What I'm reading: Make Me Yours, by Betina Krahn
Thanks, Jane, for that delightful look at New Zealand. I did get as far as the airport in a brief layover on our way to Australia years ago. I hope to get there someday.
And welcome to my new followers. I hope you'll find it worthwhile stopping by. I'm flattered that you find enough here to keep coming back.
Writing updates: I'm in contract negotiations for my mystery short stories that would be part of a 4 author anthology. And my upcoming (July 27) Free Read brought an unsolicited email from the publisher.
She wrote: I read your upcoming free read, The Other Side of the Page, and just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. So clever and cute!
That's definitely a feel-good moment.
I'm back to my novel again, after the break to write a short story. And I've got more story board stuff going on. Because I took an extended break from working on the novel to write my second short story, I was out of touch with both plot and characters. In order to get back into the thick of things, I read what I had – about 45,000 words—in hard copy, and found a few problems. I also needed to take another look at my idea board, to remind myself of where I've been and where I want to go.
One thing I realized was that I have introduced secondary characters whose roles are becoming more significant in the various plot threads. I went through my story board and added little sticky notes with their names for each scene in which they appeared. This way, I can see if I've left them off the page for too long, or if they're starting to threaten to take over.
Since I'm trying to keep track of a fatal car accident, a murder, two break-ins, and a secret search for something, the sticky notes help. If I were really good, I'd color code them, but since I've already used random colors, I think I'll just use my new bright blue ones for plot threads in general. Should I ever do this again, I'll probably try to do more color-coding from the get go.
Trying to keep the reader guessing means dropping in clues and red herrings. But you have to play fair. If I've forgotten to mention the traffic accident, or the name of the man who died in it, for too many chapters, it's likely the reader will have forgotten as well. It's not fair to mention something or someone once in passing, and then have it be the solution to the entire puzzle at the end. Nor do I want to mention it so often that it's waving a red flag at the reader. "CLUE HERE!"
Another thing I noticed on my re-read was that I'd forgotten an important reveal. Megan had been telling everyone she didn't remember anything about the man who accosted her in the park, but at the end of Chapter 11, I discovered she'd revealed what he'd said to her. Forgetting that I'd written it, I blithely went on with her saying she didn't remember, until she revealed it again in chapter 15. Oops.
So now, when I have a critical reveal, I'm using my red pen and some nice, conspicuous asterisks on my sticky notes. And given how many mystery threads I'm interweaving, I should probably have done it from page 1.
Could I do all this on the computer? Sure. And lots of times, I do make notes, both using the Document Map feature of Word, or on a separate document. But I don't like bouncing back and forth, and slapping up a sticky note is still working for me.
Looking back: What am I tracking? POV characters. Each has a specific color larger sticky. Setting. Mystery threads and clues. Secondary characters who are involved in one of the mystery threads (or, as it seems to be turning out, as a romantic interest for my detective).
As far as plotting goes, I'm still doing this as I go along. When I started talking about writing this book, I mentioned working to establish the critical back story that propels the mystery. I'm now writing the second scene of Chapter 16 (at the 47,000 word mark), and this is the first time the reader is seeing a hint as to what it is. (Talk about not opening with back story info dumps!) That's why this is a mystery. In a suspense, the reader would already know, and would be wondering if things were going to reach critical mass before the characters figured it out. But since it's a mystery, the reader won't know until the characters do.