I’ve just been offered a contract for four more DIAGNOSIS MURDER books… and the next one is due in November. I have the broad strokes of the story….but that’s it. The broad strokes. The equivalent of book jacket copy. I’ve still got to come up with the actual story. Since this one takes place in 1962, I’ve been able to procrastinate by doing research on the period… which has given me some plot ideas… but I’ve still goto figure out the murders, the clues, the characters and, oh yes, the story.
This is the hardest part of writing… the sitting around, staring into space, and thinking. This is writing, even if you aren’t physically writing. A lot of non-writers have a hard time understanding this. Yes, just sitting in a chair doing nothing is writing. A crucial part, in fact.
It can be hell… especially when you are on as short a deadline as I am. Everyone has their own method… this is mine:
Once all the thinking is done, I sit down and work out a rough outline… one or two lines on each "scene," with the vital clues or story points in bold. It’s what I call "a living outline," because it changes as I write the book, staying a few chapters ahead of me (and, some times, requiring me to go back and revise earlier chapters to jibe with the new changes I’ve made… like characters who were supposed to die in the story but don’t). I keep revising the outline right up to the end of the novel. I finish both the book and the living outline almost simultaneously.
While I’m still thinking, and while I’m outling, and while I’m writing, I compile and maintain what I call "my Murder Book," a thick binder that contains my outline, my working manuscript, and notes, emails, articles, clips, photographs, post-its…anything and everything relating to my story. By the time the book is done, the binder is bulging with stuff… including my notes on what my next book might be.
Now I’m in the thinking stage, which is why you might have noticed a sudden uptick in blog entries. I don’t have time to write… but I have plenty of time to procrastinate.