenes in her novel.

It was amazing enough to have my dear editor point out the changes needed to be made in my characters. But more amazing were the revelations that unfolded one morning while I was in the shower. It hit me like the water suddenly going to freeze mode. I had written a good portion of Darcy's story in Beside Two Rivers. But I realized I had to write her mother Eliza's story. And then! I had to write Sarah's story. Thus came the series, Daughters of the Potomac.

I sent Barbara the tip sheets, and she took it to the fiction committee. They offered me a contract, and gave me deadlines.

Now, to get into this serious business of writing this series, I'll tell you what I do to start. This may help if you are considering writing a series. A lot of CBA publishers want them. I gather supplies. Yes, supplies. You ask, "Isn't the computer enough?" The answer is 'no'.

My list>

The thickest spiral notebooks I could find for each title.
A ton of pens.
A small note pad.
All the classical music CDs we have in the house, downloaded to my Windows Media Player.
Boxes of printer paper.
A box of tissue...for those moments when I get weepy over a scene.
A sign for my door. There it is opposite. I found it on a clip art site.

As I write 'Evolution of a Novel Series', I would love to hear from you. What questions do you have, or comments, about writing a series? Please post them, and I'll attempt to answer every one of them.


Jan Cline said...

My question is when I submit my MS, should I mention that I have a series in mind? My MS is definately one that could go on with a couple more stories from it.

BTW...I picked up Surrender at the Fayetteville, NC library yesterday and Im taking it to the beach with me for a few days. :)

Melissa K Norris said...

I know it's important to wrap up everything in each book, you don't want to leave the reader hanging. How do you balance leaving enough to keep the reader wanting to buy the next book to find out what happens, but not too much so they don't feel cheated?

Barbara Scott said...

Yes, Jan, if you have a series in mind, let the editor know. Each book must stand alone, but women love series. They want to race to the next book and the next because they have fallen in love with your characters.

From Rita's humble editor. :)