How I’ve Developed as a Writer: Book I Through Book IV

How I’ve Developed as a Writer: Book I Through Book IV

As I write this, it’s the last week of 2020 (thank God!) and I’m about half-way done writing Mailboat IV (coming June 5, 2021), which marks the half-way point in the Mailboat Suspense Series. (There should be seven or eight books in the series all together.)

With all that in mind, this feels like an appropriate time to look back on the path I’ve walked to get here and reflect. Today, I’m curious to ask the question, “How have I developed as a writer?”

My Fans Changed Everything

I’m not sure my writing style has changed much over the course of four books. (Maybe my readers can tell me different!) And I don’t really think that my writing methods have changed much, either. Furthermore, even though I published the first book back in 2016, my plans for the overall series haven’t changed either. I’m still following the overall plot that I imagined years ago when the inspiration first struck.

But what has changed is the fact that I now have fans–something I barely had when The End of the Pier (Book I) released! I also have a very close connection with those fans. We love to talk! My readers love to tell me what they think of the series and what they want next. I, in turn, often shift course in response to what they say, even while staying true to my original vision.

Here are some examples:

The Tone of the Entire Series

The first thing I ever shifted in response to fan feedback happened before I published Book I. I was running a blog at the time, chronicling my adventures as I worked on The End of the Pier. A high school teacher from the Lake Geneva area ran across my project and expressed her enthusiasm. “I can’t wait to share this book with my students!” she said.

And that’s when I decided there would be no bedroom scenes, and I’d keep the language to a PG13 level.

As you can see, my tiny group of early fans had massive influence on the series. I was still feeling out who my audience was, and so the feedback from my earliest readers really shaped the direction I took with the tone of my books.

Aaaagh! It Can’t End There!

Now that I have thousands of fans, there are two comments I received very frequently. The first is, “Those cliffhangers! They’re killing me!”

As I’ve explained many times, I didn’t realize at first just how broad the scope of this story was. The Mailboat Suspense Series is one, overarching story that touches on the lives of dozens of people, and by and large they all get a turn to share their voice.

Thanks to that, there was just no way the story was going to fit into one book. And so I made the decision to split the story up into multiple volumes. And yes, that resulted in cliffhangers.

But after the first two books–which end very dramatically–and the third book–which has a little bit more of a landing place where the reader can breathe– I’ve changed my approach to those cliffhanger endings. My readers like to feel like they’ve arrived somewhere. They liked the ending of Book III better than Books I and II. And so I’m leaning more and more towards giving each book something that feels more like an ending, even while the overall story continues.

When’s Your Next Book Coming?

The other feedback I get literally all the time? “When is your next book coming out?!” A book that I spent one or two years crafting, my readers can finish in a day. As soon as it’s done, they want the next!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not that great at time management, especially when it comes to big projects! That’s why I finally hired Jacque, my book coach. (She has an entire article over here.) With her keeping me on track, I think I’ll finally be better at fulfilling my release date promises to my readers. That’s a huge sigh of relief for both you and me!

Whodunnit and What Happens Next

But finally, I’ve shifted my books based on what my readers say about the plot and the characters. Whenever I release a book, I ask my readers lots of questions–most importantly, “Who do you think The Man Upstairs is?” Based on your guesses, I’ll shift the plot a little this way or a little that way. It’s my goal to keep you guessing as long as possible!

But I’ll even respond to ideas you suggest. One reader asked about a character who appeared for only one chapter in Mailboat I: The End of the Pier. I never meant for that character to appear again. But that one reader wanted to know more. And so… Mailboat IV sees that obscure character return. And boy, do things get turned upside down because of it!

So for me, the biggest change from Book I to Book IV has simply been writing while my fans watch and wait. It’s very different writing all by oneself, when there’s no one to please but me. Writing can become intimidating once you have a following! But it can also be reassuring. I can simply ask my readers what they want next and what they expect next. In that way, these books are almost literally tailor made.

Let’s Talk!

That’s my look back on five years and almost four books. (Five, if you count The Girl on the Boat.) And like many people, I can’t wait for 2021! (It’s gotta be better than this year, right?)

Here are my questions for you, which you can answer in the comments below:

1.) How do you feel you’ve changed in 2020? How do you feel you’ve changed over the past four years?

2.) Do you think my books have changed from Mailboat I: The End of the Pier to Mailboat III: The Captain’s Tale? If so, how?

See you in 2021!


You can see for yourself whether my writing has changed! Here are the first three books:

Meet Jacquelyn Scott, Book Coach

Jacquelyn Scott, Book Coach

Shipmates, I’d like you to welcome my newest crew member, Jacquelyn Scott! Her new position with me and the Mailboat Suspense Series is book coach and project manager. It’s her job to manage my writing deadlines, cheer me on, and set me sail-side up if I capsize. I’m so excited for you to meet her!

Why I Needed a Book Coach

Let’s face it, I have never been great at hitting my book release dates! There have been times when I’ve had to set back a release so I could schedule more time.

Or if my book did come out on time, I was secretly stressing out like crazy and missing a lot of sleep.

But 2020–and the life-shifting global pandemic that came with it–really threw things into sharp relief. My ability to get words down on paper depends a lot on routine. Pre-pandemic, you’d find me walking to my local coffee shop to hammer out my words every single day.

During the pandemic, I couldn’t go to my coffee shop anymore. And thus… the words literally didn’t get written.

I’d wanted to hire a book coach for a long time anyway. After postponing the release date for Mailboat IV TWICE, I knew this was the time. That’s when I found Jacquelyn!

Why Jacquelyn’s Here

But what does a book coach do? And how is this going to help Danielle get her books out more consistently?

Jacquelyn’s job is pretty simple. First of all, we work out the deadlines together. I’ve been guilty of creating unrealistic deadlines in the past, so I’ve put her under orders to keep my expectations sane!

Next, every day before I sit down to write, we get together for a Zoom meeting. During these meetings, we review everything I want to get done that day. Jacquelyn makes a list with annotations regarding how much time each task should take.

And very importantly, she asks me about my headspace. Some days, I’m on fire and I can’t wait to start writing. Other days, one of a hundred things might be off just enough to make it hard for the words to start flowing.

Either way, Jacqueline makes sure to remind me that I can do this thing! Her encouragement and enthusiasm (and sometimes a little therapy!) are just what I need to get me going.

After our video meeting, the rest of the day is filled with periodic check-ins. She’ll shoot me a text and see how things are going. If I’m hitting my goals, we celebrate! And if I’ve been swept overboard into the bottomless ocean of writer’s block, she throws me a lifeline, such as a phone call to talk about what’s going wrong and what we can do about it.

Sometimes the answer is to just keep going! Other times, it’s a good idea to take a walk or do something else to unplug. And some days I accidentally end up in a Nerf gun battle with my boyfriend Charles. Oops.

Jacquelyn and I have only just started working together, but the difference is already amazing. Last week, she coached me through 21 chapters (about 40 pages, double spaced) in a single day, helping me finish the third draft of Mailboat IV!

Mailboat IV, third draft

Without her tireless enthusiasm, I’d give up long before my potential actually ran out. Just like a good fitness coach, Jacquelyn reminds me that I actually do have a few more reps left in me! And that’s why I’m so glad to have her here to help me with my writing goals.

What Jacquelyn Can Do for You!

I know I have some other writers in my fan base! Guys, if you need a book coach, Jacquelyn is fantastic. She combines optimism and enthusiasm with just the right amount of psychology to make magic happen. And she offers other services, as well!

    • Book Coaching
    • Editing
    • Ghostwriting
    • Interior Book Design and Formatting

To learn more about Jacquelyn and what she can do for you, visit her at her website, JacquelynLScott.com.

And Finally…

We’re all family around here! I’d love it if you left Jacquelyn a warm note in the comments to help welcome her aboard.

Thanks so much for joining our adventure, Jacquelyn!


The first book Jacquelyn’s helping me with… and others that came before!

I’m Restarting the Blog!

Once upon a time, a long time ago… I ran a blog. In fact, before I even had any books published, I blogged about the books I was going to publish. And if you’ve been with me for a very long time, it’s possible my original blog was how we first met!

After not blogging for several years… I’ve decided to restart my blog. But why, you may ask? And what am I going to blog about?

Read on!

Oh, but maybe some housekeeping first.

That’s great, but… who are you?

Maybe you’re new here, and you don’t even know what I’m talking about. If that’s the case, let me introduce myself.

My name is Danielle Lincoln Hanna and I’m the author of the Mailboat Suspense Series.

A forgotten teen, all Bailey wanted was a family of her own. Instead, she found a body at the end of the pier…

Set in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the series features the real-life Mailboat that delivers the mail house-to-house around the lake. Intrepid young mail jumpers must leap off the boat onto the piers to get the mail in the boxes. The catch? The boat never stops!

Here’s some footage I captured while doing research for the series:

Now that you know who I am and what I write, let’s talk about why I’m restarting this blog!

Why am I restarting the blog?

The fact that I get to sit down every day and write suspense is thanks 100% to YOU, my readers. You buy my new releases as soon as they drop, you talk about them non-stop to your friends, you drive from hither and yon to attend my book signings, you ask your local libraries and bookstores if they will pretty please carry Danielle’s books, etc., etc., etc.

My gratitude for all you do is never far away.

And while I can’t always sit down with you and let you know how much you’re appreciated, I can create ways for us to connect, even when you’ve already turned the last page in my latest book.

One way I do that is through my newsletter. Another way is through my Facebook page. But another way I can help us connect is through restarting this blog.

So welcome!

And if I haven’t made it clear already, THANK YOU for everything you do to support me as a writer. This is literally the only life I’ve ever wanted.

What can you expect to find here?

That’s what we’re going to find out! I’ve learned from my previous blogging experience that you start out thinking it’s going to be about this, but as time and your readers evolve what you’re doing, it turns out to be that. So take this list of ideas as just that: A list of ideas.

At Danielle’s new blog…

    • Pull back the curtain on Danielle’s life, what she writes, and how she writes it
    • Learn the story-behind-the-story of the Mailboat Suspense Series
    • Find out what Danielle has read, what she’s reading now, and what she wishes she had the time to read!
    • Be entertained by other random thoughts on Danielle’s mind

And from there, we’ll see what develops. I plan to post once a week-ish. Feel free to comment any time! I’ll probably even reply. 😉

And now… let’s blog on!

~ Danielle

Danielle Lincoln Hanna blog

 

 


Danielle Lincoln HannaDanielle Lincoln Hanna is the author of the Mailboat Suspense Series. “All she wanted was a family of her own. Instead, she found a body at the end of the pier…”

 

 


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