Tour de Blogs

A big thank you to Lori Hanhel for inviting me to join this virtual tour of writers. I enjoy blog tags because they give me material to blog about. This tour features  four intriguing questions.

What am I working on? I am on the fourth draft of a novel that is separate from my murder mystery series. The story is set in Calgary and California and involves a cult-like holiday retreat. I’ve been mulling one-liners to describe the story and have come up with: A woman must find her mother at the risk of losing her child.

The moon in Southern California

How does my work differ from others in its genre? I move between mystery and literary or mainstream genres. My published novel is a whodunnit murder mystery.  I’ve completed a sequel that is awaiting word from publishers. But the first novel (unpublished) I wrote wasn’t a mystery and I call my current novel-in-progress a literary novel with apects of suspense. Of my ten published short stories, only two would qualify as mysteries, and not traditional ones.  I’ve also published a handful of poems that have nothing to do with mystery. As a result, I don’t feel I quite fit into either the mystery or literary/mainstream genre.

Why do I write what I do? Typically, we write what we like to read.  Since childhood, most of my reading has been mystery and literary/mainstream fiction. I’ve enjoyed doses of speculative and science fiction too.  In my early twenties I went through a phase of reading Kurt Vonegut Jr. and other far-out writers. One of my favourite childhood books was The Thirteenth is Magic, about a mystical thirteenth floor in a building. Admittedly, I was drawn to this book because my birthday is December 13th, but it makes me wonder if I’ll some day write a novel that is less earthbound than my other writing.

How does my writing process work? I usually start with a main character, maybe a couple of secondary characters, a setting and a situation or problem. The story evolves from there with no more than a general sense of where it’s going. In my first novels, this created a lot of work during the revision stage as I got rid of tangents and filled gaps. While writing Deadly Fall, I learned a lot about novel structure. Since then, I’ve had a structure in place before I start a book. For instance, I know that around the novel’s quarter-mark my protagonist will commit to her story quest. I might or might not know what this will entail. In my current novel-in-progress I knew my protagonist would board a plane to Los Angeles. In my mystery novel sequel, all I knew was that the crime would in some way become personal for my protagonist. In both cases, I didn’t know how she would reach these points, but while writing I was conscious that she must get there after x number of words, not many more or less.

This approach helps with my pacing and makes for fewer structural changes down the road. It does require a idea of how long the whole novel will be, which isn’t difficult. My novels tend to be a little longer than the average of 80,000-90,000 words and my first drafts usually skimp on detail, so if I hit 20,000 words around the first quarter turning point I figure I’m on target.  If I feel the opening might reach this number too soon, I slow the pace; if the committment point looks chapters and chapters away I speed things up by cutting, trimming or postponing scenes I had intended.  Once I postponed a wedding to the novel’s second quarter, then third quarter and finally scrapped it.

I find that breaking the novel into sections has the added benefit of making  the task less daunting. In my mind, I’m only dealing with a quarter of a book at a time, not a whole novel. But, I can’t say this more structured method speeds up my writing process. I still seem to need about five drafts per book; the main difference is that the first draft takes longer.                 

Now I tag author Mahrie G. Reid for her take on these questions.

For more perspectives, visit these other authors on the Tour de Blogs. I found their posts informative and articulate and why wouldn’t they be? They’re writers.

Rea Tarveydas Shaun Hunter Samantha Warwick Cassie Stocks Ali Bryan Leanne Shirtliffe Bradley Somer Janie Chang Theodora Armstrong Kathy Page Lorna Suzuki Barbara Lambert Matilda Magtree Alice Zorn Anita Lahey Pearl Pirie Julie Paul Sarah Mian Steve McOrmond Susan Gillis Jason Herou