Hi. Barb here.
Before starting this post, I looked back, and almost every one of us Maine Crime Writers has written a post about the beginning of the writing process. (And Lea Wait, I’d like to thank you for the ear worm of Michael Finnegan.)
It turns out, we are all over the board on how we begin writing our novels. Some of us have a period of pure research before we begin writing. Some actually wander through the physical landscape. Others write character bios and outlines.
It seems I don’t even approach the task the same way every time. When I started Boiled Over, I mused about my pre-writing thoughts on that book. I had a lot of intentions. I’d thought a lot through. Not so much plot as theme, and what I wanted to achieve for myself and my series while writing the book.
As I begin a new book this month, I’ve done a lot less conscious planning. True, I wrote a synopsis for my publisher back in July. I know the time of year (the weekend after Thanksgiving), the victim and the why of the murder.
But that’s pretty much it. It’s a locked room murder, something I’ve never written. A limited pool of suspects–four couples, eight individuals. I’m sure they’ll all be very interesting when I finally meet them, but honestly, I don’t know a thing about them. I’m just writing. And as each couple turns up on the scene, I’m making them up–on the spot.
I haven’t worked out the structure either, which is a little scary. As things are taking shape now, the body drop is in the first sentence of the first scene and the narrative moves between the forward action of the investigation and memories of the night of the murder. Seems a little tricky, requiring extra care with context and transitions. We’ll see if I can make this work, but so far, so good.
The “story” is one my mother told me years ago. I’ve been carrying it around in my head ever since, certain I would write about it, but not sure how or when. A short story? A novel? Part of a series, or a standalone? Finally all the pieces have fallen into place and I’m ready to tell the tale. I think…
I was on the Agatha Best Contemporary Novel panel with Julia Spencer-Fleming this spring and she said that Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire novels, told her, “You must worship at the Church of 1000 Words a Day.”
So that’s what I’m doing. A thousand words a day. I know plenty of people who write more, but I’m trying not to be competitive about it. First drafts are the worst part of the writing process as far as I’m concerned. Give me something to revise, no matter how rough, and I’ll work twelve hours a day. But setting an achievable goal for a first draft and kind of sneaking up on it seems to be working for me. So far.
We’ll see how this goes. It seems odd that I’m taking this loosey-goosey approach to a locked room mystery, arguably the most structured of the genre, but so far, so good. Or maybe the room wasn’t locked. (Though my protagonist just told the cops it was.)
Wish me luck and I’ll see you on the other side–I hope.