Sandra Ardoin @sandraardoin
We’re continuing the Finishing Strong posts this year with author Caryl McAdoo. Carol is a pretty prolific author, so I felt she would be a good one to explain her process. Welcome, Caryl!
Alpha & Omega
I’ve been writing books for collections and series of late, so like on those, the theme, parameters, and settings are provided. Example, for the Prairie Roses Collection, the stories would be of women going west in a covered wagon. Each author chose their exact year. Wagon trains were mostly from 1840 through the 1860s; I arbitrarily chose 1853 and titled it after its heroine REMI.
The first thing I do when I want to write a new story is choose a heroine and a hero, get a rough idea of them in my head, give them names, and decide where to “open the curtain.” To “hook” my readers right away, I always try to either use a decision that leads to a crisis or a crisis that leads to a decision—a bad decision makes for more drama. ?
So, the Lord gifts me with the crisis and decision, then away I go. I never head straight into the backstory of my characters—not yet. Jumping right into the big middle of the action, I let the backstory come out in little sprinkles as my readers need to know—when it can come out naturally. Backstory is like salt—too much in one place ruins the food, or the book. I get all my secondary characters introduced during this first act.
All the characters need to be introduced in the first act. We need a nemesis—which doesn’t always have to be a person. It can be a war or the weather. The hero and/or heroine can have a sidekick and need a mentor. When everyone is introduced and the greatest obstacle between the hero and heroine established, that marks the end of the act one.
Then I start thinking of all the different ways to keep them from getting together. I call it ‘throwing rocks’ at them. This is act two and determines the length of the book. Depending on how many pages you want your story to wind up being, act two will be long or short; the more rocks thrown, the longer the book.
Plays, books, movies, days, even our very lives are in three acts. Everything has a beginning and a middle and an end. Once I’m approaching my desired word count, I start bringing my hero and heroine together. Of course, the final obstacle that must be overcome (for instance: believer/non-believer or knowing one’s own heart) brings the end. The climax comes with the epiphany, then with that hurdle behind me, I wrap up their happily-ever-after.
Everyone’s heard about either being pantster or planner, but I say I write for discovery. God knows the story, and I’m comfortable with that. I must say in HEARTS STOLEN, book two in the Texas Romance Family Saga series, I threw so many rocks at poor Levi Baylor and Sassy Fogelsong, I had no idea how it could ever work out, then just like in our lives, but God . . . He had a wonderful ending!
Early on in my career, I’d get blocked up, and have to go back and take a story in a different direction, but since I figured out the characters won’t let me take them where they don’t want to go—their will—it just doesn’t really happen anymore. I start writing at Chapter One and write straight through to the end now, finishing big I always hope! The Star-ratings I get at Amazon from reviewers encourage me I do.
Award-winning Author Caryl McAdoo prays her story brings God glory! And her best-selling novels are blessed with a lion’s share of 5-Star ratings! With forty-three-and-counting titles, she loves writing as well as singing the new songs the Lord gives her—listen to a few at YouTube. She and husband Ron share four children and eighteen grandsugars. The McAdoos live in the woods south of Clarksville, seat of Red River County, in far Northeast Texas, waiting expectantly for God to open the next door.
(Hear Caryl sing her New Songs!)