Behind the Scenes: Planning Books to Write/Publish, Strategies on Writing a Series, and the First Paragraph to Sally Larson’s Romance

I thought it might be fun to give everyone a “behind the scenes” look at being a writer.  This is similar to the “Making of Movie X” you can find on your DVD or Blu-Ray movie.  If anyone wonders what being an author is like “off-stage”, these “Behind the Scenes” posts will give you deeper insight.  😀  I don’t plan to do these posts every day, but as the mood strikes, I’ll make one.

The interview with Joel and April will be postponed for tomorrow or Tuesday.  (It’s hard to say if I’ll be able to write it out or not.  Currently, they aren’t the “mood” to show up.  In other words, I have to be in the right mindset to do interviews.)

So I thought I’d make a “Behind the Scenes” post today.

Writing and Publishing Planning

I was talking to another author who has a plan to publish six books, and she’s going to time when each book is released so there’s a consistency to when people can expect her books to come out.  I thought this was a good idea and plan to do this, too.

I want another book out by the end of this year, so I’m planning for Shotgun Groom to be published in November.

Here’s the tentative plan for next year.  I want to publish Isaac’s Decision in January, Her Heart’s Desire in March, and then four more books in the Nebraska series on an average of every two months.  At this moment, this is my writing and publishing priority.  If the mood strikes, I’ll write here and there in Bound by Honor, Bound by Love, but the six Nebraska series books will be at the forefront of everything I want to do.  The same is true for any Kate Page books, like Runaway Bride or Just Good Friends.  If I don’t get these written, they just don’t get written.

The Nebraska series is where my heart is at, and I’m going to spend time doing the books I’m most passionate about.  I realize that for some, this won’t be good news, but it is what it is.  If I reach my goal of six written Nebraska books that will carry me through to the end of 2012, then I’ll work on something else.  For example, if I finish the six Nebraska books by August, I’ll work on a book outside the series.  But even if I finish all the books, I won’t publish the books until their set release date so the books aren’t all lumped together.  I made that mistake this year.

Think about how much easier it’ll be to remember, “Ruth has a new book coming out every two months” instead of wondering when in the world I’ll publish something.  😉  So this will hopefully make life easier for everyone.

Strategies on Writing a Series

The Nebraska series is expanding to include more than the Larsons.  I already have ideas for friends of the Larsons and friends of the Larsons.  So the series is branching out in ways I didn’t anticipate.

  • Like Sep in Shotgun Groom.  I’d like to a story focusing on him.
  • I’d like to write about Alice who is Emily’s friend in Isaac’s Decision.
  • I’d like to write about Clayton and/or Wiley who are Isaac’s friends in Isaac’s Decision.
  • I want to write about Eva Connealy who has a crush on Isaac in Isaac’s Decision.
  • Then there’s Doug and Bob Connealy who will fight over one of Tom and Jessica’s daughters.

The surprising thing is, the more an author writes, the more ideas we tend to get.  We’ll throw in a character that is supposed to be a secondary one, and the character will say or do something that makes us think there’s more to the character than meets the eye.  So the next thing we know, the character has a story to tell.  And that’s how series such as the Nebraska series expands.

But here’s the thing.  I can’t write these books in order.  I have to write them as they scream at me to write them.  So I’ll have to jump around the time line.  It really doesn’t matter that I do this because every book is a stand-alone romance.

I am keeping notes on how old important characters are as I write new books.  To give an example of what I mean, here’s what I did for Sally’s book called Her Heart’s Desire:

(I used Eye of the Beholder as a reference point because all of the Larson children who inspired this series are mentioned by age. Eye of the Beholder is what started the series so it’s usually my reference point.)

Eye of the Beholder  1874
Richard 30, Sally 27, Tom 25, Dave 22, Jenny 20, Joel 17

1866 Her Heart’s Desire  (8 years before Eye of the Beholder)

Richard 22 (married to Amanda who is pregnant with twins), Sally 19, Tom 17, Dave 14, Jenny 12, Joel 9 

Those are my notes.  I don’t outline.  I don’t map out towns or make house plans.  I already have a mental picture of this stuff in my mind so I don’t need to mark this stuff down.  But things like ages, hair color, eye color, and siblings can be tricky so I write those down if I do more than a couple books in a series.  I might some day go and write more for the South Dakota series, but the WWI era doesn’t appeal to me, so I don’t see it happening any time soon if I go that route.  I can see the 1900s to 1910 time range, but that’s as far as I hope to push it.  As for how early I want to write, the 1860s are as far back as I want to go.

Since I want to publish six books in the Nebraska series next year, I figured I’d better get a head start on Sally Larson’s romance, Her Heart’s Desire.  This means I need to modify my daily word count goal.

The goal for all of my books is 70,000.  That’s an average.  If I hit above or below it is fine.  I just need something to shoot for, and I’ve found 70,000 words work best for me.

I’ll aim for 1000 words a day on Shotgun Groom.  Currently, I’m at 31,500 words. Today is Sept. 4.  If I can write 1000 words a day, then I’ll have it done around October 12.  After that, it’s one month for the editor and proofreader.  So I can estimate closer to the end of November to get this book out.

Word Count Goals

I’m most comfortable working on more than one book at a time because if I have a dry spell on one, the writing on another tends to spark the writing for the book that I’m having a dry spell on.  Typically, I work on three books at one time and then take a break.  So I write in spurts.  Fortunately, after my break this past summer, I’m going through a writing spurt right now.

I also need word count goals to stay focused.  Right now, I’m just going to worry about writing three books.

I’ll aim for 500 to 1000 words a day for Isaac’s Decision.  Once I complete Shotgun Groom, the word count goal goes to 1000 words a day.  So far, I have 20,000 words done.  Right now I have 50,000 words to write to reach my goal of 70,000 words.  This will take between 50 to 70 or so days to complete.  So anywhere from October 23 to November 12 is when I hope to finish the rough draft.

Her Heart’s Desire will be 500 words a day.  Once I finish Shotgun Groom, the goal will go to 500 to 800 words a day.  After I finish Isaac’s Decision, the word count goal goes to 1000 words a day.  I start today for the 500 words.  I already have the first paragraph written.  Here it is, if interested:

As soon as Sally Larson saw him, she fell in love.  Rick Johnson.  That was his name, and she decided right then and there that she’d one day be Sally Johnson.  How she was going to make this happen, she didn’t know.  At the moment, Rick was hoping to court her good friend, Ethel Mae.  But Ethel Mae confided in her that she did not return his affections.  So, there was nothing stopping Sally from pursuing Rick.  All she needed to do was
convince Rick that he’d be happier with her than with Ethel Mae.

Sally is one of my favorite characters in the Nebraska series, so I’ve been looking forward to writing her romance.  I have no desire to write about Richard and Amanda, probably because that would require me to do a story about the Larsons in New York where they came from, and I love the westerns more than any other type of romance so it’s not happening.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to or check out
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4 Responses to Behind the Scenes: Planning Books to Write/Publish, Strategies on Writing a Series, and the First Paragraph to Sally Larson’s Romance

  1. mitchelle says:

    Sally is one of my favorites too! And i agree that it’s more fun to read romance that are set in the Western area… i don’t know why but it just is! LOL!

    • I agree. When I read romances, I gravitate to the historical westerns. I’m not a big fan of contemporaries, which makes me wonder why I even wrote them. LOL I guess at the time, I needed a change of scenery, but my first love will always be historical westerns. I think there’s something about the time period that makes me think of people valuing friends and family. I see men as taking on the role of protector and cherishing his wife as if she was the most precious thing on Earth, and I see the woman as being softer. It’s easier for me to slip into the ideal of what I think marriage should be. I guess you could say it’s a fantasy. 😀

  2. Rose Gordon says:

    So true on how a series happens. I recently expanded my trilogy to a quartet for that very reason. Had a “throwaway” character who seemed to need a story…

    Good post, by the way. I think it’s easy not to realize what exactly goes into a book unit you write one. LOL

    • Would you believe I was afraid that I would run out of characters to write about in the Nebraska series when I decided to start Isaac’s Decision to work on the second generation of Larsons? Now I don’t know how I’ll organize all the characters wanting my attention.

      And yes, a lot more goes into a book than a lot of people realize.

      Love your picture, btw. 🙂

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