Saturday, September 01, 2018

Guest Post: Jackie Baldwin

Aline here.  I'm delighted to introduce Jackie Baldwin,  a Scottish author who is rapidly going places. With a background in criminal law, she moved from real life to fictional crime with a series of thrillers featuring ex-priest DI Frank Farrell and she joins us today with a contribution to the long-running Type M discussion about planners and pantsers.

Losing the Plot.

 I have written two books in my DI Farrell series but I approached the plotting in vastly different ways.  With Dead Man's Prayer, I knew how my plot would develop right from the start as it sprung from a very specific idea.  Essentially, then, I was viewing other characters from the start as red herrings and grafting suspicious behaviour on to them whilst knowing all along they were wholly innocent.  This felt contrived to me while writing it but apparently, according to my readers, I had gotten away with it.

My first book was ten years in the making with multiple drafts, including three years languishing in a drawer.  So you could say I had taken leisurely into a whole new dimension.  The offer of publication two weeks after submission was profoundly shocking.  There was a ridiculous amount to do in a very short space of time.  It felt like being put in an authorial car wash and I emerged buffeted, dripping wet behind the ears and rather stunned into publication six months later.

My editor wanted to meet me for a drink at Harrogate to discuss the second book.  What second book?  Already?  I rushed into an empty room, scribbled some stuff down on a piece of paper then went to meet her.  'Oh it's about blah blah' I announced.  She enthused.  I panicked.  I'd best get on with it then.

This time, remembering how I had felt about writing a plot when I already knew all the answers and how artificial that had felt to me, I decided to try a bold experiment.  Bear in mind her, I'm more of a mouse than a lion!   I decided to launch into my second novel, Perfect Dead, without a clue as to who the murderer or murderers were.    There were about six potential villains to play with.  I have to say this was a lot more fun to write and I found myself rushing forward almost in the manner of a reader myself.  It went faster because I wasn't second guessing every tiny thing.

Then the inevitable happened.  I hit the soggy middle.  Both the characters and plot were raging wildly out of control.  All those tiny decisions I had effectively deferred now came back to haunt me.  I felt paralysed with indecision.  I ate a discomfiting amount of cake.  I developed a passion for ironing.  On the verge of transforming into a domestic Goddess, I forced myself back to the book and the words started to drip if not flow.  The soggy middle firmed up and developed a six pack.  Once I had left that behind my fingers fairly flew over the keys until I typed my two favourite words in the English language, The End.

I am now starting book 3.  I want to be through the first draft by the end of the year so I am already
feeling the pressure.  The aim is to keep the excitement of writing Perfect Dead but avoid the soggy middle.  To this end, I have a little more idea of who might have done what but nothing is pinned down too firmly.  I have vague suspicions of my characters but, as of yet, no proof of their wrong-doing.  Hopefully, DI Farrell will do all the investigating for me...


Thomas Kies said...

Jackie, I love your post. I understand how difficult it is to write follow up books. I'm struggling with the ending of my third. For whatever reason it's been a bear to write.

Sybil Johnson said...

What a great post. I try not to think about how hard it was to write that second book. The third one was a bit easier. You'll get through it.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Thomas! I hope you manage to wrestle your ending into submission soon!

Unknown said...

Thank you, Sybil! I’m glad your third book was easier! I’m hoping mine will be too. Fingers crossed! 😀