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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


It is always tough to restart from a layoff. While in Chicago, I absolutely had no "space" to write. OK, there were babies involved. It was a great trip.

But the plane flights were smooth, and I did actually manage some edits while traveling, as well as reading some pages from my critique partners. But I didn't get any truly creative work done for six days. Then, of course, getting home involves things like mail and laundry and unpacking and billpaying, meanwhile trying to get back in the groove. Two days of mucking around in the edits and rereading to figure out where I left off...and then the wheels start to spin. Oh, yes, we had just discovered the body.

I love set-up, bringing characters together, leaving hints, inventing terms like "mule" and having a dead one show up, but, of course, there is a time when you have to get down to tough specifics. This story is a mystery, which means clues. I have to decide who this dead person is. Why he or...ooohh, maybe it's a she, yes, yes, and maybe even someone that Portier knows [calm down, you guys, this is not Maura!]...ended up dead when Someone didn't mean for it to happen like that. All of a sudden I am juggling so many things at once, and doubts fall upon my head like a shower of mud. "Oh no," I say, "this is all crap!"

It is time for organization. I begin to organize this piece into layers:

  1. The investigators--what do they see and how do they interpret it?

  2. The perpetrators--their motives, what went wrong? Because this body wasn't supposed to be found, was it? What was/is supposed to happen? This requires a new file called The Conspiracy where I begin to list the "incidents" I know about in the past, and try to construct the villains' chain of reasoning up to the current point. This helps a lot, and I have an Insight about the villains' motivation. It fills a big hole in my book proposal, as in "What was the mysterious thing that the first investigator discovered before he vanished?" Now I know!!

  3. Everyone else in the place. We can't have mutilated bodies show up without people being worried, concerned...what do they hear and how do they react?

  4. And then there is the physical action of getting in to see the body, when the investigators are agentes confide and no one is supposed to know they're interested. OK, this one's easy.

  5. Not to mention the necessary Something That Goes Wrong, while they're doing it, and this is where I lurch between ideas, not finding the right thing until I try to explain my snarl to my husband and come up with the solution right as I talk about it.

I think this complication of composition is why, for so many years, I never believed I could write a whole story.

What my writing experience has given me is the confidence to know I can deal with these layers one at a time. That I have plenty of time for revision. That once I'm farther down the road I can always adjust. YES! It is not the Very Secret Deepest Cover villain who surprises Portier and Dante in the deadhouse - because that would highlight that person to the reader much too early. I peel away the wonderful description of that person that took me most of a day to write - no kidding! - and set it aside. I WILL use it when the situation is not so obvious. Worldbuilding - I really love this ancestor veneration piece - gives me the key. In the main, I keep asking myself "why would they do that?" over and over, rather than trying to squeeze my characters' behavior into the structure I had envisioned for this scene, and all of a sudden it unfolds very nicely. Now - on to the next scene, the next doubts, the next list, the next thousand words...


ssas said...

Oo, I love seeing thought processes that work! All my stories seem end up to have mystery elements to them and when and how to drop clues, as well as managing characters' reactions to them, is the toughest, most fun part of the job.

carolwriter said...

Yes on both those counts - the dropping and the managing reaction part. Fun, but hard work.

Corbin said...

Hi Carol! It's Corbin... i won a drawing of a copy of Sons of Avonar some two years back. I'm really excited for your new book. When do you suspect it will come out?

carolwriter said...

Hi Corbin,

Welcome! My guess is that this book will be out in early 2010. It is due in Feb 2009, and it usually takes about a year to get through production.

Valtinen said...


I would sulk, but it is so unattractive and does nothing to hasten its publication date.

That just means I will have to reread everything in the meanwhile.

Oh, torture! ::wink::