Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Writing as discovery

I've talked about pantsers vs. plotters before, but essentially pantsers write by the seat of their pants. They don't plot--they just plunge in and see where it goes. I'm a pantser and, as I wrote recently, that habit often leaves me adrift in the broken middle of a manuscript. But the other day I confidently told Fred, my beta reader, that I had been writing the "climactic" scene of my work-in-progress. Of course when I got back to it, I found that just summarizing the remainder of the events was not going to do at all. I hadn't really finished writing the book. I had at least a chapter and an epilogue to go.So yesterday, I wrote over 2500 words--I didn't really keep count--and I burned myself out on it. This morning, as I lay in bed contemplating getting up and starting the day (I do that a lot) I realized that I had to milk that final action scene--there were a lot of details I hadn't accounted for and some things that could heighten the suspense and also add to the emotion, even the humor. But I'm not ready to go back to that work yet. I think that's a good sign--it's percolating on the back burner in my brain.
Meantime, I started reading a novel I'd written after Skeleton in a Dead Space. I wasn't getting much encouragement with Skeleton, and I felt the need to be writing something. When Turquoise Morning Press enthusiastically accepted Skeleton, I put the new work aside, polished the one they contracted for, and went back to the sequel I'd also started. The new work languished, and in my mind it became more amateurish, the protagonist more of a Pollyanna. The more I was distanced from it, the less enthusiastic I became.
Well, last night I started re-reading that work, and you know what? I kind of like it? I see a lot of work to be done on it, mostly cutting which is a problem because it's already on the short side. But I'm making notes and correcting small things as I go along. But Kate isn't a Pollyanna--she's a singlel woman in her thirties with a background. I can't judge about amateurish--who can judge their own work? But I'm kind of hooked on reading it. I intended it to be a culinary mystery, but I'll sure have to beef up that aspect and, yes, I think I'll add recipes. That thought makes me miss my dear friend Reva, for she could tell me how to cook turnip greens and poke sallet and chicken-fried steak and the other delicacies that they servce in a small-town East Texas cafe. After all, I'm not sure Paula Deen could make  decent chicken-fried steak!
Of course, there's that old question: is it better to continue a series or take off in a new direction? I'll worry about that tomorrow!


Anonymous said...

I am reading Skeleton and can't put it down. It has been years since I enjoyed a book like this. Please do more in this series.

Judy Alter said...

Omigosh, thanks Francis, whoever you are. There are two more Kelly O'Connell mysteries in the pipeline. I'm not sure if there will be more after that--I may start another series, similar in tone but different setting. Thank you, thank you, thank you.