Monday, December 2, 2013

Polishing Your Manuscript

I’ve rewritten a first chapter many times before progressing to the second, only to find that it had to be rewritten to fall in the line with the rest of the novel. I finally learned to write it once and forget it until the first draft is finished.

I’ve never been able to outline a novel because I literally give my characters free rein. And they rarely submit to what I’ve planned for them. They have minds of their own and I wouldn’t want them doing something out of character. In my current Logan and Cafferty series, my feisty 60-year-old senior sleuths surprise me by doing things I’d never consider before sitting down to write. Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty live with me 24/7 while I’m writing about them, and they have their own plans for what should happen that day. Sometimes I have to retreat to chapter one to include some of their "brilliant" ideas.

In my latest release, A Murder in Paradise, the fifth Logan and Cafferty novel, Dana and Sarah decide to vacation in a northern Texas RV resort with millionaires and other affluent travelers. Until the third quarter of the book, even I didn’t know who the killer was, and I had to return to early chapters to flesh out the characters by adding inner monologue. 

In the second novel in the series, Diary of Murder,  I take my sleuths out of California and place them in a motorhome in the middle of a Rocky Mountain blizzard. Fortunately, that had happened to me, so I could write convincingly about the life and death experience. The blizzard starts the novel off with a bang, but they face a similar situation later in the plot, so I had to swap some snowy details between the first and later chapters so that they didn't appear too similar. Weather plays a large role in any northern state, and gives the plot an element of suspense.

In A Village Shattered, the opaque San Joaquin Valley tule (too-ley) fog hides the serial killer, but I didn’t even think about the fog until I was writing chapter three. Having lived there for a dozen years, I know the horror of trying to drive in pea soup fog, so I switched seasons and went back to chapter one to add it to the plot. In doing so, it tied all aspects of the story together. 

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