There's only so many ways to sing the blues and yet no one ever asks blues musicians why they're still doing it. Do you ever feel restricted by the constraints of the crime genre or overwhelmed by what's out there?
Constraints? What constraints? That there has to be a crime, or promise of a crime, somewhere in the book?
I hardly find that constraining. In fact, there are so many genres and sub-genres, permutations and combinations of sub-sub-genres, that I think you could probably write whatever you wanted and it would fall under somebody’s definition of a crime novel, somewhere.
Despite the almost inexhaustible number of different storylines possible under the crime fiction umbrella, I don’t feel overwhelmed trying to meet a certain set of expectations or writing a specific type of story.
Well, certainly no more overwhelmed than trying to write a novel in the first place.
Sometimes, I liken the process of writing a book to playing the world’s largest pachinko machine (just like Plinko on The Price is Right). A writer has to make an infinite number of choices when crafting a story, from big picture things like setting, character, and story arc, to smaller things like characters’ names and dialogue and other minutiae (should Tom’s suit be blue or gray?). I like to visualize each one of these decision nodes as a binary choice on the machine, where every choice moves the story in another direction. Once you “compile” the results of all the choices, you have a unique story that is the sum total of the myriad choices made along the way. (This is why two writers with the exact same premise will come up with wildly different novels.)
As long as you face each decision as it comes, and don’t worry about the other million choices, you won’t be overwhelmed. At least that’s what I tell myself.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Just be sure to bring lots of sriracha.**
**And speaking of sriracha, it’s an ingredient in my recipe, KILLER TOFU, which is in the recently-released Mystery Writers of America Cookbook!