Thursday, April 15, 2010

Back to the Writing Process

First – there's still plenty of time to enter the drawing for a free copy of When Danger Calls. Scroll down to yesterday's post and leave a comment there. But don't forget to come back here.

We were at the house yesterday, meeting with the contractor the sellers hired to make the repairs. Our biggest concern was what was hiding behind the paint on one of the bedroom wall. It was obvious there had been water damage, and we wanted to make sure we saw what was behind the wall to make sure it hadn't been given a quick cosmetic fix. Everything looked good, and the contractor seemed to know his stuff. We talked to him about having him do the "edits and revisions" we'll be wanting after we move in.

This seems kind of like the situation I had with Nowhere to Hide. It had been published before, by a different publisher. When I moved it to The Wild Rose Press, I had a new editor who regarded it as a brand new book, and even though it met "code" since it had passed muster with the previous publisher and editor, the new editor wanted changes. We'll move into a finished product, but we'll be making changes to suit our tastes.

But I'm getting sidetracked again (no surprise there). I have two manuscripts in the submission process. Then there have been the stresses and disruptions resulting from the move, living in cramped quarters, not having everything I'm used to. Somehow, starting a brand new writing project was too easy to set aside. After all, we're starting a brand new living project.

Then, I had a few hours to myself while the hubster, our son and grandson went off for a "guys morning out." I could walk into the other room and not interrupt something, or get the "what are you doing?" look. I could get into my own flow of writing, which often entails wandering around, doing a load of laundry, washing some dishes, or just staring at the monitor.

I decided, what the heck. I'd write another Blackthorne, Inc. spin-off book, and if I had to abandon the project due to the miraculous discovery that a publisher wanted to sign me on for a three-book deal based on my mystery, so be it. But since I've been working on those Ancillary Materials, that story was rolling around in my head, and I wondered what had happened to some of the secondary characters.

I thought I'd share my "technique" for starting a new book.

1. Characters. That's why I read books, so that's how I write books.

Since it was a spin-off, I had some existing characters. Even though the characters demanded their own story, I hadn't visited them for some time. So, step 1 was to go back to the manuscript and make sure I was keeping them consistent. I know I should have done this from the get-go, but since I wasn't selling books in quantity, I'd never taken the necessary time to create a "Bible".

To do this, I simply copied and pasted the relevant parts into a new document, adding cryptic notes as needed. I promised myself that I'd keep this going from now on, so I will have all the relevant details in one place.

2. Goals & Motivations.

Next, I fiddled around with the basic "why is my character here?" question, "here" being not only her physical location, but also where she is in her life. This was followed by the "how did she get here?" and then by "where does she want to end up?"

A lot of that is primarily back story and shouldn't fill up the opening pages. It's something I need to know, and there's a lot more thinking than writing at this phase.

3. Plot the opening scene.

I'm still not plotting very far in advance. And my story board is packed away. Even if I had it, there's no room in this place to set it up, but I intend to continue with that system.

I got two pages written—several times—before I felt I had a starting point. Will it be in the final draft? Who knows? I haven't even decided on how to bring the hero into the story, or whether my initial idea for the hero will play out. I've also mulled around with having a villain on the page this time. Or at least one of them. Since this book falls into the Blackthorne, Inc. realm, there's bound to be more than one obstacle for my characters to deal with. And it'll be another romantic suspense with mystery and adventure.

Are you shocked that I'm writing without knowing more than I do? Don't be. It's too early in the process for me. I already know more about my heroine than I would if it were a brand new concept. I don't see that it's a problem not knowing exactly how my characters will meet, but meet they will. And their own problems will become intertwined, and bad stuff will happen, and more bad stuff will happen, but in the end, it'll all work out.

And the bonus. While I was in the writing process, all the tension and stress disappeared.

Tomorrow's Field Trip will be our trip up to the historic center at Cripple Creek, which is where we went after our trip to the house. Some very appealing mountain views.


Debra St. John said...

Thanks for the post Terry. I'm usually more of a pantster, but with this book I'm working on, I'm thinking I need to do a little's a bit of a hidgepodge at the moment. I think I'll take a page out of your book, so to speak, and spend some time thinking things out today.

Terry Odell said...

Debra, there's never anything wrong with "head writing". But don't take a page out of my book -- I've only written two. I need them! :-)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Congratulations on starting something new! I think it definitely helps with stress levels...oddly, since it makes us busier! I'm glad the water damage didn't signify a big problem.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Carol Kilgore said...

I love how writing makes that stress vanish. It happens that way with me, too. Good luck with your new project.

Jamie D. said...

Congrats on the new start! Even on it's hardest day, writing is still therapy to me once I get going. And I love that thrill of new characters and a new story starting to take shape...

I'm transitioning from a pantser to a plotter, which means I never have my whole first draft planned out. Someday, maybe...but not quite yet. :-)

Happy writing...

Terry Odell said...

Jamie - I think that must be why writers write. I think I'm turning into a "Plantser"

Terry Odell said...

Oops -- Carol: Meant to include you in my last response. And thanks.

Penny Rader said...

Can you elaborate a bit more on creating a "bible"?

Terry Odell said...

Penny - sure. Consider it a reference with all the details about characters, such as height, appearance, family, etc., plus any other significant details that might impact plot or story continuity -- if the character is afraid of heights in book 1, then he'd better not go mountain climbing in book 2 without some good explanation.

I've tended to be lazy, figuring I'd get a multi-book deal and take care of it then. However, that hasn't happened yet, but I still like writing series, so I should be keeping better track.

Hope this helped.

J K Maze said...

Interesting post. I'm still trying to igure out what I am, so I guess it's half pantser, half outline. I do a paragraph of the "story," then lengthy bios of the main characters, and then start writing. At about 5 chapters, I then reorganize and then just write. It makes for a lot of freedom but also considerable rewriting.

I've never done a spinoff but, because of a comment during a recent promotion, I will probably do another book that would be considered a series, different main characters but with people from the first book also in there. When I start it, I'll have voluminous notes from the first book plus new ones. May need a bigger office.

Your spinoff certainly appeals to me.

Terry Odell said...

Joan, when the characters want to come back, who am I to say no?