Sunday, October 31, 2010

Evolution of a Novel Series ~ Setting

Not long ago my fabulous editor, Barbara Scott, shared with me how the setting of a novel, a location such as a manor house, home, etc. can be a character in your novel. How so? It is the touch point for several elements.

Time: Seasons. Day or night. Month or year in scene.
Place: A fictional or real town, city, village, or dwelling. Showing a scene inside or outside.
Mood: Brings forth the atmosphere of the scene and setting. Is the setting a dark place? Is it a cheerful place? It could be a drafty old house, or a warm one with hearth fires and heavy quilts on the beds.

Your storyline will need a setting that reflects all it encompasses.

Here are a few links I've used to help me narrow down a setting. Obviously, in the Daughters of the Potomac Series, the setting is along the Potomac River in the late 18th century. The books are also set in England, in the Hope Valley. I chose both settings for a purpose. They reflect the storyline.

If you are contemplating where to set your novel, try these links.

Pictures of England is a wonderful website showcasing towns, villages, counties, and attractions in England.

America in Pictures:

Discover USA Places: Click on cities on the map and get information.

Castles of Britain:
Castles of America by state:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Selecting Your Series Time Period

I had to ask the question, what are today's CBA publishers looking for in a novel series?
  • They want three books that can stand on their own, that conclude with all the plot threads wrapped up.
  • A trilogy with some thread that ties them together.
  • Heroines as the main characters.
  • Romance, and with historicals the facts, as one editor put it, as 'window dressing' to the story.

With that in mind, the deepest question to ask is, 'How do I tie these stories together?' I think it is evident in all our lives, that the lives of others have influenced us. Knowing this, I have created three heroines that have made decisions that ultimately effect the lives of the others.

There are other writers following the same vein. Marylu Tyndall is an excellent example in her 'Charles Towne Belles Series', three novels, three sisters. Each novel can stand on its own, but the reader is given the chance to follow each sister, each making an appearance in each book, and see how the decisions one makes effect the other two. It's a fascinating concept, although it is challenging to write.

My advice to those of you who are not yet published, or you have only published one or two novels, try your hand at creating a novel series. How?

Determine what time period you want these stories to take place in. Do not write in a time period you do not like. I for example you may not a fan of ancient history. So do not write a story that takes place in ancient Rome. You will regret you ever started. You must love the period you are writing in, in order to love writing it, love the storyline, and connect with your characters.

You do not have to be a historian to make this decision. Simply ask yourself the following.

  • What time in history fascinates you?
  • What time in history do you like in the novels you read?
  • What are some of the more popular times readers seem to prefer? Go to Amazon and browse the historicals.
  • What time periods are publishers most interested in? Go to their websites and check out there list of novels they are promoting.
One way to narrow this down, and to gather some interesting historical facts to 'window dress' you novel is website that have time lines. Here's a good one.

This site has both BC and AD years. Click on a year and they will give you a calendar of events that took place that year.

Are you considering a novel series?
What do you find the most challenging about writing a series?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Visuals When Writing a Series

One thing that helps me develop my characters is visuals. I love old photographs in black and white or sepia. They take us back into the past, and away from the bright lights that distract us in our times.

Visuals enable a writer and her readers to 'meet face-to-face' with characters. I had to search Google for these, but they are the closest images to how I see my heroines in the Daughters of the Potomac Series. And this is how I want my readers to see them. Not a drawing on paper, or a painting, but images from the past that portray such a character.

The first photo is an exact representation of Eliza Bloome in Before the Scarlet Dawn. Everything from her expression to her stance speaks of her. Her gaze is somewhat defiant, as if she could take on the world. It expresses bravery and fortitude.

This image is how I see Darcy Morgan, Eliza's daughter, in the novel Beside Two Rivers. Her face shines with loving kindness. Gentleness and femininity glow in her eyes. Can you see what kind of young woman she is? Passionate and poetic?

And finally, her is Sarah, my heroine in Beyond the Valley. She has a faraway gaze that matches the title. She is beautiful, but her expression is one of loneliness.

So, while writing your novel, search for an image of your character and draw from it their inner and outer qualities.

In the comments, please share if you have done this, and if you have your image on your blog or website, share the link with us.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Evolution of a Novel Series -- Eliza Bloome

Once the idea for the series took shape, I had to set aside Beside Two Rivers and begin book 1 Before the Scarlet Dawn.

Book 1 ~ At the beginning I had questions.
Who is Eliza Bloome?
Where did she grow up?
Who were her parents?
What does she look like?
What are her beliefs?
What does she want?

Eliza began to take form deeply in my imagination. I saw a young woman with raven hair, clear skin, and violet eyes whose heart is longing to be loved for the person she is, not for her beauty. She is a bit naive when it comes to the ways of the world.

She is the daughter of a vicar and lives with him at a small vicarage in the Hope Valley in Derbyshire, England until his death. Her mother died when she was a baby.

Eliza loves God and wants to do the right thing. She believes with all her heart that He is guiding her to the man she longs for. What she wants most is to be loved unconditionally, and to be accepted for her mind and soul, to find a husband who treats her as his equal.

To get this all down on paper, I jotted down these attributes in my notebook for Before the Scarlet Dawn. In writing the story, the best technique for me is writing the scenes out by hand first in the notebook. Each novel has its own. Writing freehand, for some reason I cannot explain, causes the words to flow out of me. It is raw, unedited prose. Perhaps it has to do with the right side of the brain, the creative side. All I know is this technique is what helps me start and finish a novel.

The story begins its evolution with Eliza sitting at her father's beside late at night. A knock on the door echoes up the staircase. The servant of a local gentleman must speak to Reverend Bloome in private. And what he has to tell, launches the story.

Sounds a bit crazy, but I pictured Eliza telling me 'write my story'. She became to me a person who once lived, breathed, and walked this earth. If I could not achieve that, my readers will not connect to her.

So in the evolution of book 1 in the series, I began with characterization. Eliza, being the main character, comes on stage in chapter one awaiting the inevitable. She then moves on and readers begin to meet the people in her life. Her devoted servant, Fiona Goodall. A suitor whose sees winning her as a challenge named Langbourne. And then the man Eliza loves above all others - Hayward Morgan---proud, wealthy, and in search of a stalwart wife. The major players are in place, and the question arises. Will Hayward love Eliza unconditionally? Will he see her as his equal, and be devoted to her no matter how much the storms of life rage against them?

As a reader, what intrigues you the most about a series?

As a writer, what kinds of things intimidate you about writing a series?

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.

Evolution of a Novel Series ~ Introduction

Ever wonder what it is like for a writer to develop a book series? If you are not yet published, or you are but your books have been stand-alones so far, perhaps you'll be interested in reading these posts as I unfold over the next year the evolution of a book series.

A book series in today's market consists of three novels. The stories can stand alone or be connected. To sell a series to a publisher, you first have to write a proposal. I am open to sending mine for 'Surrender the Wind', my stand alone novel to anyone who would like to see what goes into a proposal.

Typically, if you are unpublished, you must have a book completed in order to send it to a publisher. So if you are in this situation, write a novel, and work hard to get it published. It isn't easy, but believe me, it can happen. Once your foot is in the door you can begin writing proposals and selling books before they are written. Then the fun begins of facing deadlines.

I know I'm throwing a lot out here at once. So let's get to the point. This book series thing...I'll be posting about the progress, so you'll know the ins and outs, the ups and downs, and see through this author's eyes the evolution of the Daughters of the Potomac Series --- from the first blank page to the last in book 3.

I hope you stick with me. And I hope I can inspire you to fulfill your dream of writing a series.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Truth in Fiction

My fabulous editor at Abingdon Press writes an outstanding blog called 'The Roving Editor'. She shares with her readers valuable information about the Christian publishing industry. Her blog is a 'must read'. On Friday she wrote about Truth in fiction.

She wrote:
Christian fiction contains more truth than the realities of life in our confusing world. Grasp that fact, write from the truth in your heart, and you will not need to include a conversion scene in your novel. His Holy Spirit will show the truth in your stories to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

I'm attaching this to my computer as a reminder of how I should write fiction, not from a world view but from a view of the Truth. Our characters are to face the harsh realities of life, and through faith find deliverance, freedom, redemption, and forgiveness.

Think about the book you are writing now. Are you writing from the truth in your heart? How do you 'show' through your characters Truth to your readers?

You can read 'The Roving Editor' by clicking on this link.