Third Time’s the Charm – Right?

Alberta prarie farm - Bruce Witzel photo

Disappearing in Plain Sight, The Light Never Lies, Chasing Down the Night – there is something magical about a trilogy – think Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, the rule of threes, the Holy Trinity. The idea of threes is on my mind as I’ve just released my third novel in the Crater Lake Series. Yippee – a trilogy. That does have a nice ring to it. There is something very satisfying about having brought three full-length novels to completion and launched them into the world.

Write one book and it might simply be that I am a person with one book in me. Write two books and I might have gotten lucky. Write three books and … well … that has to say something. Even if that something only relates to my tenacity.

But whoa! Let’s get back to this whole trilogy thing for a minute. What if I’m not finished with the characters from Crater Lake? If I end up writing a fourth novel, I’m going to wreak havoc with that lovely trilogy thing – ruin the fenestration of my whole edifice. Four novels in a series – the very idea sounds clunky. I could just keep going. Write six books and end up with two trilogies. Twice as much has to be twice as good, right?

You now have had a scary peak into my current thought processes as I worry away at this issue like a dog with a bone. Since you’re already in my thoughts, I’ll share some more. As the third novel evolved, I knew it couldn’t be the last. I was getting used to the idea of letting go of the magical trilogy. In the back of my mind, I had planned one more book to wrap the story up. I’d even storyboarded ideas for that last book. Now, I’m not so sure about ending on book number four.

I’ve taken a lot of care introducing new characters in Chasing Down the Night. There’s Brigit, the feisty Cook and her adorable daughter, Tabby. And what about Nick, the handsome, financially strapped maker of numerous unwise relationship choices? If I move too quickly to end the series, I will short circuit any chance these characters might have to grow and evolve.

How do I deal with solving this pesky dilemma? Work on something else, of course.

I’ve been creating pages of notes for a future novel that will be entitled, The Jennerville Women’s Chamber of Commerce. The story revolves around five women who run businesses in a small town that has wholeheartedly embraced economic diversification to stave off dying away to nothing. The boom and bust cycles of logging had the town headed into decline. The town’s determination to market itself as a kitschy tourist destination has been taken to often hilarious limits. There are a couple of kids, a dog named Dumbledore and a ghost – friendly, of course. Think Comedy of Errors type romance joined to cozy mystery. Should be fun. At the very least, work on this helps me avoid thoughts of how many books it will take to logically end the Crater Lake Series.

Sculpture Square - Bruce Witzel photo

Fall is in the Air–Oh, Say it Isn’t So

Fall is in the air - Bruce Witzel photo

Labour Day has come and gone. It’s time to pack away the wardrobe of white and dust off some warmer clothes for the coming fall. Eek – I’m not ready to let summer go. We had more than a few days of dullish weather last week but the upcoming one promises to be sunny. The garden is geared up for its last push – pepper and tomato plants are bowed over with bounty and the green beans are in a daily race to see if they can produce more than we can eat.

Evaluation - google imagesBruce and I are working on something we do every couple of years. We call it our lifestyle evaluation. We check in on the various things we’re doing as individuals and as a couple along a number of dimensions to see where we want to tweak or change direction. We congratulate ourselves where we’ve met goals and faced up to challenges. It’s a good exercise for the upcoming fall.

I saw my doctor the other day and she put me on to a great internet tool – My Fitness Pal. Have you heard of this site? Participation can be as private or as social as one likes. I go in and track food intake and activity and all these great calculating tools tell me how I’ll end up in a month if I stick with my current pattern. Enlightening, shocking and sometimes terrifying. But mostly it’s a fun tool – definitely a step up from a handwritten food log or activity journal. Basically the same idea, though. Research shows that people who actively keep track of food intake or activity have double the chance of sticking to their goals. Good old research – always there to bolster one claim or another.

The Orenda by Joseph BoydenI managed to find the time to sit down and thoroughly devour Joseph Boyden’s novel, The Orenda – 2014’s Canada Reads Winner. I received the hardcover as a Christmas gift and I have put off the read, like someone delaying the gratification to be had from the first sip of a fine wine. The book is absolutely exquisite – word by word so finely written it will break your heart. I wondered if he could top my experience of reading, Three Day Road. He could and he did. I’m in awe of the man’s writing talent.

Guenette - Inspiration for Chasing Down the NightThe first fifteen chapters of Chasing Down the Night have gone to a trusted reader. Targeted feedback at this stage of the writing is very helpful. I’ve asked questions such as – what grabs you, what leaves you cold, what makes you laugh, what makes you squirm, is someone getting too much exposure, is someone not getting enough, are you intrigued, do you want to read more?

I’ve been taking the time to reorganize my computer files before the next writing push. I generally start a work-in-progress with a number of word documents saved by date. These can be anything from character sketches, to timelines, to outlines, to blocked out scenes in various stages of writing polish. At some point, I have to go back through every one of those dated documents, pull out each scene and resave with the proper name. The process is time consuming and I’m always afraid I’ll lose something but the way I work is the way I work. I haven’t been able to change that and I’m not sure I want to. So, I’m willing to live with what is.

Storyboard - Guenette photo

An additional layer of paper needed to be added to the storyboard so that I could go into greater scene by scene detail with my coloured post-it-notes. The next section is coming together.  

I’ve been struggling to write the arrival of a new character – Liam’s sister, Fiona. I’ve walked around and around and around all my notes like an old dog taking the plunge to settle down on her bed. What I discovered was that I wasn’t quite ready – I couldn’t hear her voice clearly enough to cover something so important as how she arrives at Crater Lake. I didn’t know (yet) whose point-of-view to allow sway as she arrived. Who has the most at stake?

The solution has been to work on dramatic scenes that Fiona appears in further along the way. The other characters who surround her are letting me know in no uncertain terms what having her around means. With each day of writing I get closer to understanding how Fiona impacts the story. I begin to hear her voice. There is nothing like some high drama to reveal a character’s true colours.

Green Party Sunflower - Guenette & Witzel photo

So, fall is in the air – though some of us would like to deny it when the sun shines as warm as it does today. I’m wishing all of you the best with the last of the garden harvest, writing projects, lifestyle changes and anything else the coming autumn season brings your way. Though I’ve been away from the rhythms of the school system for a few years now, I always think of September as a time for new beginnings. I have the urge to run out and buy school supplies.

Before I sign-off – last month, I blogged a post entitled, Should Indie Authors Pay for Promotion. The post generated a great discussion. The comment stream has become far more useful than the post itself. I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already and please do take the time to join your voice to the interaction.