Allan J. Emerson

Allan Emerson's Blog

FLASHBACK TIME

May 18, 2015

Your screen is going all wavy and sound distorts around you. Not happening? Okay, pretend it is. We're back in early November, 2014, and the last few months have been busy. I went through a couple of rounds of editing on Death of a Bride and Groom, reviewed potential covers, and started trying to figure out how to establish a presence on Facebook, Goodreads, and Google+.

Then I joined some writers' groups, started working on this blog (which, as you can see, is a work in progress), and began noodling around an idea for the next book in the series. The rest of the time, I spent fretting about how Death of a Bride and Groom would be received, whether I'd missed something vital during the proofreading, and fantasizing about offers for film and stage rights.

Okay, we're back in the present--hope those wavy screens and eerie music aren't killing you off.

Death of a Bride and Groom will be released May 20 in the U.S. and on June 12 in Canada. The deadline for the next book in the Honeymoon Falls series looms. Since it's a series, many of the same characters will be returning. I spent a lot of time describing these characters and their storylines in the first book, and I'm wondering how to provide the same depth of characterization for them in subsequent books without boring readers who already know them from the first.

And how do I deal with the need to have the next book ready to begin the year-long publishing process now that the first book is out? Up till now, nobody cared when, or even if, I wrote. I probably spent about two years writing and revising the first book--now I have less than a third of that time to produce the next one.

I've started trying to get the first scenes out of my head and onto the paper, and as in all first drafts, the prose is pedestrian, the effects I'm aiming for are elusive, and the characters keep slamming into each other or wandering aimlessly offstage. Some have nothing to say, and others won't shut up. I look at the opening of the first book, and while I don't claim it's a masterpiece, the scenes flow into one another fairly seamlessly and the characters have purpose and personality. How did I do that? Can I do it again?

I guess I'll find out.

In the meantime, I'd like to hear from you. Have you ever read books out of order in a series? Did you feel the characters were fully fleshed out? If you've read from the start of a series, how much re-capping of previous information did you expect and how much did you find?

Comments

  1. May 19, 2015 4:27 PM PDT
    Hi, Allan,

    I think it's great that you've been offered a contract for your second novel as well. Five Star has only offered me one at a time over the years which is discouraging. As to reading out of sequence in a series, it's done all the time. Just make certain that your second novel can be read as a complete entity.

    - Jacqueline Seewald
  2. May 19, 2015 5:52 PM PDT
    You only spent two years writing and revising your first book?? OMG, my new role model. Sometimes, it helps to make a list of all the characters you have so far and the contribution you intend each to make to your plot; sometimes, that helps weed out a few and focus your goals. You might also discover that this is your process. A big hairy mess that sorts itself out along the way, and you fix it in your next draft (not the draft you send to the editor of course!).
    - Sheila York
  3. May 19, 2015 7:20 PM PDT
    Congratulations on the looming release! Working in back story from a previous novel is always tricky, but I try to treat it the same way I do back story for stand-alone books, by weaving in the information when it becomes necessary for the reader. I don't think anyone minds reading reminders about what happened in a previous book, but we don't want it dumped on us in a big glut. That's my two cents' worth.
    - Karen McCullough
  4. May 20, 2015 9:56 AM PDT
    Hi Allan -- it's good to see you jumping into blogger world. It's looking good! None of this stuff is easy, but in my humble opinion, it's all fun. Otherwise, being retired, I'd pick another way to spend my free time.

    I tried the series thing with my two Sylvia and Willie novels, then jumped ship and wrote a standalone...followed by a sequel wip which I never intended.

    Yes, I'll pick up a novel from the middle of a series to try it out. I like enough backstory to introduce the character, knowing that if I want more I can go back to the beginning of the series. Each book should be readable as a standalone.
    - Patricia Stoltey
  5. May 20, 2015 11:58 AM PDT
    I wish I'd been offered a contract for more than one book at a time. I work better with a goal/deadline. I've had the same concerns about my series that you have. I avoid dumping backstory and weave it in as needed. Each book in a series should be read as a standalone so it can be read in any order. It doesn't bother me when I discover a book I'm reading is part of a series. If interested enough, I'll look for the others in that series.

    One reader commented that she didn't realize my book she'd been reading was part of a series, and that it explained her confusion about a certain situation. It's sometimes difficult to know just how much backstory you need.
    - Carole Price
  6. May 20, 2015 8:12 PM PDT
    Hang in there. We are all traveling the same road, just different directions. I, too, am a Five Star Author and know how exciting the first book can be. Then when the second one comes out you hope it's as good or better. A series? What about #3? Writer's have lots of questions, it is what we are made up of...curiosity, tenacity, imagination, emotion...add a little spice and there we are. Great first blog. Much good luck on the writing journey.
    - Bonnie (BD) Tharp
  7. May 20, 2015 11:11 PM PDT
    Interesting first blog, Allan. Sounds like you are well on your way. I, too, am a Five Star writer, and I'm on book three right now. I've learned a lot over the last few years. I would second the idea of keeping a looseleaf notebook with all the names and places and brief descriptions of your characters. Also keep timelines so you won't write something in a later book that doesn't agree with your earlier book. Good luck!
    - Susan Van Kirk
  8. May 21, 2015 6:45 PM PDT
    Hi Jacqueline, thanks for your advice and comments. I'm hoping I've figured out how to respond to them without scrambling everything like last time. As I mentioned, I don't have a multi-book contract either. The deadline I mentioned is self-imposed to keep me from procrastinating until the end of time. :)

    Sheila, I think the "big hairy mess" you mention describes my process perfectly. As for being your role model, that would be an honour, but when I mentioned it took me two years to write the book I was reckoning how much total time I spent actually writing, revising, editing, etc. I don't even want to think about the times I gave up, drifted into other stories, or spent mulling potential plot developments.

    Karen, I'm trying to do the gradual working in of essential elements from the first book, but I am finding it hard to avoid the info dumps. (And I know they're reader poison.) I'm beginning to think that it just isn't possible to give the reader a total understanding of a character from the previous book, just enough to understand why he or she might behave the way they're doing. I'll have to see how it goes. Could be my urge to fill in the backstory comes from all the time I spent writing them and fleshing them out in the first book.

    Patricia, thanks for your comments. You're my role model for social media. You manage to be everywhere and always have something encouraging/insightful to say. Glad to hear you're willing to jump into the middle of a series sometimes.

    Carole, thanks for commenting. Re the contract, see my response to Jacqueline above. I agree that it's difficult to tell how much backstory is needed, but I guess it's something I'll have to work on. Maybe I'll have more perspective when I get to the editing (many moons from now). I usually wind up cutting a lot, so that could be when where to slim down backstory becomes more obvious.

    Bonnie, thanks for the good wishes! I'm always glad to meet another Five Star author.

    Susan, another Five Star alumnus! I've started jotting down some of the details from the first book: eye color, age, family background, etc. And sometimes wishing I'd planned ahead a little more and hadn't limited a character's options. Amazing what experience teaches you, isn't it?


    OK everyone, this is how the webmaster told me to respond, so I'm going to push the button and hope it makes sense. The suspense is killing me! (That has to have been a book title somewhere, I'm sure.)


    - Allan J. Emerson













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