Thursday, December 22, 2005

As promised... a few words on figuring out what to write...

I promised a few weeks back that I would talk a bit more about narrowing down the fictional field. Since I've been doing that very thing recently, I thought I'd tackle it today.

A lot of writers know they want to be writers -- they just can't figure out exactly what it is they want to write. (I know -- I spent 15 years in that particular rut.) If you fit this description, then maybe I can help.

Have you ever read a book, put it down and said "I could do that!"? If so, then that may be your starting point. My epiphany came while I was reading a cozy mystery. Since I had read and loved scores of that kind of book and pretty much knew what constituted a good cozy, I decided that would be what I would write.

After a lot of dreaming and thinking, I came up with my character (Natalie), a scenario (the Gray Whale Inn in Maine), and a potential murder victim (odious developer -- although there were other candidates). Then I took a few of the cream of the crop cozies and used them as reference tools as I started writing. How did they open? How many characters were there? How were the scenes structured? How did information come out? How were the characters interconnected? I didn't ask all these questions at once, but I did refer to the book again and again in the course of the writing, as questions came up. (It is important to read a lot of books of the kind you want to take on before beginning -- it helps you 'internalize' the way that kind of book works.) You'll also want to check the word counts -- 65-90K words is a normal count for mysteries, and for the ones I was reading, 75-80K seemed to be the range. I shot for 75K, and that's what I got.

And one more thing... when you're creating your world, make sure your main character has lots of conflict outside of the main plot line. This can help flesh out that yawning gap between chapters 3 and 23 -- and if you can weave the smaller conflicts (I call them subplots) back into the main plot, it makes for a more satisfying read! If you're not sure how to structure your novel, you might want to take a book apart -- figure out what happens in each chapter, in fifty words or less -- as you start organizing your own.

So if you're thinking of being a writer but can't figure what to write, I challenge you to make a New Year's resolution... pick something and go for it! (And don't think you have to create the Great American Novel the first time out, a trap that's easy to fall into. But more on that later.) After all, if you write a page a day, you'll be done by next New Year's!

Hope your holidays are wonderful... and keep writing!


At 8:53 PM, February 24, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great advice


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