Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Writing: Fun, but Frustrating

By Chester Campbell

I've always contended that I don't consider writing books difficult since I enjoy doing it so much. I still go along with that premise, but I'll have to admit that the fifth Greg McKenzie mystery, which I just finished, turned out out to be, well, frustrating.

Being a seat-of-the-pants plotter, I write in a linear fashion. I start with the opening scene and move forward. I tell the story as it unfolds in the characters actions and in my own mind. Writing in this fashion results sometimes in the story getting finished before I'm ready for it to end. I discovered I was woefully short of enough words when it happened this time.

Over the years I have developed a rather terse style, partly as a result of reading Robert B. Parker. It helps speed up the pace. However, it sometimes leads to short conversations. Of course, that's also a reflection of my own conversational style. On the phone, I tend to give the facts as simply as possible and hang up. I'm not good at social chatting. I went back over my PI's interviews and worked to make them a bit more voluble, while sticking to the point of the dialogue.

Then I started looking for places to beef up the plot with new characters and new threads. I found a place for some good misdirection and another for planting a clue. I worked over descriptive passages in an attempt to make them more colorful and polished the red herrings until they sparkled like the pearls in an oyster.

I thought about just asking the publisher to do like some people claimed Parker's publisher did with some of his shorter mysteries. They said the books used larger type and wider margins to make a novelette look like a novel. But, with the revision finished, I had enough words and turned in the manuscript.

I suppose the smart thing to do if I run into such a situation again would be to step back and rethink the plot. Add a new subplot that would give an opportunity to further develop the characters and add new intrigue to the crime under investigation.

I'll keep that in mind as I start work on my second Sid Chance mystery. That one's still in the gestation stage. But it'll be fun to write, I'm sure.

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