The evolution of a novel (3)

… or how East Rising Sun morphs into The Admiral’s Wife. I left off with my wonderful colleagues at Lake Union suggesting I weave a historical thread into the contemporary novel I set in Hong Kong. And you might recall that I was not exactly pleased 🙂

This little suggestion was tantamount to starting over. I fussed and fumed, muttering less than positive statements about my publisher. “They have no idea how difficult this is!” “Why did they encourage me to write this novel in the first place?” “I should throw it out and work on something else.” Mutter, mutter, mutter. My poor husband had to listen to all this and I’m grateful for his patience and encouragement.

After several days of paralysis an idea twigged. I scrolled through the WIP looking for something I’d written – a few throwaway lines about one of my characters’ family background.

Early in the nineteenth century, the Wen family fortune began with diamond mining in China then expanded to ship building and lucrative trading across Asia. In a move against the British, Patricia’s great-great-great-grandfather used his trading company, cleverly hidden behind several shell companies, to transport opium to Europe and Britain. That decision generated even more wealth.

Maybe this could lead somewhere. Thoughts swirled around. This could happen. No, that wouldn’t work. What about this? What about that? I kept mulling until something finally gelled.

I now had two story lines and a sense of how they would connect. The present day story featured two expat women: Patricia, a Chinese American, and Sara who was from Boston. The past storyline focused on Winifred, the admiral’s wife, who was British and had arrived in Hong Kong because her husband had been posted there. And of course, there was a connection between the two stories that would gradually emerge.

I discussed the general idea with my editor. She liked it and made several suggestions. She wanted roughly 75 pages and a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. I worked on it for several weeks – hardly did anything else. My agent reviewed it. I made changes. My agent reviewed it again. A few minor edits. Then we sent it off.

Wait, wait, wait. After a heads up from my agent, I received feedback from my Lake Union editor. The floor plummeted out from under me again – they weren’t going to take it. Didn’t think my writing was good enough. But, but, but.

To make matters worse, I then sent the same material off to a freelance editor I work with. She gave me the honest truth. Definitely not my best writing and there’s too many main characters. You should cut out one of them.

Bloody hell. Did I tell you writing is hard work?

So here’s where I am. The present day story features Patricia, my Chinese American character. She’s married. She and her husband have moved to Hong Kong to reunite with her parents and older brother. Having lived in the US her entire life, this new world is foreign and disorienting. The past story focuses on Winifred, the admiral’s wife. She’s moved to Hong Kong because of her husband’s naval career. She too finds the place foreign and disorienting. And there’s a mystery connecting the two timelines – hopefully a fascinating, dramatic connection.

The novel has taken shape. I’m excited about it and love my main characters. With any luck I’ll have the first draft completed by the end of March.

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, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

37 Authors Twitter Party and Giveaway – March 7th

lakeuniontwitterchat

A number of authors associated with Lake Union Publishing have banded together to host a Twitter Party – the purpose is to chat about books, writing, reading and anything else as well as giving away oodles of prizes.

todmk-timeandregret-22790-cv-ftI’m giving away 3 paperback copies of Time and Regret.

When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her…

Join me and and 36 other authors for what promises to be an exciting and rewarding time. Use #LakeUnionAuthors to participate. March 7th starting at 4:30 EST.

Ever wanted to know … where writers find inspiration? how many cups of coffee we drink each day? who writes in their pyjamas? why we choose to kill characters? how much research we do? what our characters are going to do next? how long it takes to write a novel? what it takes to write great sex scenes? what’s your next novel? how do you choose a title? a cover design?

What’s my next novel? It’s set in 1870s Paris during major historical events like the siege of Paris and the Paris Commune are going on. Lots of conflict, danger, and devastation plus romance.

Those participating write a variety of genres: historical, contemporary, mystery, romance and so on. Other authors you can expect to chat with:

Come join us! March 7th beginning at 4:30 EST. Hash tag #LakeUnionAuthors 

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 and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

 

What does your plot look like?

In April, Jane Friedman – whose banner reads ‘helping authors and publishers flourish in the digital age’ – posted an article on How to Use a Plot Planner by Martha Alderson. The post presents two typical plot lines and discusses the ways authors can visualize and change their stories. For example:

The energy of a story doesn’t remain flat, just as the Plot Planner line isn’t flat. A story grows in intensity, which is reflected in the line moving steadily higher as the stakes and the energy of the story also rise.

Using a plot planner you can show scenes “where the power is somewhere other than with the protagonist above the Plot Planner line.” Scenes showing character development involving loss, failure, revenge, self-sacrifice, anger, grief, fear, rebellion and so on also go above the line.

Scenes that go below the plot planner line show “the internal, emotional territory of the protagonist”, these are often moments of character introspection and include scenes where information is shared, where a character is planning, contemplating, problem solving and so on.

My own feeling is that many of today’s readers expect more complexity from stories. They expect multiple crises leading to a climax rather than one, and even multiple protagonists, thus making the challenge of plot planning even greater.

My latest novel Time and Regret includes two story lines, one in a more present-day world and one in WWI. Each story has its own plot line, the tension of one mixing with and affecting the tension of the other. Hopefully, I’ve managed the trick of growing intensity for readers, keeping the energy rising and delivering satisfying crises and climaxes! The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah does this superbly.

plot-diagram-time-and-regret

Time and Regret releases August 16, 2016 under the banner of Lake Union Publishing.

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 and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET will be published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016.

Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.