Finishing Up

I’ve mentioned before that I rewrite as I go when I work on a book.  This time, for the Lux novel I’m working on, I felt as though I’d written too lean.  I have a habit of doing that.  So before I reached the last chapters, I went back and polished everything I’d already done.  I added a character because I thought the story needed it.  And as always, I added more description and details.  Then I read the first chapter to my writers’ group on Wednesday, and they wanted even MORE description.  I must have REALLY written lean this time:)

The result is, I think I’ve made this book too short, but that’s how I’d planned it when I started out.  I intended to self-publish it on Amazon.  When I write a Muddy River, I purposely aim for about 60,000 words.  I’ve said many, many times that I’m a plotter.  I’m not only a plotter, I pretty much know how many plot points I need to get the number of words I want.

For a Muddy River book, I write out 30 plot points.  30 plot points usually equate to 60,000 words for me.  IF, which I don’t, I wrote chapters that were at least 10 pages, I’d end up with 300 pages and close to 70,000 words, but many of my chapters are much shorter, sometimes only 6-8 pages, so I need the 30 points to reach the word count I want.  And 30 always have worked on Hester, Raven, and their supernatural friends.  So, when I sat down to plot Lux, I made myself come up with 30 ideas and an extra one for good measure.  But I don’t have as many descriptions and as many characters in this mystery.  Hester and Raven meet friends at Derek’s bar to discuss what’s happening, and they travel back and forth to interview people in other towns.  That doesn’t happen with Lux, so I’m coming up short on words.  I had to come up with a few extra ideas.  I could have FORCED each chapter to be longer, but then the writing would FEEL forced.  This book has a fast pace I like.  Right now, I’m at 50,000 words with three more plot points before I finish the story and I still need to polish the chapter I worked on today.  That will add words.  It always does, but I’m not sure I’m going to able to summon even 60,000 before I write The End.  No problem if I still planned to self-publish.

BUT, I like this book so much, I’d really like to find a publisher for it.  Most publishers want at least 70,000 words for a  mystery, though, and there’s NO WAY I’m going to make that.  To come up with a book that length, I plot out 40-45 plot points and end up with about 35 chapters.  I just don’t have enough to make Lux a longer book, and the thing is, I really like it the way it is.  I don’t want to tear it apart and rework it to make it longer.  So I have a dilemma.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do.  I’ve always believed in sending in stories I believe in, with the idea that my agent or editor can always turn me down.  And if they do, then I can self-publish.  But my fearless critique partner, M.L. Rigdon, swears I write sparse enough, she can find lots of places for me to expand descriptions that will make the book better and the right length.  I’ve learned an important lesson, though.  The next time I write a Lux novel, I’ll need more plot points just because her books don’t have as many  “down” times or “soft” scenes that my other books have.  They move faster, so they need more ideas to fill them.

Toward that end, I came up with a list to fill out before I start plotting my next one.  It should give me more characters to choose from and more things to keep in mind: (and remember, this is for mysteries):

  1.  Who’s killed (the first victim), or what is the crime?
  2.   Why is the crime committed?
  3.   Who commits it?  List how and when he commits it.
  4.   Who are the suspects?  At least two.  Why are they suspects?  Any more?
  5.   Any witnesses?  Innocent bystanders?
  6.   What’s the ending?  (I always know the ending before I start a book).
  7.   Any special clues or red herrings?  Any alibis or fake alibis?  Accusations?  (I don’t always know these before I begin and have to fill them in later).
  8.   A subplot (something going on with a character besides solving the murder)
  9.   A second subplot (smaller)

I usually don’t bother with answering all of these questions, but I’m going to make myself for the next Lux,  because I know now that I’m going to need them.

Whatever you’re working on, good luck and happy writing!

Don’t Panic

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I’ve been blithely writing away, Ta da da, happy as can be, on Muddy River mysteries for a while now.  As if I didn’t have a care in the world.  I mean, I’m self-publishing this series, so there are no deadlines.  Right?

Except there IS a deadline for the next Jazzi Zanders mystery due–number 5.  But it’s not until Nov. 4th, months away.  Except…it takes me months to write a Jazzi cozy.  I still wouldn’t have actually counted out the months on my fingers except that I went to Amazon and accidentally found this: https://www.amazon.com/Body-Apartment-Jazzi-Zanders-Mystery-ebook/dp/B07TT2RWQ5/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=The+Body+in+the+Apartment%2C+Judi+Lynn&qid=1562355467&s=gateway&sr=8-3.    A blurb for book 4, that doesn’t even come out until March 17, 2020.  Kensington was way ahead of me…again.

That made me seriously look at how much time I had to do what.  And all of a sudden, the lazy days of summer didn’t look as lazy anymore.  Yes, I panicked.  I couldn’t dawdle around finishing Muddy River 3.  I glued my fanny in chair, hit the keyboard, and wrote like the crazed person I occasionally become.  And today, at last, I finished the last chapter of the first draft.  RELIEF!  I can pass the pages on to my trusty critique partners and start work on Jazzi 5 on Monday.

And I’m even pretty much on track.  I shouldn’t have to buy stronger hair dye to cover any more gray hairs trying to get it done in time.  I won’t have to rush it.  I think that always shows (at least when I do it).

So, now that I can take a deep breath, I can settle down in front of my computer and write one scene or chapter a day every open weekday for months and months without having to try to write a kazillion pages in a short period of time.  I can breathe again.  And enjoy the summer.

Hope you had a great Fourth and happy writing!

(And if you live elsewhere in the world, hope your fourth was great anyway:)

Plot Points make my brain hurt

I finished writing the supernatural mystery that I’ve been putting up, chapter by chapter, on my webpage.  It ended up being 56,000+ words, and I grew really attached to it.  So, I decided to leave it up for this week, and then I’m taking it down over the weekend.  I like it so much, I’m going to format it and buy a cover so that I can load it on Amazon for 99 cents.

I’ve already started Muddy River Two, though, and put up the first chapter today.  And now, because I shiver with fear if I don’t have plot points, I’m plotting the whole book out.  I knew what the first chapter would be and I had a vague idea for chapter 2, and then blank pages stared at me.  I hate blank pages.  But once I know what the book’s about, and where I want it to go, I need a roadmap to get there.  So I’ve been sitting in front of my computer, writing down ideas for one scene or chapter after another.  I didn’t number them this time, because invariably, when I’m actually writing the words to bring the scene to life, more ideas to come to me.  And then all of my carefully planned cause and effect gets littered with small side trips or scenes I never expected.  And that’s fine with me, as long as they fit in the story line.  And with plot points, I do know each mark the story has to hit.

The problem is, that actually writing out all of the plot points–for Muddy River One, I had 34 of them–just makes my brain tired.  I finish one point and then ask myself What Should Happen Next?  But I don’t want the expected.  I want something with a little twist I didn’t see coming or a little layer that shows characterization or relationships.   I want it to be like life.  Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan.

When plotting, I leave my office and walk to the coffee pot in the kitchen a lot more than normal.  I think of three ideas in a row and then my brain stalls out.  I eat more snacks than usual.  I’ve gained two pounds in the last two days.  My husband knows my routine.  He made Rice Krispie Treats this morning so that when I wandered into the kitchen, I’d find something fun.  Not the best thing for my diabetes, so I had to take more insulin today, too, but it was worth it:)  I whined on twitter, and my writer friend Kathy Palm sent me invisible cookies to help out.  They did.  Because after I mentally enjoyed them, I came up with my last three plot points.

Relief.  The book’s planned out, at least as much as it needs to be to make me feel secure enough to write it.  This time, things are going to get a little jiggly, because next week, I need to look through the entire fourth Jazzi and Ansel novel and write the last chapter.  And then, I have to plot points for Jazzi and Ansel book 5.  Groan.  For the cozy, I can take my time and only fiddle with a few plot points a day.  And while I’m plotting book 5 for J&A, I can be writing book 2 for Muddy River.  At least, that’s the idea.  It looks good on paper.  I’ll see if it works:)

No matter where you’re at on your WIP, good luck.  And happy writing!

Hooks!

I’ve been posting words for #1linewed on twitter for a while now.  Do they help me sell books?  Maybe.  I have no idea, but once a week, Kiss of Death chooses a word that you’ve hopefully used in your WIP, and you can post that tiny section on twitter with the hashtag #1linewed.  I think it’s fun to share them and see what other authors have shared.  For example, for last Wednesday–the 5th–Kiss of Death posted:  Something different for our 12/5/18 THEME. Give us your best end of chapter **CLIFFHANGER** line. Hooks make a reader turn pages so show us what you’ve got! 

I have to admit, my wonderful critique partner, M.L. Rigdon, often catches mushy chapter endings in my manuscript and I have to beef them up, so the idea of LOOKING for cliffhangers worried me, especially in a first draft.  But bless Scribes, they’ve expounded the idea of hooks at the end of chapters so many times, I did better than I thought.  And they were easier to find than I’d first thought, too.  I just printed FIND for my manuscript and typed in Chapter, and ta-da!  I scrolled up to the end of the previous one and found my hooks pronto–something I should start doing on a regular basis when I polish my manuscripts.  For the end of chapter 1 in The Body in Apartment 2D, (what I’m working on now), I found:

 “Are you going to be okay?”

            Radley shrugged.  “You know Bain’s temper.  He’ll stew and grumble, then get over it in a while.”

            That’s when they heard a gunshot.  They all looked at each other, then raced for the stairs.

Not too shabby.  I posted it.  But I was curious now.  I looked at more of my chapter endings.  For the end of chapter 2, I found:

Jazzi’s heart sank.  She felt it shrivel and weep.  Bain.  Living with them.  And he’d be in a worse mood than usual.  But he was Ansel’s brother.  They couldn’t just leave him on the streets.  Could they?  No.  Shame on her.  But she wasn’t looking forward to spending time with Ansel’s oldest brother.

Not brilliant, but it would do.   At least for now.

Anyway, the whole exercise was a good reminder that EVERY chapter should end with some kind of hook, something to encourage the reader to turn the page.  I hope all of your chapters end well:)  I’m checking mine from now on.

Happy Writing!