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3 Threats - When Is a Novel Not a Novel?

Updated on November 25, 2017
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

3 Threats to the Homeplace...

A storm is gathering...
A storm is gathering... | Source

Reflections on Planning a Novel

In recent weeks and months, I have been excessively open about planning for the next novel in “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga, historical fiction stories that have become my writing passion - based on my family history research and life experiences primarily in the heartland of the USA.

I began with a discussion of the premise and the title - receiving excellent feedback from many of you - thank you! Then, I went through a series (CDx) of six Character Development articles that I felt would lead me to a running start on the novel. Over the last couple of months, I’ve now written full or partial portions of the first twelve chapters, under the plan I had developed. The first six chapters were to focus on the first threat, the second six on the second threat, the third six on the third, and the fourth six on the resolution of all three threats.

The working title for the novel was “3 Threats to the Homeplace.” The most recent published novel was “Christmas at the Homeplace” which concluded at the end of December of 1996. “3 Threats” began in mid-January of 1999.

Then, “2 Things” happened…

Sunset on the novel...

A beautiful sunset...
A beautiful sunset... | Source

First, the Novel wasn’t working as a novel

Simply put, the first threat storyline came together pretty good. Not great, but workable. However, as I got into the second, which I really thought was going to be dynamite… it simply wasn’t working. I had put a lot of effort into creating all the pieces to make it work, I thought. As I actually wrote about those various pieces, and tell/show how they would come together… they didn’t. Not even close. There were ‘holes’ all over the place. I didn’t even believe it… my readers certainly would not.

I went back to the first threat storyline, thinking I would work on that a bit more, then go back to the second threat and things would be better. Well, on a second, clearer look, I found that the ‘first threat’ story was not really all that great, either. In order to make the story ‘feel right’ I had deviated quite a ways from the original plan. What had happened? I was letting the characters tell the story - and I now realized they saw the story differently than I thought I had planned it out. These characters are well-developed, and they know the story better than I do. But, is that possible?

For my stories, yes, it is possible. After considerable thought, what I realized was that in trying to create an ‘overarching theme’ for the novel, I really hadn’t stayed true to my main characters. I had wanted them to change in ways that they simply didn’t want to change… as they must, in a novel.

The truth was, I really simply wanted to tell their stories, moving through time. I didn’t want to ‘write a novel.’ Said another way, my characters “didn’t want me to write a novel’ about them.

Where did that leave me?

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A new day is dawning...

The sun comes up behind the lonely tree
The sun comes up behind the lonely tree | Source

Second, a new realization appeared in my writing life

During the previous five years of my retirement, when I was able to focus pretty clearly on my writing goals, my personal circumstances were different than they are now. I was, in some critical ways, now a different person than I was then, especially different from the first two or three years, or so. Life changes. Have you noticed?? ;-) And, as always, this has both positive and negative aspects.

One of the strong positives is that I realize I love to write the short stories (episodes) I have been writing on HubPages, both here as Homeplace Series, about “The Homeplace Saga” stories, and, as Dr Bill-WmL-Smith and my Weston Wagons West series of stories about my ancestors and their fictional Weston friends and neighbors. Having written over 125 hubs (64 WWW, 61 HP here) and still cranking them out - I must be doing something right. Readers seem to like them, as well.

What I now have come to believe is, I have found my voice, and my style, as our friend, Bill Holland, likes to say. And that is in the short episodes, not in the novel length works.

“Back to the Homeplace” was a pretty fine novel. I hope you’ll read it if you haven’t. “Christmas at the Homeplace” was also very good. But, I now realize, I can no longer create that level of long story.

As I now devote many more hours each week, as caretaker, with my wife, the times that I can devote to writing are much shorter. There are still adequate hours, but they are not in larger chunks of time. I have adapted the time I have to writing the shorter episodes, and it has worked well. I am thankful for that. Since I really only write because I love to do it, and not for money, that is fine, as well. I have sold a few hundred copies of “Back to the Homeplace,” for which I am very grateful. But, at this stage of my life, that will not be repeated. I fully realize I now write for myself, and for few handfuls of readers who seem to enjoy reading what I write. Whether they number 30, 60 or 360 no longer really matters. I am thankful to each of them, and I’m continuing to have fun writing.

I had already planned to begin, on February 27, 2015, a weekly Friday blog post, on my home blog, , to begin telling the stories of the Homeplace community following “Christmas at the Homeplace” beginning with “Life in Oak Springs,” for January 1997. I will follow through and do that. By the time I get to January 1999, in the fall, I’ll have decided how to proceed.

Curiously, I’ve also decided to do a similar series of Hub episodes here, for 120 years earlier, perhaps using the same title, “Life in Oak Springs,” for 1877 as well… to follow the existing 40 episodes of “The Kings of Oak Springs.” Life goes on… in 1877, 1997, and 2015. Happy reading! ;-)

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    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      These were at least my thoughts, at the time I wrote them, for sure, vkwok. I still stand by them. I'm happy with the decision. Thanks for the visit and the comment! Much appreciated!! ;-)

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 2 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for sharing your wisdom on writing, Homeplace!

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for stopping by, Jo! Best wishes on your novel. You really do need to immerse yourself in it.

      For a break, I have two or three series here on Homeplace Series account, that you might enjoy reading from 1 to 20, 21 to 40 and so forth. They are linked, so easy to follow, if you should choose.

      Thanks, again, for the visit... and comment, especially! ;-)

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Bill, I've read one of the Homeplace Series and planned to read some more, but unfortunately I got a bit distracted. I'll follow Sha and Bill and subscribe to your blog as I'm currently spending less time on HP.

      I'm now attempting to write my first novel, but I'm really not very good at advance planning, I simply go with the flow. It's interesting to see how different writers approach their work, so thank you for this.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Chris, I appreciate your comment more than you can know. Thank you, so much! ;-)

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      Bill, the lessons we learn as writers, about our characters and ourselves have a profound effect on us. The process doesn't only form stories, it forms us as individuals. You have come to realize something, or many things about yourself as you have taken on these projects. I know my own eyes were opened when I attempted to turn one of my short stories into a novel. At this point I have come to accept it as a short story and am content with that. You are so right when you say, if we don't believe our own story, our readers certainly will not. Thanks for allowing us to learn your lessons along with you.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      What a wonderful thing to hear, MsDora. Thanks for your visit and comment... you keep me going, on my journey! ;-)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, I really appreciate you walking us through your discoveries of what to write. Thanks for sharing your experience; it helps me come to terms with my reality.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for your visit sujaya. ;-)

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 2 years ago

      muse on toes

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Writing is a rewarding endeavor, for sure. Thanks for the visit and the comment!! ;-)

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, Bill. You continuing support is invaluable! ;-)

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 2 years ago

      Strange as it is, the author is his or her own strongest critic. But, even so, the writing is a rewarding endeavor, is it not?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love it, Bill. I think it is so important to listen to your muse. She rarely leads you astray if you are willing to listen, and you have. Well done...I'll sign up for your blog now.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      I've subscribed to your blog, Bill.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO


      What a wonderful comment, thank you, so much. The original story "told itself" and that seems to be the way it is supposed to be... That started in 1987, and has sustained itself, still today. Perhaps there is a bigger story here, for writers. Only time will tell. Thank you, again, for your visit, and your support!! ;-)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Bill, your characters and your heart have spoken to you. Follow both.

      I respect writers who can 'plan out' their novels. I'm not one of them. I began a novel over a year ago and have gotten stuck after chapter 16 because my characters are shielding themselves from me for some reason. When they know what they want to say, they'll make themselves present and I'll continue with their story.

      I apologize for not following your Homeplace Series on HP. When I found you, your story was already well on its way and time just didn't allow for me to catch up.

      I love the idea of you posting shorter stories. I've found that continuing chapters (especially if too much time goes by in between, as I am guilty of) people lose the momentum of the story. Since yours is based on real life, it would be a shame for the readers to lose (or forget) the connection between each chapter.

      After posting this comment, I will go into your blog link and subscribe so I can follow you there. I'll also try to be more diligent in following you here.