my own transgressions

Here’s something from Into the Wilderness that I would rewrite if I could:

They paused, both breathing hard, like statues in the moonlight. Kitty’s clothing was disturbed; a white breast glinted between the edges of the bodice she clutched in one hand. Her loosened hair hung in frowzy ropes to her waist. Her complexion was gray, but her eyes glittered.

The ‘statues in the moonlight’ thing irks me, far too cliched. I’m uneasy with the glittering eyes (but maybe that has to do with my current study of eyes in print). But worst of all: the bodice she’s clutching in one hand.

Okay, so the detail is historically correct. But it’s a bodice. A bodice, and I’m always telling people that I don’t write bodice rippers (that is, books full of sex scenes that are there for no other reason than to arouse, rather than to move characterization or story along). And here’s Kitty, clutching her bodice. Yikes.

Mea culpa.

On another front: the hardest thing about writing a series is the constant challenge of bringing new readers along for the ride without confusing them too greatly, and at the same time, not boring everybody whose been on board since the beginning. I’m at that point in the fifth volume where readers will need some background on the village, but I hate recapping. Wendy (my editor) says, people will be confused, to which I want to say, well hell, let them go read the first four volumes, right?

Now she’s wondering about a foreword for the fourth novel, in which the Author Recaps formally and thus saves the uninitiated reader from having to go read the first three. Stephen King did this in the new editions of his Gunslinger books — there’s an introduction that tells you what happens in one, two, and three if you happen to pick up four first.

Does this sound like a good idea?

7 Replies to “my own transgressions”

  1. I say just have it fairly prominently printed somewhere on one of the pages in the front of the book: “Other books in the Wilderness Series,” and then the titles of the first four. Let people seek them out and read them. As a reader, I really dislike the parts of sequels that are obviously there to bring the reader up to speed on what happened before. Your books (and many others) are the type in which I lose myself fully, to the point of forgetting that I’m reading a book and just get immersed in the story. Nothing like being dumped unceremoniously out of the world the story’s set in, and finding myself looking at a page again — which is what happens when the author reminds me that she’s there. One very easy way to do that is to insert information about the previous books.

  2. I’ve read all three novels in the series but unfortunately I tend to forget details. I remember my reaction to the book, things I loved but not things like secondary character or details about places. So some reintroduction within the story helps reorient me. I’m in favor a recap.

    I think your editor is right.

  3. I read “Dawn on a Distant Shore” before I got “Into the Wilderness.” I did wish while I was reading DODS that I had read ITW first, as I normally do read books in order. Having said that, I’m in Rachel’s camp, I generally dislike recapping on the fly. I’d much rather a discreet outline somewhere that I can refer to if necessary.

    Right now I’m reading Lake in the clouds, and I just wanted to say that there are some very good characterizations for minor players in this book -I particularly like Mrs. Emory. Great job!

  4. I think a short prologue is the best way to go. Whenever I read a book that recaps the prequels I just skim until I get to the real book. Even the beloved Harry Potter has these recaps at the beginning. Who doesn’t know by now where Harry’s scar comes from? So, yes you should definitely do a prologue instead of bogging down the beginning of the new book with old information.

  5. I’ve read books that were “mid-series” and if the book was good enough or need further clarification, i just went and read the previous books. If your editor insists on adding background history, don’t put it part of the story. I agree with Rachel.

  6. I also agree with Rachel. Informing readers of the previous books is a good idea. They will be thankful to start from the begining. Its like coming to dinner and only having dessert.

  7. I agree with Rachel’s comments – and very much like Susie’s anaology of coming to dinner and only having dessert.

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