I'm delighted to have Diane Vallere, prolific writer and past-president of Sisters in Crime's national board guest blogging for me today. Diane juggles well, but occasionally even she needs to go back to basics. - Debra
Back to Basics by Diane Vallere
It should come as no surprise to learn that fiction authors sometimes have conversations with our characters. I once set up several chairs in my living room for each of the suspects in my then-work-in-progress to interview each character about his/her motives for murdering the victim. Silly? Yes. Made the neighbors doubt my sanity? Sure. Effective? Absolutely. I zeroed in on the killer and wrote the ending. But PANTY RAID gave me a different problem. I couldn’t even find the story.A few background facts for context:
1. I’m a pantser.
2. I start with a title and the loosest of concepts.
3. PANTY RAID is book 8 in an ongoing series.Heading into the first draft of this book, I knew it would feature the lingerie market, and it would take place in Paris.
My routine is to work Monday through Friday and write 2500 words/ day, but after weeks of working on the draft, I admitted there was a problem. I told one of my writer friends that my character was not cooperating, and my friend suggested I ask her what was wrong. I did, and details of that conversation are in this YouTube video. But the separate issue that I didn’t address there was this: I tried to plot that book.
We pantsers hear it all the time: you can write faster if you plot and know where you’re going. I’m always interested in improving how I do things, so I invested in a plotting course and gave it a shot. I even went so far as to break down four favorite movies into bullet points to better understand their structure. And still, I trudged, word by word, with a manuscript that was filled with “GO BACK AND CHANGE END OF CHAPTER 2” and “SOMETHING HAPPENS HERE—WHAT???”
I went for long walks. I dictated plot points into my phone. I deleted and rewrote and have entire sections of a manuscript that I love but that didn’t fit with what came before or after them. Of the seventeen days I spent working on that draft, I only hit my word count goal on three. 23,922 words of garbage.On March 22, I stopped working on that draft.
On March 23, I had a conversation with my character.
On Marcy 24, I started writing a new version of PANTY RAID and bumped my daily word count goal to 3,000.
On April 15, I wrote The End.
In those nineteen days of writing, I discovered a whole story I never expected to tell. And I exceeded my new word count goal eleven of the nineteen days.
Do I regret trying to plot? No. If I hadn’t tried to, I’d never know my system works for me. Do I hate knowing I have a file of 23,922 words of a story with parts I love that may never get used? Yes. It goes against everything in my Capricornian nature to abandon projects mid-way. Is there a lesson in there? Absolutely. Sometimes you have to give up control in order to end up on top.
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After two decades working for a top luxury retailer, Diane Vallere traded fashion accessories foraccessories to murder. In addition to the Samantha Kidd Style and Error Mysteries, she is responsible for the Madison Night Mad for Mod, Sylvia Stryker Outer Space, and Lefty Award-nominated Costume Shop and Material Witness series. She started her own detective agency at age ten and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since.
ABOUT PANTY RAID:
When amateur sleuth Samantha Kidd is assigned to cover the lingerie show in Las Vegas, her excitement is more visible than panty lines. Events in her hometown have made her a celebrity, and a romantic getaway with fiancé Nick Taylor is timely. But when a lingerie model—engaged to a college friend of Nick's—is found dead outside their hotel room, their escape turns brief. Cheeky designers, high class hookers, and secrets from Nick's past that don't add up make this gamble her most dangerous one yet. When push-up comes to shove, Samantha bares everything in order to save her future.