In the past, I have focused on my characters, let their actions and dynamics unfold, and shaped the story as I have gone along. In Write Before Your Eyes, for example, I had the idea of a girl who found a magic journal in which everything she wrote came true, and when I started writing all I knew was that what she wrote would get messed up and cause lots of trouble. I worked out the exact nature of that “trouble” as I wrote. I practically wrote myself into a corner, in fact, and my fearless writing buddies, Chris Woodworth and John J. Bonk, helped me brainstorm my way out of it!
I was not able to work that way on the Sisters in All Seasons series. I simply did not have the luxury of time. Each book had to be written in about seven months, and one I ended up having to write in less than five. I had to write synopses and plan the story ahead of time. I had to know where Stephanie and Diana would be at the end of each book before I started writing. In some series, the characters don’t age, but in mine, they do, so that was a complicating factor. I determined that to finish I would need to write at least two pages a day. On the last book, I wrote three. It was stressful, but also very good training.
Of course, I wasn’t in it alone. I had a lot of help. My editor and I had a great email relationship, and I sent questions to her as I was writing, and she’d always answer promptly. We did quite a bit of brainstorming via email. She was always encouraging and supportive. My agent helped navigate the business part of it. And I was so grateful to have Chris Woodworth, my loyal writing friend, read and comment on each book as I finished it. She came to know my characters really well. I also asked my mentor from Vermont College of Fine Arts, Ellen Howard, to coach me on the last book, and her help was invaluable. Another resource for me was Martha Alderson, who calls herself “The Plot Whisperer.” She has made a series of videos and I watched them over and over as I produced my daily pages.
Working on the series was a real adventure. With each book, I discovered new aspects of my characters – I discovered, for example, more about Stephanie’s difficult relationship with her mother. Stephanie had a telephone conversation with her mother in the first book, but she didn’t appear. She was in only one flashback. However, in a later book, Stephanie’s mother became a more prominent character, and I had a chance to flesh her out more. This was a lot of fun. It was as though I’d had a brief glimpse of her at an earlier time but now had a chance to study her more deeply. It was like walking through a foggy wood and gradually having the fog clear in various places.
While I initially panicked, working on this series ended up being a gift in so many ways. I loved my two characters; each of them was a piece of me, I suppose. I got to send them to my favorite places in North Carolina, and let them have adventures with wildlife that as an animal lover, I’ve always wanted to have. Several young readers have told me how much they love the books, and that has warmed my heart. This series has truly been a labor of love.
Lisa is sharing this love by giving away a copy of the fifth book, Season of Change.
Leave me a comment by Saturday, October 7, and I'll enter your name in this contest. If I don't have your email address, make sure you leave that too!