I asked author Mary Shotwell to talk about her writing process and to share some info about the sequel to Weariland.
On the writing process:
I knew what I wanted Weariland to be—a Young Adult, light fantasy/adventure continuing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I wanted short chapters with changing points of view, a la Dan Brown. With a handful of scenes in my head, I started writing in a notebook about various characters and plot points. But before I started typing out the manuscript, I read up as much as I could on writing novels. Sure, I had read plenty of novels and knew the general flow of story. I didn’t feel reading novels was enough. I studied world building (www.pcwrede.com has a great list for fantasy world building), character development, and tricks in writing third person limited omniscient (first learning that is the name of what I wanted to do, then how best to do it).
After studying books and the internet, and taking notes, I typed out my scenes. I started ‘on the fly’, writing a scene and moving wherever the scene led me. In retrospect, this was dangerous. Many times I caught myself writing into a ditch, or editing and re-editing what I had written. The process left me frustrated, and the end goal seemed far off.
Luckily, I had motivators in the form of family pushing me to finish the book. I decided to get serious. I made a notecard for each chapter, outlining the major plot advances and whose point of view I was using. I easily saw the gaps, and what needed work, and where to move the story. I made additional cards for the remaining chapters to write. By far, having an outline was the one thing I did that made the writing process incredibly smoother and more enjoyable. I was excited to pour out the story, knowing where it was going, and when I’d stop, I was excited to pick it back up the next day.
Yes, in my research, I discovered many successful authors outlined their works. At the time I had thought, But I don’t know where the story is going until I write it out. I need to see where it takes me. I tried that way, and nope. Not a positive outcome. Now I know that, for me, the outline forces me to know where the story is going. I will not start a manuscript without having the plot, characters, and setting clearly defined for each chapter.
On a sequel to Weariland:
This is tricky. I don’t want to reveal too much, else the excitement of writing it wanes. Things I am willing to tell you:
I do not have a title yet
It is deeper than Weariland. You will see further into Weariland’s landscape, but also learn more about some of the characters that were only briefly mentioned in Weariland.
It is darker. (What sequel isn’t?)
It will be the second book of…wait for it…a trilogy. In writing the first, I knew the story wasn’t completely finished. I deliberately opened story paths to take on later. In writing the second, and knowing a third will wrap it up, I not only need the outline for Book 2 but know where I am going with Book 3.
More info on Weariland: