Chapter 34’s Up


Not Enough

I got notes back from one of my critique partners.  More red than usual.  I wasn’t surprised.  I was trying to change an old–and not so wonderful–writing habit.   I’m more than happy to write:  She smiled.  He frowned.  And more times than should be humanly possible: He sighed.  A friend at writers’ club called me on it.  “We can do better than this, can’t we?”

Yes, yes, I can, but only if I work at it.  The problem?  My brain only seems capable of concentrating on so much.  In this book, I wanted to step up my tags and step up my pacing.  And as usual, things I normally do fairly well sagged a bit from neglect.  Not the end of the world.  Red ink circles show me what I need to fix.   Thank you, Mary Lou!

On my next book, my learning curve should go more smoothly.  The old and new should blend better.  AND, I should have enough ideas, witnesses, victims, and suspects to reach 70,000 words without panicking.  Plotting mysteries, for me, takes more than plotting romances.  Now, I know, I’m addicted to plotting when a lot  of my friends don’t even have to bother with it.  But for my mysteries, I’m not plotting enough.

I’m not sure why, but if I came up with 40 chapter ideas for the urban fantasies I wrote a long, long time ago as Judith Post, I could pound out 80,000 words if I wanted to, no problem.  Urban fantasy craves more description, battles that escalate the longer the book goes, and strong characters.  All things that demand words, so that word count grows organically.  It just happens.  It flows.

When I switched to writing romances as Judi Lynn, I used the same format–40 plot points, but this time, I only needed 70,000 words.  For romance, characters interacting with each other made up the majority of the words I used.  And 40 plot points morphed pretty well into 70,000 words for me.  The same hasn’t held true for mysteries.  I sang a sad dirge when I reached the end of this book’s first draft and was 10,000 words short.   I struggled to hit 70,000 words for my first mystery, too.

Now, I have friends who can cough up 100,000 words with no plot points with no problem.  And yes, I’m jealous.  They’re wonderful people, or I wouldn’t like them anymore.  But every writer’s different, and for me, starting a book with no plot points is like traveling across country with no maps or GPS.  I’d be lost all the time and take a winding, unusual route.  I might never reach my destination.

When I write mysteries, I’ve found that my chapters are shorter.  And I need more subplots.  I also need more suspects.  In this book, I introduced a perfect suspect and then didn’t do anything with him.  I gave him an alibi before I found the next body.  Shame on me.  When I figured out I’d made a mistake, I had to go back and add him in more scenes, and then, I had enough pages.  But going back and threading in scenes is a pain in the derriere, so I don’t want to do that again, if I can avoid it.  So, for my next mystery, I want to have 50 plot points before I forge ahead with the book.  And I want to list the victim/s, family members affected by the murder/s, witnesses, suspects, and anyone who might interfere with finding the killer.   And who knows?  Maybe I’ll end up with more words than I expected.  But at least, I’ll have plenty of material to work with.

Whatever you’re writing, and however you write, have fun with it!  I’ll be deep into editing this week.   Happiness is making words better!

My webpage (and I put up chapter 33):

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Twitter”  @judypost     (I’d love to hear from you!)

Time to clean up my act

A few times a year, my writing desk looks like the pile in the corner could topple and eat me.  Character wheels, plot points, and marketing ideas get piled, one on top of each other, until it’s hard to dig through all of the mess to find what I need.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  My mess is organized.  I know where everything is.  It’s just getting to it that’s the problem.  It’s time to clean and pitch or store.

The bottom of the stack is full of things I wanted to read or reread, but thought I’d look at later–writing tips from K.M. Weiland, strategies to find more readers from BookBub, blogs that I found helpful.  But later never came.

The middle hodgepodge is made up of notes and reminders for my River Bluffs mysteries.  Each book adds more pages–more characters, plot points, and reminders about settings.  Jazzi and Ansel live on the north side of River Bluffs.  Her sister Olivia lives on the south side of the city.  What does Jazzi pass on her way across town?  I’ve made a rough map with detailed notes.  I’m trying to keep track of names I use, too.  I’m a Jenne Bennett romance/mystery fan, and she just put up her 15th book and 15.5 novella.  If I ever get lucky and write that many books in one series, I’ll never remember the names of minor characters I’ve used.  Names pop in and fall out of my head.  It would be easy for me to name a nurse Elizabeth in book three and then a waitress Elizabeth in book six.  Yes, in life, two people could share a name.  But I’d rather keep names unique in novels so that I don’t confuse anyone–especially me:)

The top tier of my pile is notes and ideas for the free romance I’ve been posting on my webpage.  I’ve been extra careful with those because when I started LUCAS, I meant to write a romance for each brother, three romances in all.  I’m not sure that’s my best idea, though.  My Mill Pond series is finished, so I won’t have any new romance to promote. The Body in the Attic doesn’t come out until November, so it feels like it’s too soon to post short mysteries to promote that.  I’m arguing with myself about what to do next.  I want to thank every person who “likes” when I post new LUCAS chapters, though.  Those “likes” make me feel good!

Whatever I decide to write or not write, my pile still needs cleaned.  That’s on the agenda for this week.  I have three big, plastic file folders filled with notes for each of my urban fantasies, tons of notes for Babet and Prosper, and ideas for workshop penels I’ve been on, plus a spattering of short stories.  It’s time lots of those go into bigger plastic boxes to be filed in the basement, so that I can make room for more current projects in my office.

Do you keep your old notes?  Your old manuscripts?  What stays and what goes?  Messy or not, I hope you’re writing!


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Twitter:  @judypost

I can’t believe I’m looking forward to February

Last week, I started getting back into my nice, comfortable rut, my groove.  I found more time for writing.  I had my sisters and cousin over for supper Friday night.  And for the first time that I can ever remember, I made the supper a celebration of February.  I usually dread our shortest month.  I’m tired of winter.  I don’t want to see another snowflake.  I’m ready to search for sunshine.  But things have been so busy lately, I’m ready to hibernate, to be boring.

I gave my sisters a half dozen meals to choose from, and they chose homemade beef and noodles over mashed potatoes with a cucumber salad.  They love old-fashioned family cooking, so that’s what they got.  Beef and noodles take me a while to make because I start with a chuck roast, add carrots, onions, and celery, and build a broth before I add the Amish noodles and shred the meat.  Then I made my husband happy by asking him to go to his favorite bakery to buy whatever chocolate cake struck his fancy.  The cake was to celebrate the beginning of February.

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January had been a strain on my sisters, too, and somehow, celebrating the end of it and the start of a new month made us all feel better.  February, for me, is going to be serious writing time.  My sister Mary had finished a big project at work and is hoping February is less stressful.  Patty and my cousin Jenny, who hate the cold, said they’re staying in more.  Jenny has to use a walker, and it’s hard getting her in and out of Patty’s mini-van when it’s freezing outside.  Heck, it’s a chore getting her inside our house with its four steps to the porch.  Patty doesn’t cook, so I promised to send over more leftovers so they don’t have to eat frozen dinners everyday if they don’t leave the house.

All in all, we’re all hunkering down for a while, and we’re all looking forward to it.  Whatever your plans, hope you find more time to write.  Happy February!


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A new chapter

I just posted chapter 28 on my webpage.  I’m in the wrong season–Lucas and Randie are prepping food on Wednesday night for Thanksgiving the next day.  Lucas is distracted enough by her low neckline that he’s lucky he doesn’t lose a finger.  His knife skills aren’t that great:)  This scene made me hungry for stuffing, but then, I’m always hungry for anything with bread.  Oh, how I love carbs!

Will the World End?

A long, long time ago, I bought a book by Donald Maas about how to write a bestseller.  WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL.  His advice?  The higher the stakes, the higher the demand for your book.  I’m writing cozy mysteries, and a few people have told me I’d sell more if I wrote thrillers or suspense.   They might be right, but I’m an Agatha Christie fan, and I like what I like.

When I wrote urban fantasies, the entire plots hung on good vs. bad.  If the good guys didn’t win, all things horrible would break loose.  The world would end, as we know it.  Okay, in truth?  That was a lot of fun.  But then I wrote six romances, and the stakes changed.  If the guy didn’t win the girl, there wouldn’t be a happy ending.  Enough to make me sad, so those stakes worked for me, too.

If as a reader I come to truly love and care about a character, I want him to survive and to be happy.  I just finished readng WHAT ANGELS FEAR, and the stakes were high.  If Sebastian couldn’t find the real killer, he’d be blamed for a crime he didn’t commit and probably hang.  Did that make me turn the pages faster?  I got every bit as hooked by Catherine Bybee’s FOOL ME ONCE, because I got totally caught up by the characters.  Yes, there was a lot at stake.  Secrets needed to remain hidden.  Could Reece win Lori after she found out he was a P.I. who was tailing her for info?  Before he fell for her?

Every book has to have high stakes, one way or another.  Maas would say, the higher the better.  What happens if the protagonist fails?  How devastated will the reader be?  But there are all kinds of stakes.  Emotional.  Political.  Career.  Reputation.  Books are filled with little setbacks, chapter after chapter.  After all, we don’t want to make it too easy for the protagonist, do we?  We try to end each scene with the protagonist wanting more, feeling a little defeated, until the very end.

I read Caleb Carr’s book, THE ALIENIST, when it first came out.  I haven’t seen the TV series yet, but I want to.  His protagonist worked hard to catch a serial killer, using psychology to understand the murderer.  The stakes grew higher and higher, knowing that if the detective team didn’t catch him, someone else would die.  A ticking clock is a great way to add tension.

Mae Clair uses past events to heighten the stakes in her Point Pleasant series.   The Mothman rescued Caden Flynn, and the “monster” and Caden have a weird bond.  When strange sightings start again in Point Pleasant, the past and the present collide, and Caden knows he’ll be visitng the Mothman again.  Is he meant to save the cryptid or destroy him?  (If UFOs and the Mothman legend appeal to you, here’s a link:

Whatever you’re writing, may your stakes be high enough to keep the reader turning the pages.  Happy Writing!

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Twitter:  @judypost