I am a planner. I need to know where I am going, and how to get there, or I will spend an inordinate amount of time circling the metaphorical roundabout, looking for the on-ramp, until I run out of gas and abandon the car entirely and head off on foot. From there, I will probably wander the moors, my lantern held aloft in the whipping wind. In the distance, a wolf howls. In short, this never leads to anything good.
Especially not in the whole area of a sustainable writing career. Which means time to plan. Conventional wisdom, right now, at least as it applies to historical romance, is that the best chances of success (as in financial/sales/building reader loyalty) are with connected books; at least three books in the same story world, preferably five. The most marketable setting right now seems to be Regency England (not my cup of tea) followed by Victorian England (same; I suspect I was born without the nineteenth century gene) and :drumroll please: Georgian England. Georgian England, I can do. Since I’ve already set my focus, for the time being, on eighteenth century romance, this gives me a place to start, and a foundation on which I can build.
My natural bent, and still my preference, after all these years, is still my first love, the standalone romance. One pair of lovers, one story, one HEA, wave them off into the sunset and then on to something else entirely. Basically, “Well, medieval France was nice :dust palms: I’m thinking…:drums fingers: Gilded Age New York next, and maybe pirates after that. Who’s with me?” That last bit might be best read in David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor voice. Go back and read it in that voice if you’d like. I’ll wait.
I also have a strong preference for selling books over not selling books, so this means it is an opportunity to learn new skills. Last night, I sat in my uncharacteristically quiet office, the window open, no music playing, only the sound of the rain on the street outside, and looked over some options. While I browsed blog archives by other, more successful, historical romance writers, I also poked around my private Pinterest boards regarding projects currently on the back burner. I opened the board I’d kept for my Regency crash-and-burn, and de-Regencied the whole thing in one go. Wiped out every single pin that pegged this story as taking place in that particular era, no exceptions, and, immediately, I felt…relief. Now, what about reimagining this story as a Georgian? Possibilities there. I think it could work. I’d have to move some things around, but the hero and heroine wouldn’t have too drastic changes, and their love story stays the same.
Which got me to thinking about other orphaned manuscripts, set aside at various stages. Would it be possible to take the most viable of those orphans and stick them in the same story world? Now that I’ve accidentally found out how to include pictures in Scapple, I can throw my various people on the same page, along with a bunch of things that inspire me in a more general sense, and start making connections.
This is new for me. Melva Michaelean and I have planned out two more books in the same world as Chasing Prints Charming, but this is the first time I’ll have taken on something like this on my own. It’s an adjustment, and a challenge. Can I make things work together? How are the characters going to fit together, when they’ve been in their own corners up until now? The only answer I have at present is that I will soon find out, and that I will likely surprise myself on more than one level. Thinking in terms of “and,” not “or” is a big help here. I can still write my standalone stories, and I am fully aware that those may be a tougher sell, or present a smaller return than linked books. I am fine with that. It’s a good balance.
The next step here is creating that world. Part of me thinks this could be fun and the other part already has a headache. To bring this back full circle, I am a planner. I want to know what I’m doing while I figure out what I’m doing, and, at the same time, I want some of the connections to make themselves. That’s probably part of the whole flinging everybody on the same electronic whiteboard process. I already know I’m going to have more than one artistically inclined character, and probably more than one of the gents will wear or have worn regimentals at one time, but those are places where connections can start to form. Where they go from there, remains to be seen.
Last night, while poking around my desk, I found the bunch of index cards, pictured above, with chapter headings written on the top line of each card. I have no idea what project these were meant for, but rather fortuitous that they surfaced when they did. Maybe it’s a sign. What do you think?