Clueless by Heather Haven

I suffered an illness in 2022 which took me months to recover from. During that time, if I did any writing, it was here and there. Not a steady diet. I could usually find a blog or an article to do, not a cohesive structure such as a novel, but at the time, fairly fulfilling. But I got out of the habit of writing every day.

However, when I realized I was a year past due on my fourth Persephone Cole Vintage Mysteries, Hotshot Shamus, I knew I had to buckle down. So, I did. Or tried to. It didn’t work. I was easily distracted and the drive to write something as daunting as a novel was so tamped down, I wasn’t sure I could resurrect it again. It was frightening. 

On November 1st, I decided to try NaNoWriMo. On the surface of it, it worked. NaNoWriMo was just the jumpstart I needed. Every day I got up and wrote 1500 words no matter what. In the past, I was writing 5000 words a day, so once I committed to sitting down and writing, it wasn’t hard to do 1500.

On November 2nd, however, is when I realized I wasn’t prepared to write this novel. I didn’t have a storyline, not really, and didn’t know where I was heading, except to the coffee pot for more cups of java. I had just a vague notion, doncha-know. My usual style is to think the story through and write chronologically. I more or less follow a one-day-after-the-other pattern or one consequential scene after the other. Of course, there would be an insert here and there or I’d move a chapter or two around, but it was all fairly controlled.

Not this time. It was like throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what would stick where. I’d invent a scenario involving the protagonist and be off and away. If it didn’t reflect or match the ha-ha storyline, I told myself I’d deal with it later. Basically, it was characters, situations, plots, clues, and actions all banged into the keyboard appearing magically on the page. Every day for a month. Needless to say, I graduated NaNoWriMo. 50 thousand plus words were not that hard, especially when most of the words didn’t make any sense.

December had me piecing the story together. Then I added another 15 thousand words or so to make a complete 1st draft.  I cut, swapped out, repurposed, and eliminated scenes and chapters until I got some sort of cohesion. Eureka! A beginning, a middle, and an end. But I am nowhere near done.

Putting aside the rewrites, I am focusing on yet another result of my slapdash approach: the clues. Clues may be mandatory in a mystery but are like cookies. You may think you can never have too many cookies, but overindulge and it will give you a real, live stomach ache.

Unfortunately, the month of November saw me as a wild, reckless writer. Aside from writing anything that came into my head, I would throw in a new clue nearly every day. I’ve wound up with about three times as many clues as needed. I am awash in them. And while I think nothing of throwing away a whole scene that isn’t working, for some reason I am reluctant to let go of even one clue. Let’s face it, I love my clues.

So, January, February, and probably much of March will be devoted to rewrites and getting my clues in order. But I will get there. I shook things up and I’m grateful to NaNoWriMo for the jumpstart. But I have such a stomach ache!

9 thoughts on “Clueless by Heather Haven

  1. Heather, you are describing exactly how I usually write a book. Although I tell myself this time I’m going to do an outline and stick to it, when I get involved in actually writing, I usually find my characters demand different scenes and outcomes than what is on my outline. (unfortunately theirs are usually better than my original ideas!) What I end up doing is keeping what I call a timeline where I scribble bits and pieces of scenes that I can use to flesh out the novel and keep it coherent. I wish you luck, and happy writing! Gail Daley


  2. Geat post, Heather! I think we have all felt this way the last couple of years. I know this past year I got out of my usual writing routine, and now, as I need to start a new book, I’m finding way to many promotion things to keep me from it. The opening did come to me last night as I was trying to sleep. 😉 I know you can tackle the mess you wrote in November. The hardest part is getting it on the page!

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  3. Heather, I perfectly understand your dilemma in finding a complete story for a novel. I am currently in the same place, due to family problems as well as a lack of writerly stimulation and support over the last few years–it’s amazing and appalling how we can get used to that situation. But I’m going to do what I used to do when tackling a massive technical writing project: write the “modules” (scenes) that I know need to be in the book, and then, like you, find ways to link them all together in (what I hope will be) a cohesive plot. We’ll both be successful, I’m sure.

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  4. Will do. And thanks for the comment, although, I don’t know that I’m stronger than you, Susan. I think I’m just ‘in it’ and doing my best!


  5. After reading this and considering the same approach, I’m pretty sure I’d end up with a stomachache and a headache. You’re stronger than I am, Heather. Let us know how it all turns out. (I’m sure it will.)


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