Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Alex, I'd Like to Buy A Clue for 200, Please

Cross-posted from my blog.

I feel dumb. I’ve been really very stuck on Bloody Charming. There are a number of contributing factors, not the least of which is my ego (but I’ll write about that tomorrow) and the fact that I’m writing “late at night” (read: 8:00 pm and know that by nature I’m a lark, not a night owl.) However, while talking to Shawn the other night I realized something so profoundly obvious that I nearly smacked myself in the head hard enough to give myself a concussion. Here it is:

If you’re going to have a mystery, you need to provide some clues as to “who dun it.”

Wow, Tate, really?

Yep, really.

Turns out that if person x is casting magical attacks on your heroine, you can’t just keep that information in your head until the final “ta-dah!” The reader needs to see person x on stage doing something that makes them go “hmmm, that’s curious.” So that by the time you get to the end the reader can say, “Ah ha!”

Guess what? Writers even have a special word for this. It’s called “foreshadowing.”

As many novels as I’ve written, you’d think I’d know this by now. Other me has even won the Shamus Award, so you’d assume I might be familiar with the basic principles of mystery writing, right?

Apparently, not today.

What this means is that I’ve had to revise the entire novel starting at page 50 or so. The good news is that when I’m finished with this backtracking, I should be primed to write straight through to “THE END.” Wish me luck.

This goes with my theory that every novel, for me, is like starting over. People always ask me, “Does it get any easier?” I’m supposed to say yes, of course, the more you write the easier the whole thing becomes, but the truth is that getting words down on page becomes easier the more you do it – structuring a novel, at least for me, is complicated every time because each novel is like the next baby, complete with their own personality and quirks.

As I often say with a sigh, “Someday I’ll learn how to write a novel.”


Erik Buchanan said...

I always thought foreshadowing was when a quartet of tall people stood between you and the sun...

Of course, I could be wrong.

And if it makes you feel better, I've had to backtrack 3 times on the novel I'm writing now, and I hate doing that.

Another option is to go back and put point form notes in the book where you need things to happen but don't want to take the time to flush it out fully (I put them in ALL CAPS so they jump out at me when I re-read). That works for me, may not work for you.

Keep up the good work.

Kelly McCullough said...

Erik, just noticed your question re: Cybermancy and in an earlier thread. Yes, absolutely it'll be on after a bit.

Erik Buchanan said...

Excellent. Looking forward to it.

MariAdkins said...

put point form notes in the book where you need things to happen but don't want to take the time to flush it out fully

I use the highlighting function in Word - I use dark grey.