Monday, November 15, 2021

My Process

 By Thomas Kies

I’m going to riff off of Donis Casey’s excellent blog this week about her writing process.  

Mine is best described as chaotic.  As a rule, I have a general idea what the book will be about and the location.  Sometimes I even have thoughts on what the plot will be and who the villain or villains are.

But not always.

The book I’m currently working on I’ve started six times already.  Not unusual for me.  At some point, about thirty or forty pages in, I either like what I’ve written, or I don’t.  Six times now, I haven’t liked what I’ve created.

Initially, when I started this project, I had an idea for an opening scene but wasn’t sure how it might work so I mentally filed it away.  Plus, it was a murder scene that felt a little gruesome to me.

But I recalled what Barbara Peters, my first publisher and owner of the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, had told me during a live interview online.  “All of your books open with a murder, each one a little more gruesome than the last.” 

After six false starts and a long walk around the neighborhood, I decided to scrap everything I’d done up until then and start over…using that scene I had originally envisioned. 

I love it.

Now I’m about thirty pages into the project and I’ve completely changed the direction I’m taking the book.  Do I know where I’m going with it?  Kind of.

Stephen King said in a Wall Street Journal interview, “The thing is, I don’t outline, I don’t have whole plots in my head in advance. So, I’m really happy if I know what’s going to happen tomorrow, which I do, as a matter of fact, I know what’s going to happen in the novel I’m working on. And that’s enough.”

Now, so I don’t start out with an outline.  That being said, at some point during the writing of the book, I know where it will end up and who the baddies are.  I just have to find a way to get there.

That’s when I start outlining what has to happen to move me to that final scene. 

Then at a certain point, I know I have to lay clues.  You can’t have a mystery if the reader doesn’t at least have some kind of chance to solve the crime. But the clues have to be subtle and that’s where I have the advantage.  

I can go back into what’s been written, like going back in time, and alter what I’ve created.  

The same goes with dialogue. Haven’t you had a conversation with someone and wish you could have said something differently?  I can do that. 

Back to laying the clues out.  You don’t want them to be too obvious or the reader will figure out who the baddies are about halfway through the story. What you want is to have them reach the end of the book, and slap their forehead and say, “I should have seen that coming.”

So, now, I’m going to take a walk down to the beach and then come back, sit down at my keyboard, and knock out another chapter.

Cheers and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Anonymous said...

I know some writers who record themselves talking out loud with ideas on their beach walks. They use their phones or a micro recorder.

I haven't done that yet. I have a giant A-frame white board (did you know hand sanitizer works to erase marker?)in my office and post-y notes and yellow pad half-pages organized into labeled piles.

Fifth novel, pre-published series, sneaking up on pitching.

Laura Hernandez (we met at Book Passage a couple yrs ago at writers con I won scholarship to)

Thomas Kies said...

Laurie, that was 2016 and Kimberley Cameron had just snagged a contract for me that same week. I remember both the conference and you well.

Anonymous said...

I do remember that as your Contract Week! Congratulations then and now!Look forward to your posts all the time, too!