If you ask five authors what their writing process is, you’ll get five different answers. Whatever advice I share with you in this blog post, is what I have personally done. I’m sort of leery about recommending things, no matter what, if I hadn’t had the personal experience. Oh and please read to the bottom of the blog where I give you an excerpt from Gemini, my debut novel that will be released on June 6th, 2015 from Black Opal Books. This is the first excerpt I’ve revealed.
There are three categories of writers; plotter, panster, and planster. A plotter is a writer who makes detailed written notes of every chapter, in succession, detailed notes of characters, and follows that outline when writing the manuscript. If their character develops a life of their own during the plotting, the plotter usually becomes frustrated and hits a wall, known as writer’s block. This could delay the completion of the novel. A panster on the other hand, hits the computer keyboard and lets the story, and characters flow at free will. Then at about chapter four or sometimes sooner, the panster hits a brick wall—asking now what—also known as writer’s block. For these writers, not knowing where they want the story to lead, also delays completing the manuscript.
For me, the best way to create is what is called the planster–somewhere in-between the former two. I outlined and plotted Gemini mentally before I wrote anything down, even if it meant going chapter by chapter. Many of my stories originated in my own fantasies, where usually, I’m the bad girl who turns into the antagonists in my novels. That may have been TMI. Then in a huge spiral notebook, the biggest I could find with five sections, I divided the sections into research, characters, plot ideas, authors in the genres, and lastly synopses chapter by chapter. In fact, in a humorous anecdote, some gals at the pool, whom I did not know, saw me writing in my notebook and came over to me. One of them asked, “Are you writing the great American novel? I never saw a notebook that big.” So, yes, a big notebook, and heavy, too.
My research section included notes of what I’d have to research. The actual research took up sixteen folders: crime scene investigations, forensics, forensic psychiatry, psychopathology, psychiatric law, with each topic having more than one folder. Much of the research came from RWA online courses, which by the way are fabulous and affordable as well as from conferences. At the RWA conferences most of the workshops I attended were for crime writing. Other research came through Google searches and through consulting with professionals in the field.
In the notebook section, authors in the genre, I looked up other thriller writers, psychological thriller writers, and wrote down the similarities between their books. Those included page length, number of characters in each chapter, word count, how they started chapter one, pages of the inciting incident, plot twists, cliffhangers, the dark moment and climax. In thrillers, the first chapter is usually the antagonist making a kill or arranging a kill. In Gemini, stripper by night, school psychologist by day, Barbara Montgomery, is in a strip club, down to the last two days of getting the revenge for her life.
In my characters’ section, I write out character profiles down to the minutest detail of the character. I go beyond the usual physical aspects and get to know my characters on every level–physical, emotional, spiritual. You can find character profile charts on line that will help you elicit characteristics that you may not think of on your own. Not every characteristic you describe in your notes will go into your ms.
I knew my background was going to be in Gemini. I’m a NYS licensed school psychologist and was a NYC teacher for 33 years. In my life after school, I was a holistic health practitioners specializing in alternative therapies, and metaphysics. So my antagonist is the school psychologist and my protagonist is the holistic forensic psychiatrist. Some practitioners call it ‘energy psychiatry.’ Years ago, 40 to be exact, I was in a therapy, Bioenergetics Analysis, created by Alexander Lowen, which is an offspring of the Medical Orgone Therapy of Wilhelm Reich. The latter is comparable to chakra balancing, but goes much deeper. Seven chakras compare to seven armors of the body. Working on chakra balancing and opening the armors brings up and resolves conflicts in one’s past. My analogy was perfect. My psychic and clairvoyant forensic psychiatrist, Dr. John Trenton would use Medical Orgone Therapy, which only psychiatrists can do, to unravel Montgomery’s murderous past by bringing up traumas she had buried so deeply within her soul.
Why am I telling you this? As an aspiring author, I’d recommend that you find experiences in your past, as far back as you need to go, that you can add to your plot. The more emotional, the better. Everyone has had traumas and struggles. And why I say as far back as you can, I mean to go as far back as your birth. I did that in Aries with the antagonist, AriellaRose Larcon, went as far back as my birth. However, talking about Aries will be in another blog. Dig deep within yourself to bring up emotions that are no longer serving you. You’ll find writing to be a great catharsis. Yes, that’s the psychologist in me.
In the notebook section, chapter synopsis, I work until Chapter 12 before I hit the keyboard. I might work up to five months planning, plotting, and researching before I start typing ‘Chapter 1.’ Gemini took longer to write because I didn’t have the knowledge from my writer’s chapter, but with Aries, this worked flawlessly. I plotted 5 months, and then hit the computer keyboard and in 3 months, ten days, 122k words few out of my brain. I never hit writer’s block, because I let my characters develop a life of their own. In Gemini, one character that did this and became my favorite supporting character is Victoria Elizabeth Marin aka Vicki Trenton, the love interest now wife of Dr. John Trenton. She became so prominent that she was instrumental in the case. Not saying another word about that. You’ll have to read Gemini, to find out more about her. Vicki will also have a major role in Scorpio, which I’m currently writing.
In the notebook section, plot ideas, I brainstormed exactly that. I also created Venn Diagrams. This section includes locals, how the location affects the characters and the plots. Gemini is set in NYC, where I’m from, and rural central Florida where I currently live but I fictionalized my current town. BTW, no one in Gemini is any person that I personally know except for me, and Dr. Trenton’s parents, who are mine and are deceased. I made lists of every idea I had, many of them receiving a large X over them. So what do I recommend? Something that you’ll be told over and over again. “Do not fall in love with your words or ideas.” An idea that comes to you too quickly may have been one you’ve heard or read before. Don’t use it. Publishers like unique, some like far-fetched, but whatever the premise, the plot has to be believable. This applies to contemporary novels: In a conversation on Linkedin, a fellow told me that if you can find a person who does what your character does in real life, then the premise of your novel is credible. That made sense to me! There are real- life Dr. John Trenton’s, none whom I personally know.
So there ya have. It. This is my writing process. In the comments, please tell me about your writing process, and why your method is best for you.
The first Gemini excerpt, revealed.
Okay, girlfriend. Let’s get serious here. Tonight’s gotta be the night. Time’s runnin’ away from me.
She jammed her eyes shut, swallowed hard, and blew out a prolonged breath. Tonight could be rough. Or impossible. Her heart thumped in expectation of finding the right person to accompany her in the train wreck of her life.
She had no choice, but to make it work.
Her life depended upon it.
Before she could overthink it, she grabbed the pink paisley duffle bag, which held her outfit for the job, off the Queen Victoria chair that graced the corner of the hallway. The entire getup could fit in her jeans pocket but she had to go fancy. She zipped up the black patent leather stiletto heeled boots, hesitating for a moment, contemplating if she was getting too old to wear them. After a last minute once-over in the full length mirror on the adjacent wall, she reconsidered. Nah, not with her knockout bod. Women half her age didn’t look so good. Not even any laugh lines around her eyes to give it away. She winked in the mirror and her emerald contact lenses twinkled back.
She eased the door closed to her ritzy Manhattan apartment at one a.m. with her right hand on the knob and her left palm on the door, guiding it to the latch so that her ears alone heard the soft clicks of the bolt.
Can’t wake those old geezers next door. Otherwise, I’ll just have to do what I do best.
Chills of anticipation snaked through her as she traversed the darkened hallway to the elevator all the while listening for footsteps in her neighbor’s apartment. The elevator door opened. She slipped in.
All was good.
They got to live another night.
As soon as Gemini goes up on Amazon, Barns and Nobles and all sites where you can purchase books, I’ll let you know.
Please feel free to leave comments telling me what your writing process is like.
The Sign Behind The Crime,