Thursday, August 07, 2014

Happy New Year!

It’s early August, or the end of the year.

Bitter Crossing, the first novel in the Peyton Cote (single mother/U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent) series, hits shelves this week. Reviews for Bitter Crossing are rolling in; the spring 2015 Peyton Cote novel, Fallen Sparrow, has been turned in; the catalogue copy is finished and e-mailed to the publisher as well; the cover art has been created (but the pain-in-the-ass author reviewed it and made suggestions, so it’s not yet completed); and I’m scheduling fall events.

If I were a businessman or a banker, it would be the end of my “fiscal year”. But I’m a writer, so there’s one more item on my to-do list: plan the 2016 novel, the marathon that will dominate my free time for the next six to 12 months.

I’m not an outliner as much as I’m a note-taker. A month ago, I wrote a short story featuring Peyton that I liked (and submitted). I think there’s something there to be explored further, so it will serve as the scaffolding for the 2016 novel. I wrote the opening scene of the book (no title yet), and that, too, seems to hold up, so now I need to sit back and take notes.

During an interview with Mystery Scene, author Sue Grafton once said, “Mysteries are about the psychology of crime and the psychology of human nature.” I worked the sports desk at a daily newspaper (while majoring in English and playing hockey) in college and covered the city desk for a daily paper upon graduation. So when I “plan” a novel, I literally work through the novel in terms of Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Why is always the most important – and most interesting – of all the questions.

Why is equivalent to character motivation. If I read a novel and question the plot, it’s because, for me as a reader, the character's motivation didn’t hold up. Nothing previously presented in the book made me think this character would genuinely act (or react) in this manner in relation to the events sequenced in the book. Therefore, to me, character motivation is the most important thing to consider when writing a novel. And motivation stems directly from a character’s backstory (I’m a nurture-trumps-nature guy).

So this week, with an opening scene that seems to work, I will stop and take copious notes on the characters in my 2016 novel and try to figure out why they will do what they will.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Eileen Goudge said...

Hi John. Congratulations on your book release! "Bitter Crossing" looks intriguing. Is it available as an e-book?