On the Hazards of Seat-of-the-Pants Writing

copyWhat have I been up to since I last posted? Well, as I told you last month, my new book, PSYCHIC DAMAGE, is out. I’ve had a couple of book signings, both at great bookstores, with other writers from Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles. I also moderated a panel at a library in Santa Monica using as our topic “Murder is Where You Find It”. These were all fun, partly because I wasn’t appearing by myself but with other writers. It’s always fun when you have other people to talk to on the podium.

I have also finally (!) unstuck myself in the writing of my latest Florida mystery, as yet untitled. Because I never outline and only start with a vague idea of what’s driving the book and where it’s going, I ALWAYS get stuck somewhere around half way through. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, I’m sorry I ever started, and I wonder what I was thinking when I considered the book a good idea. I wake up thinking about the problems, mulling solutions over in my head, without coming to any brilliant—or even serviceable– solutions. And I find myself depressed, feeling that I’ll be stuck forever.  Maybe I’ll just give up this book and start fresh.

Candy, my writing teacher, tells me I always do this, but since I don’t remember feeling this way before, I think she’s just trying to make me feel better. This time my being stuck lasted longer than usual, and even she began to wonder about me. Then she suggested that, since I had several threads in the book, several ways it could go, that I try following each of them separately from the rest of the book, to see where each of them led me.

Wonder of wonders! I followed one thread to the end and found a logical and conclusive ending. Then I followed another, with a few detours along the way, but I think now I know where I’m going.  I hope I can follow it through to the end.

If you’re a writer, it’s probably a better idea to have some idea where you’re going rather than write the way I do. On the other hand, I’m constantly surprising myself with the paths my books take that I hadn’t planned out at all. And surprising myself is a lot of fun!

In the meantime, my house is still a mess with the kitchen remodeling going on. The walls and cabinets are painted, the lights are in, but the floor hasn’t been done yet and there seems to be a leak in the ceiling.  House remodeling is never fun?

4 thoughts on “On the Hazards of Seat-of-the-Pants Writing

  1. Thank you!!! This was just what I needed to get unstuck. Follow each thread separately and see where it logically leads. I’m going to go for a run and follow those threads for a few miles and I think I may come back with a plot problem solved.


  2. I’m not a complete plotter and with my mysteries I set up a list of suspects with a kernel of an idea of who the killer is, but in the end it may not turn out to be the person I’d first tagged as doing the deed. Which makes writing mysteries so much fun! I’m glad you were able to un-stick your story!

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  3. Everyone has his/her own methodology for writing: some are rather meticulous and plan and plot and work through ideas very cautiously and carefully; whereas, others may feel inclined to write from inspiration at the moment ( honestly, this works best for me); I think your method sounds great, and it’s one of my own personal favorites, too. I always enjoy your posts.


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