Unstuck

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Well, that didn’t take long.

Over the weekend, I decided to listen to some of the writing and marketing podcasts I used to follow religiously. I stopped doing this because I’d listened to so many podcasts, read so many blogs, taken so many courses, and yes, written so many books, I knew just about everything they told me. The problem with that is it’s easy to forget what you once knew when you’re focusing on publication deadlines and building your mailing list and all the other things that are not writing.

In the process of listening, things that were covered in the podcasts reminded me of what I already knew, but my conscious mind had forgotten. And I realized that what Bury Me Not was missing was an emotional hook. 

Now, plot is important, particularly in mystery novels, but what keeps the reader’s interest—and the author’s as well—is what’s going on with the characters. I was spending all my brainpower on trying to visualize the plot for this book. But I didn’t really care about what happened because it didn’t matter to any of the characters. Not in a real, engaging sort of way. That lack of emotional resonance should have been as obvious as a blood trail on six inches of new fallen snow, but it wasn’t until I heard something like it on one of those podcasts.

Sometimes this is called the theme of the book. I generally haven’t written with theme in mind because I didn’t usually have to think about it. It just shows up organically in the writing. For some reason, that didn’t happen this time. So I started thinking about that. As a jumping off point, I reminded myself of what it had been in Homicide on the Range. Once I had that, I realized I could continue from there in a similar vein. I just wasn’t sure how.

That was where the second new old idea came in. Something I read or heard during this phase mentioned journaling and the lightbulb went on. When I used to have trouble writing a book, I’d get up from my computer, go sit at my dining room table with a notebook and pen, and free write about whatever the problem was. Writing by hand uses a different part of the brain than typing does, so it often pulls out different ideas. I decided to try that.

Pretty soon, all kinds of ideas were flowing out of that pen, and I knew exactly what I needed to write next. So today I wrote 2,000 words and I wasn’t fighting myself to get them.

Don’t cancel that pre-order yet.

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