3 Threats | When is a novel not a novel?
3 Threats to the Homeplace...
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...
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?
Video Book Trailer
A new day is dawning...
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, http://thehomeplaceseries.blogspot.com/, 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! ;-)