How to Write as a Team
Last month I reviewed Susan Page Davis’ novel Captive Trail, part of the Texas Trails series. It fascinates me when I read an interconnected series of stories (normally novellas) written by different authors. I wonder how they go about working together. Today, I’m pleased to have Darlene Franklin, who wrote the first book in the series, explain how different authors create a number of novels about one family.
Lone Star Trail is the first book in the Texas Trails series. Texas Trails is a departure from the usual series format in that three authors are writing six books: Book 2, Captive Trail by Susan Page Davis, is already available, and Book 3, Long Trail Home by Vickie McDonough, will come out in November.
I’d love to take credit for the idea, but I have to thank our agent, Chip MacGregor, for the concept. He contacted his authors about putting together teams to develop proposals for several different series. Susan, Vickie and I all expressed interest in a historical Texas proposal (and we all have experience writing about the West), so he put us together in a team.
I consider Susan and Vickie a dream team. Susan is my critique partner and is an amazing and prolific writer. Vickie and I have worked together on novellas and I admire her writing a great deal. She’s also in Oklahoma, as am I.
Starting with the broad parameters of “an historical series set in Texas,” we had to whittle it down to a manageable size. Eventually, we decided to do a generational saga, with each book in the series taking place during a different decade of the nineteenth century: 1846-1896.
To decide who would write about which decade, we looked up a timeline of Texas history. We each listed events that interested us. If we had all wanted to write about the same event, that could have been a problem. Thankfully, our interests diverged, although Susan and I tussled a bit over the cowboy strike in the 1880s! I chose the “Verein,” the influx of German immigrants in the 1840s, and the Mason County War, an ugly ethnic range war, with the intervention of the Texas Rangers, from the 1870’s (A Ranger’s Trail).
Since none of our stories take place at the same time, writing the series hasn’t involved all that much coordination. We made up a family tree that listed names, birthdates, and relationships, for reference. And we’d have to ask questions like “What color were Calder’s eyes?” and “What was the name of Billie’s horse?”
Perhaps the greatest challenge came from writing prologues and epilogues tying our books together, at the request of our editor. For instance, in the epilogue to A Ranger’s Trail, I mention that Ned Bright, the hero of Susan’s second book, has left to go work on another ranch. At first I called him a restless spirit (like my hero), and Susan said no, that wasn’t it at all. We have to not only get facts straight, but also the feel of the characters.
I have worked with teams before, as part of five Christmas anthologies (including this year’s Christmas at Barncastle Inn, also with Susan as well as Lynette Sowell and Janelle Mowery). The experience is untimately rewarding but brings unique challenges. In reflecting on the experience, I would offer the following advice to anyone working with partners on a project:
- Work with people whose writing you respect. You work will stand or fall as part of the group; I admire Susan and Vickie greatly, even though our writing styles are quite different.
- Accept and, if possible, anticipate your differences. In the Texas Trails project, I came to chuckle over our differences. For an example, don’t expect a SOTP (seat-of-the-pants) writer to whip out a synopsis in two days’ time.
- Scheduling often presents hurdles. Whether writing full time and juggling deadlines or writing in addition to a day job, we all have competing demands on our attention. And sometimes my “window of opportunity” doesn’t match yours.
- Good communication takes hard work. Enough said without boring readers with some of the troublesome teams I have been part of in the past!
Would I write with Susan and Vickie again? In a heartbeat.
Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin recently returned to cowboy country—Oklahoma—to be near family. She recently signed the contract for her sixteenth novel. She is also a prolific devotional author with over 200 devotions in print. Visit Darlene’s blogs at www.darlenefranklinwrites.blogspot.com and http://thebookdoctor.blogspot.com.
Lone Star Trail is the first book in a six-book series about the Morgan family, set in Texas in the 1840s. Jud Morgan runs the Running M Ranch near Victoria, Texas; he is immensely proud of his Texas roots. His father died in the war for independence from Mexico and then Comanches captured his youngest sister. He resists the arrival of the German immigrants (the Verein), since their aim is to create a “New Germany” on Texas soil.
Wande Fleischer is one of those German immigrants. Torn from her beloved native land, she faces disappointment on every side when her fiancé abandons her and she loses a sister to illness in the swamps of Carlshafen as soon as they arrive in Texas.
Can these two see past their differences to the love God has for them?
Read my review of Susan Page Davis’ Captive Trail here.
I’ve always wondered how authors coordinate books and series. Now I know! Thanks Darlene and Sandy!
It always seemed to me as though working on a project like that would be complicated, Heidi. Darlene took the mystery out of it and made it seem a whole lot easier than I imagined.
Hello, Heidi! Thanks for stopping by.+
It all comes down to the author’s flexibility (and I have come to realize I am too rigid and controlling in some cases) and to the make up of the team. But a good team is a great asset!
Thanks for all the info and for stopping by, Darlene. This was great information for those of us not quite there.