On the blog today, I'm thrilled to have international best selling author, Paullina Simons, giving some excellent advice on how to write a time travel love story series. Her latest novel, The Tiger Catcher, is the first in a trilogy, which is a timeless love story, following Julian and Josephine, in an adventure that spans several lifetimes. I'm half way through it now and as gripped with Paullina's books just as much as I always am. The first book of the trilogy is out now to buy!
I’m not qualified to talk about other writer's processes but I can tell you how the End of Forever happened.
Step 1: Get an idea. That was the easy part. In my twenty-five years as a novelist I’ve never had a story show up in my brain as fully formed as this one. I saw Julian and Josephine meetcute and fall in love. I saw her being torn from him, and his intense desire to find her. I saw her being in terrible danger and his desperation and his refusal to give up. I saw all this nearly simultaneously, in a moving image, in a flash of feeling. The rest of their multi-faceted adventure came to me within the next two hours. I looked at that moment and that inspiration as a real gift.
Step 2: Start writing. The beginning of a book is never easy but it did help that I had a clear idea of what the story was and where it was headed. So with a few false starts and doublebacks, I wrote…and wrote. For End of Forever, I’ll call this Phase I and it took me about a year and a half from inspiration to finally feeling that I had a handle on the material.
Step 3: Panic. Panic when you see how huge the story is getting. It’s really the only appropriate response. There’s a great moment in Mr. Blanding’s Builds His Dream Housewhen Cary Grant and Myrna Loy are meeting with their builder and suffering over the budget for their house, which—in their minds—has relatively small rooms. The builder patiently explains the problem: “It's not so much the size of the rooms as it is the number.”
This is what I confronted. There were a lot of “rooms” in Julian and Josephine’s story of love and woe. And to tell it required time—and words. Nearly 450,000 words, as it turned out. I tortured myself and my husband over my failure to finish in a reasonable amount of time, but it wasn’t until I embraced the full scope of the tale that I could really get moving.
Though I knew my readers were eager for my next book, it wasn’t until I fully committed to making the story a multi-book saga that I could go as deeply into Julian and Josephine’s struggles as I needed to—to feel that I came close to doing justice to my original idea. I’ll call this part of the process Phase II and it took me another two years, which meant I had four years had passed by the time I was the proud owner of a first draft the size of the three The Lord of the Rings books.
Step 4: Revise, revise, revise. And when you’ve revised a dozen times, revise a dozen more. And then a dozen more. I won’t bore you with the excruciating details of subjunctive tenses and non-restrictive appositives, but the rewrites involved a lot of harsh language, lying on the floor in a fetal position, and beating my head against the desk.
So there you have it—my guide to writing a romantic saga. All it takes is five something years and an impatient family. There’s a real lesson here for aspiring writers—one that I’m clearly still learning myself despite more than twenty-five years in the book business. Don’t try to force your story into a box. Let it breathe and don’t worry about the length until you’re finished. Only then can you truly know what your story is, and what your story means.
Oh, and if you’ve spent half a decade doing that, be sure to smile big when people ask you: So when’s the next one?
Thank you Paullina for giving us such an amazing insight into your writing procedure.
To find out more about Paullina Simons:
Anyone who would like to follow The Tiger Catcher Blog Tour, here are the rest of the stops.