Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour


Victoria Addis asked if I could contribute to this writing process blog tour, so please see my responses below. Writers talk a little about their current project(s), what motivates them and why, then pass the baton on to others to share their insights.

Victoria is a farmer’s daughter and one-time goat keeper from Herefordshire. She is currently working on a masters in English Literature alongside her first writing project; a piece of middle grade fiction inspired by her love of medieval history and children’s fantasy literature. Her post is available on The Charming Hermit.


1. What am I working on?


I'm currently writing my debut novel, The Locked Room. The book is a series of locked room mysteries and other impossible crimes that form a continuous narrative. I'm about two thirds of the way through, focusing on tidying up the links between stories and working out how to frame the ending.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?


There's a huge range of locked room mystery stories available. I found that they generally fit into two categories - short stories or full novels. Short stories provide tightly structured mysteries, and rarely deviate from the core plot. The puzzle is generally wrapped up in under fifty pages, hopefully giving the reader a satisfying resolution for minimal time investment. Novels, on the other hand, often give more depth to the characters and context of the mystery. While this allows the reader to build attachment with the story, it's often undermined by the amount of patience required to make it to the final reveal.

The Locked Room is my attempt to merge these two formats and have the best of both worlds. Structured much like a serialised TV drama, each chapter is a mystery in its own right and contributes to the overarching plot that permeates through the entire book.

3. Why do I write what I do?


Impossible crime mysteries hold a certain appeal that few other genres are able to replicate. They are essentially puzzle books for adults.

For the reader, the challenge is to work out how the crime was committed before the technique is revealed. For the author, the challenge is to come up with a methodology that is as simple as it is elusive.

This direct relationship - testing plots against the reader's wits - is a really rewarding mechanic. Combined with the wealth of fascinating entries to the genre over the course of two centuries, it provides a diverse and interesting playground in which to write.

4. How does my writing process work?


I write in bursts. The book is segmented into different stories, so it makes sense to finish one before moving on to the next. The process generally follows these steps:

  • Have an idea for a mystery - some way to escape from a locked room, or a rational explanation for a bizarre event.
  • Think about if/where the mystery fits within the story of the book.
  • Develop characters and motive around the mystery, tying it in with the rest of the book.
  • Write the first draft of the story.
  • Read the draft in the context of the surrounding chapters.
  • Edit to improve links between chapters.
  • Leave for 6 months.
  • Re-read and re-write.

I do a lot of planning. I have spreadsheets of chapter descriptions, target word counts, progress bars, etc. Balancing the pace/story of the book against the requirements for each mystery is challenging, and it really helps to have a central hub to refer back to when writing.

More recently I found that I was reading/writing less, so decided to bring my focus back to all the great examples of mysteries in the genre. This site was my way of forcing myself to read more, think about how my predecessors influence me, and generate inspiration for the book.

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