Tag: writing process

writing process

Writing during the holidays

Guess what? The holidays are a tricky time to keep writing. There are parties, families, family parties, work deadlines, crowds, presents. Snow. Holiday euphoria or holiday depression. School vacation days. And blog post deadlines (which I missed. Which is why this is a day late and in the wrong font and missing two Miss Demeanors.) So I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors how they kept their writing schedule going during the holidays. Did they put themselves on hiatus or did they keep going? This is what they said:    Michele:   One of the unfortunate things about practicing family law is dealing with how conflict within families escalates during the holidays. Who gets the kids for Christmas? How can I buy gifts if I’m not being paid support? It goes on and on, and frankly has dampened my holiday spirits over the years. One of the ways I have coped with this is to continue to write and crawl into the fictional world I control and that insulates me from the reality of human misery.    Sleep? I’ve been an insomniac since I was a child. Fortunately, some of my best ideas come in the middle of the night.    And that’s my Bah Humbug, […]

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The Third Draft

I’ve been working on my third Maggie Dove book for more than a year. The first draft flowed out of me in a Nanowrimo eruption–more than 50,000 words in a month. The second draft took longer. I had to read through all those words and figure out what the plot was, which did not become clear to me until about word 17,000. Then I had to figure out who the characters were and what they wanted. You would think this would be a simple matter since my protagonist stays the same from book to book, but Maggie Dove is evolving (as am I) and I needed to think about how to reflect that. Then, of course, there are all the murder details, and those take a certain amount of cogitation. Drowning versus falling off a cliff versus getting hit on the head with an ax. I have to choose the right thing to go with the murderer, and oh, about halfway through I decided that the killer was going to be someone else entirely. I surprised myself, and hopefully will surprise the reader, but that meant I had to go back and think some more about what I’d plotted out. By the […]

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Survival Tips

The other day I was talking to a writer friend I’d lost touch with for about 20 years. We each shared stories of inspiring successes and heart-breaking failures and it occurred to me that there are a lot of highs and lows in this business. So I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors: How do you deal with the ups and downs? What are your survival tips?  This is what they said: Tracee: how to survive the ups and downs? I’ll take the ‘downs’ first and say it’s necessary to remember that this is a job, and like any job there are ups and downs. Some failures are private…. a flat scene, newly discovered plot holes. That these private ‘failures’ are in our heads doesn’t help and I think it’s necessary to have someone, or a group, to turn to and share the trials and tribulations and get a sympathetic pat on the back. Finding the right support person or group is important. Certainly someone who understands that while the failures are on paper, they are also real. Big failures, certainly those that are public, let’s say a particularly bad review, well, this is no different than losing a client at work, or […]

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How to deal with criticism (as a writer)

 This month’s issue of The Writer magazine contains my article on How to Deal With Criticism. I happened to be under a tight deadline for that article, and it was due right in the middle of ThrillerFest, but it didn’t matter because never has anything I’ve written come so easily. Do you ever just sit down and find words flowing out of you? Me neither, but I did in this case. Partly it’s because I criticize for a living. As a teacher at Gotham Writers, my job is to read through my students’ writing and give them helpful ways to improve it. Although I try to be positive, there comes a point when you have to note that the story would be better if it had a plot. For example. Then, as a writer, I receive criticism for a living. I write something and send it to my fabulous agent. She has a few suggestions. She sends it out to publishers. They have a few suggestions. Then there are the kind folk on amazon. If you can’t figure out how to deal with these suggestions, you’ll have a very short career as a writer. So I had A LOT to say in this article. Plus which, […]

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Writing is editing. Right?

 Writing is about editing. We all know that. However, that doesn’t answer the question when to edit. There are a few basic options. Write a draft straight through, perhaps making notes on things to be changed, but use a one directional process. Don’t second guess yourself. Write a good chunk of the manuscript and then revise. This level of revision may involve deleting parts, adding parts, re-ordering scenes, and, of course, fiddling with words. Revise each page as you go. Perfect the page then move on.  Pros and cons can be argued for each process. Write straight through and you risk going far down a path you later eliminate entirely. On the other hand, no time was lost in detailed revisions prior to scrapping entire sections. If you revise section by section too much time can be put into the earlier sections and less into the end. Sometimes it shows! Aim for perfection and prevent yourself from moving on. What happens when those perfect sentences end up not belonging in the manuscript at all?   I suspect that authors evolve. For example, the more experience you gain the more confidence you might have in a story arc (and therefore revise each page […]

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NaNoWriMo & Me

 My first introduction to NaNoWriMo was not auspicious. I was teaching a novel writing class at night and one of my students kept handing in manuscripts that didn’t have contractions. Plus there would be lots of extraneous little words in her pages. It. It. It. Finally I said to her, “For Pete’s sake, why don’t you use contractions?” And she explained that she was doing NaNoWriMo (in which you try to write 50,000 words in the month of November). She needed to bulk her word count. “I see,” I said, thinking that that sounded like a colossal waste of time in order to get a really bloated manuscript. Years passed.  Then, I had a deadline ahead of me. It happened to be November and I thought, why not give this a try? Maybe it will inspire me to write quickly. That was three years ago and after that I was hooked. This year I’m working on a draft of Maggie Dove 3. What I love about NaNoWriMo is that it forces my mind to go in unexpected places. The fact is, I probably write 1,700 words a day anyway, but usually I’m revising things. Trying to make things perfect. Or good, anyway. Shuffling things […]

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Taboo Topics

Some years ago, my fabulous Gotham boss, Kelly Caldwell, wrote an article about writers’ taboos. Were there any topics you just would not write about? I was thinking about that article the other day when I was at my daughter’s bridal shower. I adore my daughter, I loved everyone there, and yet the mystery writer in me could not help but think that it would be a perfect set-up for a murder. I began to plot, but then pushed the idea away. It was my daughter’s day and I didn’t want to appropriate it. (Not now, anyway.) That led me to wonder, however, what topics my fellow Miss Demeanors find taboo. This is what they said: Cate: I don’t consider any topics taboo in a suspense or thriller. Maybe that’s because I started sneaking my mom’s V.C. Andrews books right after I finished reading The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe. Alexia: I can’t think of any subject I consider taboo–off limits, would never, ever go there. (Never say never.) However, I don’t care to write about subjects that I wouldn’t read about. Not because they’re verboten, just because I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I’m okay with not spending my limited time […]

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Serial Summer

This is the Summer of my Submission, which is to say this is the summer when my fabulous agent is working to sell my new mystery novel and I am working very hard to manage my anxiety. I considered taking up drink, and have not ruled it out entirely, but for the time being I’m channeling my anxiety into writing short stories. Which is to say I am now in the midst of writing four short stories.   I’ve never done anything like this. Usually I’m a very focused one-at-a-time sort of person. I explore, I take notes, I cogitate, I excavate and then hopefully something emerges. But at the moment I’m more in a machine-gunning frame of mind. I’m spewing one idea after another onto the page, and it’s sort of fun. Perhaps it’s the writing version of going onto Tinder and dating four guys in one week. (I can hear my son groaning as I write that sentence.) One of the most exciting parts of this speed-writing is that I’m developing characters I normally wouldn’t write about. One particular one that intrigues me is the daughter of a serial killer. I’ve always been interested in what it would be like to […]

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How do you know when you're done?

This is a question I’m asked frequently by my students, and I wish I had a clear-cut answer. Having an agent is a huge help in this respect because I’m done when Paula says I’m done. But how do I know I’m done enough to send it to Paula?  I have two indicators: When I reach a point when I can read through the manuscript and have nothing else to add. When I begin daydreaming about a different story. That’s usually a sign that my mind has moved on. For further insights, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors for their thoughts and this is how they replied: Tracee: I’m done when the deadline hits (well, really once the final round of edits are finished, but those have a deadline as well…. ). That’s when the manuscript gets pulled from my fingers. Of course that kind of deadline is for work that will be published – it’s due! I’ve written many full length manuscripts that I’ve never submitted for publication. Those were also ‘completed’ but it is trickier because you can keep on and on and on editing. I’ve always stopped when I felt it was good enough for a professional to view (although that would probably […]

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Unwrapping a character’s emotions

 Emotional reactions are at the heart of crime fiction. Why do people – myself included – love to read mysteries? I believe it is because the books often deal with the ultimate human experience. Death. They allow the reader to react to death. Reading is a way of processing, understanding and, perhaps in a tiny way, preparing. We want to read about the policeman or physician who deals with death daily and understand how their public and private reactions might differ. We want to experience – albeit vicariously – these moments from a variety of perspectives, including one that might be our own. In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance as the stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying. Growing up, my father spoke about these stages in conjunction with his practice. He was an emergency room physician, and I remember him saying that no one should rush into a waiting room and be told that their loved one died in the car crash. There were important intermediate stages – a nurse or staff member telling the family that it was serious, perhaps the move to a private portion of the waiting room, […]

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