The Evolution of a Novel

No doubt some authors conceive a novel, create a brief outline then write full steam ahead. The Admiral’s Wife, my current WIP, is not such a novel.

At the beginning, this novel was titled East Rising Sun, the inspiration taken from a qigong move of that name. Around 2009, I conceived the idea of writing a novel about four expat wives living far away from their respective homes. The notion came from my own three years as an expat – the pejorative term was trailing spouse – based in Hong Kong.

I imagined a story about the trials and tribulations of living far away from everything that is familiar, surrounded by a different culture, strange foods and an incomprehensible language. From personal experience, I knew how difficult this was – excitement and euphoria followed by the slam of reality and intense feelings of loneliness and dislocation. I’d even written a series of articles about the journey and the personal growth involved and at an optimistic moment, outlined a non-fiction book – never written – called Thriving as an Expat Spouse.

Four women – a Brit, an Australian, an American and a French woman – all met at a qigong class. Yes, I attended a series of qigong classes one fall while living in Hong Kong. Each woman had her own struggle (husbands, children, life), which the group helped her overcome. I had in mind a story like The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs or The Bridge Club by Patricia Sands.

Not surprisingly, one of the characters was based on my own circumstances although the others were totally fabricated. Here’s the opening paragraph of that long ago version.

Dislocation. That was the word that came to mind as I sat on my favourite chair, feet stretched out on the hassock, reflecting on our first four months in Hong Kong. Loneliness didn’t quite capture how disconnected I felt, severed from the familiar, out of place, startled each time I looked at my surroundings, as if perhaps a good pinch would transport me back home.

Twelve months later, I set that novel aside in favour of writing Lies Told in Silence, my second work of historical fiction. I had no intention of returning to it.

More on the evolution of a novel next week.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

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10 Responses

  1. I can relate to how a novel evolves, Mary. That’s the way I write, too. My upcoming novel has been through three major plot/character changes since I began to get serious about writing it 10 years ago.

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