Tuesday, December 7, 2010

FAQ- Something New

It snowed most of the day yesterday. There was a break around ten when the sun actually made an appearance and I crept down the steep and icy road to bring warm water and feed to the chickens.

In spite of the cold, which is intense, I'm feeling pretty cheerful as I finally got my proposal for the next book together and emailed it off to my agent for her thoughts before it gets sent on to my editor.

Approval is not, alas, automatic.  Herself has rejected my ideas before, telling me I could do better. And I have.

This time though, instead of focusing on Elizabeth or characters I already know, I'm riffing on an idea that Herself and I discussed back in October. It's a bit of a departure. Though it's still set in familiar territory -- Marshall County --  there is a whole new cast of characters --  and that's where the FAQ part of this post comes in.

Q:  Do you find that once having established the locale and characters, that writing additional books in the series is easier/quicker or not? 

A: When Darla sent me this question some weeks ago, I pretty much ignored it, not having considered it one way or another.  But now,  having spent quite a lot of time constructing family trees and back stories for a bunch of new characters who may or may not turn into characters in a book, it's quite obvious that I'm basically reinventing a world -- or at least the people in it. And it's a LOT of work!

Once I'd written a couple of Elizabeth books, I was on firm ground --I knew these people and how they were likely to act. It was just a matter of bringing this familiar cast to a new situation and turning them loose.

But here, in this proposal for a new book, I'm just getting to know these folks. Rachel and her great aunt Mim, Leonie and John Standingdeer are still nebulous figures in my mind. And yes, it would have been easier to go back to the old familiar gang. But there's always the danger of things growing stale or even preposterous -- how many murders can a fifty-something herb farmer reasonably expect to find herself involved in anyhow?

I hope Herself like this idea -- or at least most of it. I'm already getting attached to these folks. 
And of course I'll keep you updated.
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Marilyn & Jeff said...

I am loving your photos Vicki, winter wonderland for sure.
I love this post too about creating a new world and peopling it with new people. I ma fascinated with this wee insight into your world as a writer.
I wish you well.
I have just ordered Old Wounds and In A Dark Season, I will continue to enjoy Elizabeth's world for a while yet.

Margaret said...

I love the figure of ... a dog? at the bottom of the hill. I'm still reading the first one and I have a feeling I'm not going to like what happens to Sylvie...

I think adding new characters is a good idea after a while... If you think about it, that actually mimics real life!

Martin said...

Good luck with the proposal, Vicki. Mags beat me to picking up 'Signs in the Blood'. I asked her for her thoughts but she was obviously lost in the tale. That's a 'thumbs up', then.

Merisi said...

Good luck, Vicki, sounds as if you created another winning set of characters!

Winter wonderland, beautiful, love that little bird resting in the bush.

Pat in east TN said...

Beautiful snow pictures. It's still snowing over here and the winds are blowing too.

Interesting reading about your proposal. I'm excited to see what direction this all goes in.

Elora said...

Lovely shot of the Robin in the Pokeweed (I think that's what it is...) Congrats on getting your proposal off. Seemed pretty speedy, so you must have had it "brewing" for awhile...Best of luck!

Brian Miller said...

nice. i think it is a cool way to mix it up and also to expand the world you created....

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Good luck with the proposal Vicki. Inventing a whole new set of characters is mind boggling to me. That must say that I should remain a non-fiction writer. I really admire that you can do this and, at the same time, keep your original characters straight in your mind. I wish you well.

Her comment about "I know you can do better" reminds me of teachers I had in school. I knew they were right, but boy I didn't want to hear that phrase.

Your photos are spectacular. We only got light flurries over my way and not worth getting the camera out.

Jules said...

There comes a time with continuing characters that I have to say goodbye...unless...the author has let them grow and then they become friends that I have to keep up with!
Our library is closed indefinitely
due to the flood damage so I am without any books for Christmas, disaster!!!
I hope it warms up for you a bit but the snow is so pretty.

Tess Kincaid said...

Your opening photo is just marvelous! I always love hearing about your writing process, Vicki.

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks, Marilyn, I'm glad people are interested in what goes on behind the scenes!

Yep, Margaret, that's my dog Maggie out enjoying the snow.

Hope Mags enjoys it, Martin!

That's a robin, Merisi. Well, an American robin. There was a whole flock of them enjoying the berries on the pokeweed.

Snowing like one thing, Pat! We're going to need chains to get up and down the road -- I'm staying put.

Oh, yes, I've been thinking about this for almost two months, Elora, and making false starts one after another.

I enjoy mixing it up, Brian, and exploring my fictional world. Who knows what else I may find there?

You know, Sam, when I was little I always had a game of make-believe going (usually I was a cow girl.) Now I'm just writing it down.

No library? No books for Christmas? That is, indeed a disaster, Julienne! And I agree, characters in a long-running series really need to continue to grow, in my opinion. However, there are some very successful series where the characters don't even age -- and people like these series for their predictability and comfortable familiarity.

Thanks, Tess -- I've always loved hearing about it from other writers
-- and it's different for everyone.

BB said...

Hoping the new proposal gets accepted!!!

Brenda said...

A few weeks ago, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate the amount of work that goes into creating family trees, etc for characters. But after our class ended, I took one of my characters and began figuring out how she could be the only remaining descendent of this person from France. I almost exploded my brain.

Love the snow pics - my dogs are like your Maggie, they enjoy being out in the snow! OH, and I took some inspiration from you, hope it's okay. I loved how you included your writing spot on your page (at least I assume that's what the photo below your profile is) so I did that on my blog too. (:-) Am adding page elements a bit at a time, as I figure out how to do it and have time to do so. Will link to your blog and books soon! Thanks for your ongoing inspiration.

Darla said...

Hey, thanks for addressing my Q! LOL And in such a perfect way, too, sharing how you are creating new characters...but same locale. Cool. You said "I'm already getting attached to these folks." That's a good sign, don't you think?! Over the weekend, I said DH "oh, Polly would do that differently" and he was like "who?" Me: "Uh, she's the primary character in the novel I'm writing." Him: "She's not real"

Not real?!?!? OMG! LOL

I'm excited for you on the proposal!!!

Liz said...

I hope the proposal is accepted and you can rally in these new friends of yours. New crafting is always a lot of fun whether in writing or crafts or even just design.

I wish the best! And I love your snowy shots. It snow here too and I can't believe how cold it is already here in NC.

Kristen Haskell said...

Hello Ms. Lane,
I am uncertain if this salutation is correct. However, I am grateful to you for sharing your writing process. Maybe you know this but I need to tell you that when you write about your writing, it helps me so much. I am trying so hard to write my first novel and the further into it I go the more I realize I have no idea what I am doing. You just helped me so much with this post. I was trying to create my characters with a fairly weak backstory. I realize now that it does take a lot of work. I am inventing a world here and I need to spend more, a lot more time on it. There are times they do things that don't suit their personalities. I plan to spend the time necessary to work out who my characters are. I wish I lived in your area so I could take a class from you. Thank you so much for all that you share about your writing.

Your pictures are so beautiful. The snow unblemished is really very lovely.
Warm wishes,

Stella Jones said...

Lovely photos. Now I can see your STEEP drive. whoa.... that is steep!
Hmmm I like your original characters, not sure I want them to go away.
Miss Marple, for example, was always living or visiting places where murders took place.
Do what you want to. It's your book.
Blessings, Star

jennyfreckles said...

You'll be pleased to know I've finally ordered 'The Day Of Small Things' from Amazon. So it can carry on snowing and I'll have the perfect excuse to snuggle up by the fire and read to my heart's content. Not even any chickens to feed here!

Friko said...

So, you actually start with a whole cast of characters and location as well as a synopsis, do you?

Kristen Haskell said...

"The Day of Small Things" is on my Christmas list! I told him no jewelry this year, just books!

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks, Barb and Elizabeth! Me too!

Brenda -- oh, that exploding brain thing sounds very familiar!

I think it's a good sign, Darla! Fingers crossed...

Hey, Kirsten, you may address me as Vicki -- that works for me. I'm so glad these FAQ are useful to you-- I know that when I began writing in 2000, I had so many questions and didn't know where to find the answers. So I'm happy to share bits of my process.

Plus, I'll be announcing soon a week-long residential workshop I'll be leading so stay tuned...

My book? Oh, Star -- now that's a topic I'll address in a future post.

Jennyfreckles -- I hope you'll enjoy it!

Friko -- yes, I kind of have to know the characters before I can figure out what they're likely to do. As for the location, I think I need to stay here in the mountains.

Paul C said...

The pristine snow seems a fitting image for a new literary endeavour.

Kath said...

The photos are genius, as always. But I love hearing about your new characters! Herself just has to say yes.

Anonymous said...

I can only imagine that having your proposal finished would make the coldest, most miserable day, a lot sunnier.

And "bravo" with the new characters. I had to laugh when you said: "how many murders can a fifty-something herb farmer reasonably expect to find herself involved in". Having recently finished reading the entire series, I too, was having the same thought.

I'm looking forward to the "new kids" that you will be creating.

Victoria said...

Vicki, the photos are beautiful, but that road looks very dangerous! I think you're wise to stay put.

Good luck with your new proposal, I hope it's accepted.

Just a thought about Elizabeth...perhaps she could decide she likes solving mysteries so much that she could become a private detective? Then she would have a reason to become involved in murder mysteries. Otherwise, I have to agree with you about "how many murders can a fifty-something herb farmer reasonably expect to find herself involved in." I sure will miss Elizabeth, though!

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, I'm not saying this is the end of Elizabeth -- but I think I'll talk more about that in another FAQ post next week --

Tipper said...

Hmmm-the new characters sound interesting!

Your snow is so pretty! We've had flurries several times-but altogether it hasn't amounted to much more than a skiff. The girls did get one 2 hour delay out of it though : )