Monday, September 9, 2019

Getting The Ball Rolling

Question: When you have an idea for a book or story, do you tell people about it? How do you start writing? Do you think about it for a while? Write notes immediately? Think about the character first? Or plot first? Outline?

The start of a project can come about in a few different ways, but usually I've put a lot of thought into the characters and the crime. A few times, I've sat at the computer with a vague idea in my head and just started typing. The opening scene to 5,000 word scene in Cold Mourning was really a writing exercise that I expanded into a book and then a series. 

I've found that making chapter notes (after written) and a running list of characters is immensely helpful, particularly as a way of keeping track of days of the week and weather (very easy to lose track of from one chapter to the next), physical descriptions and all the minutia. I confess that my memory for names is a weakness, both real and fictional, so keeping a page of characters' names with their details is a godsend. A running chapter summary also comes in handy for when my publisher asks for a detailed synopsis. I'm lucky that they are willing to wait for this until after I've written the book.

I do not reveal anything about my manuscript in progress until it's completed, and even then, I don't say a great deal. I'm one of those people who like to be surprised and don't like to reveal too much. Some of the book blurbs on the back cover of books by other authors (and occasionally my own) have bothered me because of how much they reveal about the crime(s). I often don't read an entire blurb by a book I'm buying or about to read because I don't want to know what's coming. Even the previews to a show or movie have me closing my eyes or leaving the room. Otherwise, I'm waiting for the preview scenes that I watched to happen in the episode, and my enjoyment lessens. I'm not the typical marketing target, perhaps, but in my mind, what is suspense if not full of surprise and the unexpected? Knowing less beforehand makes the experience more. 

To end my post, I'd like to share two new releases this week for my Anna Sweet mystery novella series that I've been writing for adult literacy - Grass Roots Press is a strictly adult literacy publisher in Edmonton, Alberta, and they contracted me to write this series. The parameters were: strong female protagonist, set in Canada, a good puzzle, humour, conflict between characters, and, oh yes, adult comprehension but at a grade 3/4 level. Having once been a special education teacher, this challenge was most appealing. Killer Heat and Too Close to Home are the last in the series which has previously been nominated for four awards. So bittersweet for sure, but good to think the books are a fun read for anybody as well as an educational resource for those working on their reading skills. You can find out more about the series on the publisher site where you'll also find chapter questions for each book to assist teachers and tutors.

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Dietrich Kalteis said...

I work much the same way, Brenda. There's no set way I start a story, but usually it starts with a simple idea and keeps expanding as I write. And I keep a timeline and character sheets to keep it all straight.

And best of luck with the Anna Sweet series.

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Dietrich and good to know great minds work alike :-)