First posted: Harlequin’s Paranormal Romance Blog, May ’09
Ending at the Beginning…. I had no awareness I was doing it that way, or I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened at all. I would have done it the sensible way, you know. In order. And what a treat I would have missed out on!
I contracted for the first Sentinel book (Jaguar Night, this May) before the Bites were even launched…and for the second two before I then had the chance to pitch for my own Bites idea. So I’d written all three books before I sat down to write the novella, Wild Thing, that would introduce that world to readers.
I’d expected to slip in some world-building as a matter of course–each of these works stands on its own. I think it’s more fun if you read them in order–there’s a quiet, three-book story arc in the background, for one thing–and more fun if you read them all, but if you read them totally backwards, that’s okay. If you read one and not the others, that works, too. So that means each of the books has enough world-building to stand there on its own, and doing it for the novella was a familiar feeling.
It’s the same with the characters. Although each book has its own starring relationship, there are supporting characters who play a role in all three books–and of course there are glimpses of the couples we’ve seen along the way. Especially in Wolf Hunt, when the characters from Jaguar Night and Lion Heart find their way back into the active plot (and oh, how fun was that!). So I was used to introducing them…summing them up, letting them find a spot or two in which to place their own unique stamp of presence.
So what was different?
Usually, when I’m kicking off a series, I’m discovering all these things for myself. I’m stopping to ponder the supporting characters,and at that point I don’t always know how they’ll be involved along the way. (Even with outlines, I do a lot of my writing by the seat-of-the-pants method. Sometimes, one might say, in spite of outlines.) And when a supporting character goes full-form during the course of a book and ends up playing a significant part, then I go back and retrofit him or her into the book. In this case, with the trilogy, characters developed over the course of the series. The Sentinel team member mentioned in passing in the last third of Book One was, by Book Three, endowed with a name and hints at a backstory.
So the unusual luxury in writing Wild Thing was…I knew all that! For all of them! And although I do hope very much to write more Sentinel books, the first three-book story arc is complete, all its nuances and participating characters established…and yet there I was, back at the start. And it meant two things:
I didn’t have to pause the writing to make up the details.
But oops…I didn’t have my usual freedom to make up the details.
So this was me in the writing:
“Wheee! Oops (delete)… Wheeee! Oops (delete)… *gigglegigglegiggle*”
It’s good to have dignity.
A big part of me is tempted to change my ways…to plan so thoroughly, so completely, that I can hit every single book at whee-speed ahead. But reality strikes…I’ve had complete and detailed outlines before. I make it up as I go along regardless, following the outline as one might follow a parallel but separate road. That’s part of the spark and joy of the writing–discovering it all. In this case, knowing what I already knew left me free to devote that element of discovery entirely to Mark and Tayla and their realization that what they thought they knew about each other…
Mark and Tayla now inform me that they deserve their own full-length book. And those supporting characters I mentioned? I’ve already had requests for one of Jaguar Night‘s Sentinels to have more air time…it makes an impression! That’s where readers come in…what do you think? Do you have favorites? And once you’ve read a novella about a couple, do you think there’s still more story to explore? Inquiring minds want to know.
After all, the whee awaits!