It’s time to start another book now that Trails in the Sand is finished. Finding the time to begin the new work is nearly impossible because my days are taken up with promoting the novel, submitting it to different websites, and finding reviewers for the book.
I’m not really starting a new book this time. I began a novel in 2006, but then life interrupted, and I set it aside. When I pulled it out of the drawer yesterday, I was amazed that I had written more than 300 pages. How did that happen? For the past six years, I wrote two other novels, Live from the Road and Trails in the Sand. But Safe Harbor – the book’s working title – sat in the drawer waiting for me to do my research.
I remember thinking right before I put it away that I needed to interview a wildlife expert, preferably a wildlife officer. Safe Harbor is about an international consortium that wants to build “perfect” living communities with an environment filled with wild and endangered wildlife. The two main characters are environmentalists who attempt to uncover the truth about the community. But I needed to do some research about wildlife and the laws regarding endangered species.
As life would have it, within two months of putting down the novel, I took a job with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a public relations director. For four years, I worked with wildlife biologists, wildlife officers, and wildlife conservationists. I trampled through the Everglades in pursuit of the Burmese python. I worked with experts on Florida’s panthers, alligators, bears, freshwater turtles, and sea turtles.
I’ve done my research. Now what do I do?
First, I read the book. I began with the first chapter yesterday and here’s my process.
Note cards: I put the name of each character on a note card. I put down relevant information on the card to help me keep details straight. I put year of birth, marriages, divorces, etc. When I have a card for each character, I pin each card on a bulletin board on the wall across from my desk. I group them by relationships. I also put any cross references to other characters on the cards.
Characters: As I go through the first reading, I’ll assess the depth of the characters. I know I have a few peripheral characters in this book so I have to make sure they are essential to the plot and have enough substance to remain in the book.
Dialogue: Sometimes I read the dialogue aloud to see if it sounds realistic. I’ll ask questions. Does the dialogue seem too formal? Sometimes writers forget to use contractions or slang or have a character using dialogue not true to the characterization developed. For me as a reader, nothing turns me off from a book more than unrealistic dialogue. I still struggle with dialogue at times. Each time I write a novel, I learn more and appreciate the comments of my beta readers. On my last book, one of them asked why I had a husband and wife speaking to one another in such a formal tone. I reread the passage and was shocked. She was right. That question guided me through the revisions of the next draft.
Point of View: Point of view is another tricky little task to tackle and understand. Again, when I’m reading a book with a point of view that jumps around or isn’t established at all within the book, I’m a goner. I’ve experimented with point of view. I’ve written two completely in first person. I wrote one with the omniscient third person point of view – which to me is one of the trickiest forms, and I don’t think I’d do it again. In Trails in the Sand, I experimented with chapters from the three main characters. In Safe Harbor, the point of view is third person limited, but I switch the limited view between characters in different chapters. I’m not a fan of switching point of view in the middle of a chapter. I may decide on a different point of view in Safe Harbor as I begin revisions. I did that in Trails in the Sand after my beta readers made some comments about how I was portraying the real-life events playing out in the oil spill and coal mine disaster. So I inserted short chapters of narrative coverage of the environmental disasters taken from news reports and press releases. I suggest writers play around with point of view.
Plot: Since it’s been six years since I’ve worked on this novel, I’ll probably do a timeline and outline of the story as I read. I often move around chapters or bits of pieces of information. I love doing this because only one person is in charge of how the story plays out. We don’t often get that much control in life.
I have lots of work to do, but I’m ready to do it. I hate having an unfinished book sitting dormant in a drawer. Now I won’t have any. I look forward to the day when I’m ready to start another novel from scratch, but at this point, I don’t have any idea what I might write next. That doesn’t bother me. It always comes to me if I just let it go and let my subconscious do that work. My job is to remain conscious enough to allow the story to sift into my brain.
I always tell my friends they need to be careful what they tell me because they might end up in my next novel.
How do you get your ideas?
I’m looking for reviewers for Trails in the Sand. I’ll be happy to gift you either an ebook version or print copy in return for an honest review. Leave me a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your consideration.