Tag Archive for: writing process

The Unseen (Forget Unsung) Heroines

I had this great post planned. J
Bethany inspired me so much with her “how I organize my
corner of the universe,” I intended to admit to uhm… less organization. And no

I’m more along the lines oJ.M. Phillippe’s “winging it.”

I even took a photo of the messy pile of notes and ideas
stacked up on my desk (and the bedside table, the countertop, the…err…you get
the picture).  Really, all those snippets
do turn into a first draft. Then there’s the tri-fold board with color coded
Post-its (aren’t Post-it’s the best?), broken out by Act and Turning Point, for editing and organizing. (The color coding matches each Point of View character. See? Really. I can be organized.)
(Surely I have a picture of a story board somewhere…) 
Instead of writing about my writing process, every spare moment has been dedicated to the
Daphne. That’s the Daphne du Maurier Award
for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense contest,
sponsored by the Kiss of
Death. Great contest. Wonderful
entries/contestants and judges.
I’m all for volunteering although clearly I had no idea what I’d
agreed to do. You see, coordinators are the unseen people behind the scenes who
make sure the entries meet the requirements and work with the judges to get the
score-sheets and manuscripts turned back in. They “unch” (that’s the polite word for politely pester) and hold people’s hands while figuring out technical troubles. They keep lots and lots of records
and cross check everything. Basically it’s a paper chase, or these days, an
electronic chase spread across four desktop screens.
But the best part of being a coordinator will come in a few
days when I have the privilege of calling the finalists. There’s nothing like
telling someone how much strangers enjoyed their stories and that their
manuscript was voted “best in the group.”
Bring on the coffee and the spreadsheets. I have entries to
Cathy Perkins loves writing twisting plots and relationship
chemistry. She  

especially loved hearing from the Award of
Excellence coordinator, who told her strangers liked her novel.

She wants to publicly thank the judges and
coordinator again for all the volunteer time and efforts they put into that

Listening to the Sound of Words and the Voice of Characters

Listening to the Sound of Words and the Voice of Characters
by Debra H. Goldstein

I like to talk to myself.  Not quietly in my mind, but out loud. My children cringe and fear the worst when they hear me. Joel ignores my occasional mutterings grateful they aren’t honey do directives.  I have no idea what someone watching a security camera filming an elevator or hallway thinks – especially when the words relate to murder or another heinous crime.  The fact is that as a writer, I need to hear the sound of words.

Testing dialogue or narrative works best for me if I can listen to the words.  Giving them vocal life allows me to feel the pace of a scene and the true voice of each character.  Often I realize that what is blocking the flow of the piece is that in trying to push the story, I overwrote it with words the characters never would have chosen to utter when expressing themselves.  The story only works when I respond to the awkwardness of my crafted sentences.

Many writers don’t have to talk aloud.  Instead, they hear voices in their heads. One of my first guest bloggers on my personal blog, “It’s Not Always a Mystery,” Lois Winston, author of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, described the phenomenon of “Those Voices in My Head” in February 2012. (http://debrahgoldstein.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/guest-blog-those-voices-in-my-head-by-lois-winston/ )  Lois explained that the voices belong to her characters. Her voices are not content to sit back and let her write their stories.  Instead, they argue plot lines, characterization, voice, and pace with her.  They often refuse to let the story proceed until she accedes to their demands. Time has taught her that the way the voices in her head want a book to be written is always correct.  Her newest book, Decoupage can be Deadly, is a perfect example of  combining polished writing skills with listening to the voices in her head to produce a delightful final product.

Linda Rodriguez, author of Every Last Secret, Every Broken Trust and Every Hidden Fear, has a similar involvement with her characters.  She recently blogged about how they speak to her and insist on having lives of their own, but she implied that what the characters say are extensions of her subconscious experiences and reading that she had failed to consciously pull together.  The impact of these subliminal messages barging into her consciousness is what works to makes half-Cherokee Marquitta “Skeet” Bannion and the other characters in Linda’s books so real. (https://www.thestilettogang.com/ – December 6, 2013) The result is that when one reads any of the books that feature “Skeet” Bannion, one immediately feels a kinship with “Skeet,” her family, friends and enemies. 
A third group of writers don’t talk out loud or hear voices.  Their story stumbling blocks are resolved while sleeping.  The loose ends of their stories come together in action sequences during their dreams.

Whether words are spoken aloud, voices are heard, or acted out during rem sleep, it is immaterial how subconscious story truth is reached.  The key is for a writer to recognize and accept the message. No matter how skilled a writer is, continually trying to push a round-pegged story into a square hole never produces a quality work product.  Being open to the sound of words and the thoughts characters speak can make the difference between writing that ends up in the drawer versus a book or story that is successful.  As a writer, what method do you use to find the true path a project is meant to take?
                                                                           ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Decoupage Can Be Deadly is the fourth book in Lois Winston’s Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series.  In Decoupage Can Be Deadly, Anastasia and her fellow American Woman editors are steaming mad when minutes before the opening of a consumer show, they discover half their booth usurped by Bling!, their publisher’s newest magazine. CEO Alfred Gruenwald is sporting new arm candy—rapper-turned-entrepreneur and Bling! executive editor, the first-name-only Philomena. During the consumer show, Gruenwald’s wife serves Philomena with an alienation of affection lawsuit, but Philomena doesn’t live long enough to make an appearance in court. She’s found dead days later, stuffed in the shipping case that held Anastasia’s decoupage crafts. When Gruenwald makes cash-strapped Anastasia an offer she can’t refuse, she wonders, does he really want to find Philomena’s killer or is he harboring a hidden agenda?
                                                                             ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In Every Broken Trust by Linda Rodriguez, life has settled into routine for half-Cherokee Marquitta “Skeet” Bannion now that she’s gained custody of fifteen-year-old Brian Jameson and shares care for her stroke-impaired father with her ex-husband—until the past reaches out to destroy everything she holds dear.

A party to celebrate the arrival in Brewster, Missouri, of George Melvin, a Kansas City politician accompanied by his troubled teenage daughter, wealthy wife, even wealthier backer, and mysterious employee, rapidly turns into disaster when Skeet’s best friend, Karen Wise, stumbles on a body in Chouteau University’s storage caves and is attacked herself.  Not knowing who she can trust as she finds friends and neighbors in Brewster keeping secrets from her, Skeet struggles against the clock to solve a series of linked murders stretching into the past before she loses Brian forever and her best friend winds up in jail—or dead.

In My Mind, I Run Like a Kenyan

Rachel Brady

Lee Child made what I thought was an interesting remark at Left Coast Crime earlier this month. Paraphrasing, it was that the fun part of writing is the daydreaming, and that the hard part is getting the words onto the page.

Ain’t that the blazing truth.

I’ve been thinking about that remark for weeks. Somehow I’ve had the notion all this time that getting words onto the page is easier for everyone else than it is for me. Given a choice, I’d rather visualize scenes hundreds of different ways than actually sit down and write one down. Why? Because the version I choose might not work, and then I’d have to cut all those pages.

I know: “Get over it.”

But still.

It takes a long time to put down thousands of words. Cutting them is hard. Why not decide first how I want the book to go, by daydreaming through dozens of plot lines, and then writing down the version I decide is best? For me, daydreaming is oodles more fun than typing words. Many writers say they have to write, that they are addicted to writing. Not me. I’m addicted to daydreaming.

A few years ago, David Morrell shared an interesting story about daydreaming that I’ll never forget. Coupled with this new statement by Lee Child, I grow hopeful now that my Writer Imposter Complex might possibly be unfounded.

The keyboard does not call me. I don’t get a charge out of putting down the words. My charge is always in the imagining.

In this regard, I fervently hope that my future as a writer will parallel my history as a runner. There was a time I did not enjoy running. The only thing I liked about it was how I felt afterward, and fortunately that feeling was good enough to keep me lacing up and coming back. Writing, the actual act, is a little like that for me now. Making a synopsis, staring at a blinking cursor, struggling for a word, or figuring out the best way to express an emotion is often frustrating. As with my running years ago, writing is frequently painful while I’m doing it. But, like the running, I feel an indescribable sense of accomplishment when it’s over. Huge. It’s the buzz that keeps me coming back.

Twenty years later, I’m still running. Now I actually love the run while I’m doing it. I feel disappointed when I miss a run and I’m always looking forward to the next one.

Today I’m daydreaming about a time when writing will feel like that.

Look Who’s Talking

This week at The Stiletto Gang, we’re exploring the writing process. Four authors, four different approaches to producing mysteries.

I’m Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David. In the five years that we’ve been collaborating together, Rhonda and I have often had this same conversation.

Me: So then what happens?

Rhonda: I don’t know until I hear the characters talk.

It’s taken me years to realize (and I confess that I’m slow in gaining these insights) that my writing is plot driven; for the Southern half, and she’ll speak for herself on Thursday, it’s character driven. I have to start out with a general idea of the whole storyline; whereas Rhonda insists that the characters will tell her what happens next once she gets them down on paper. Actually, that’s not a bad combination. It’s probably why, despite repeating the exact same conversation at least a dozen times in every book or story, our collaboration works so well (that and the fact that the Southern half has a wicked sense of humor).

I suspect my approach is the result of 20+ years of writing nonfiction books. Publishers insist on seeing a detailed Table of Contents, as well as a sample chapter, before forking over any money. There should be no big surprises when you write a nonfiction book. Of course, you’ll learn new things as you delve deeper into the topic; the emphasis may shift a little from what you proposed. But basically you know the ending before you start.

As with any successful partnership, both halves of Evelyn David have learned to compromise (early and often). Before we start writing, we talk through the A, B, and C plots of the book, know who our villain will be and what is his/her motivation. But it’s a loose outline subject to change – which is exactly what happened in both Murder Off the Books and Murder Takes the Cake. Rhonda was right. As the characters talked to us, we learned that the murderer we thought had done all those dastardly deeds couldn’t have killed a fly. About halfway through each mystery, the characters told us who was the “real” killer. I had to put aside my careful outline and listen to these chatty characters. They knew what had really happened.

As for my daily writing process. It involves a least a couple loads of laundry, maybe an online game of Spider Solitaire, two or three tournaments of online (no money involved) Texas Hold ‘Em – and then yes, procrastination finished, I write a couple of scenes that I’ve plotted out in my head and discussed with the Southern half. But I’ve learned to listen to what the characters are telling me to do. Sometimes they say, chuck the outline, here’s the real skinny…and then I hit the delete button and start over.

Rhonda would be so proud.

Evelyn David

Murder Takes the Cake by Evelyn David
Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David