August 16, 2021 - Steady Progress

Monday, August 16, 2021

It’s amazing how much stuff it takes to write a novel that isn’t exactly writing. I’m trying to do a chapter-by-chapter outline of this one right now while champing at the bit to actually write new words. I know who is killed, who killed her, and why. I also know why the other suspects might have done it. But I wasn’t sure how the victim was killed.

That led me to search for pictures. You see, how she was killed depends on where she was killed. I had to get her away from the rest of the group so she’d be vulnerable. I also had to have her die in a way that wouldn’t scream who killed her. And I wanted the setting to be realistic.

The best way to do that is to make a field trip to either the exact location or, if there isn’t a real one because the place in the book is totally fictional, a place somewhat like it. This has been difficult to do over the past few months due to COVID. Two years ago, I did drive out to Empire Ranch for the Day of the Cowboy, so I had that as a reference. But this story takes place on a slightly different kind of ranch. This story takes place on a dude ranch.

Now, a decade or more ago, the company I worked for held a dinner at Tanque Verde Ranch, which is actually in Tucson, which is part of the problem with using that one. It’s too citified for the location I’m imagining.

I do know an actual dude ranch that I’m using as the basis for my fictional one, but I’ve never been there. I hope to rectify that over the winter (like most things in this climate, you have to wait until winter to enjoy it), but I want to finish writing at least the draft of this book before then.

So I Googled all three places, generally winding up on TripAdvisor for an assortment of photos that I saved to a new Pinterest board. (No, you can’t see that right now. I make my book research boards private. Later on, if I take the time to do it, I might do a public version of it.)

That makes it easier to envision this make-believe place, put my characters in it, and see how they behave. So now I know exactly where and how she’s killed. I’ll probably have to draw a map of the ranch and its surroundings while writing the scene. While I have an actual map of my source dude ranch, it’s too complex for a cozy mystery setting. It’s like setting a story in Boston as opposed to Cabot Cove. I have to lay out Cabot Cove.

I didn’t get a whole lot done on the outline itself. But my castle in the air is closer to being done, which means I’ll be able to move into it (mentally) in a few days.

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