Don’t write like me!
Today I published my 19th and 20th titles on Amazon. You’d think by now I would know what I was doing and have some valuable advice to pass on to other writers. But I’ve decided to celebrate not by telling everyone else how to do it, but by describing my methods in the hope that other people won’t try and do the same.
Incidentally, I blame NaNoWriMo for much of what follows. It helped me write really fast without knowing where I was going.
- I don’t like outlines, but this is partly because many of my novels are mysteries and there is a sort of basic structure they more or less have to follow anyway.
- Something bad happens – usually a murder
- Investigations take place, either by the police or by a bunch of well-meaning amateurs – in my main mystery series both of these things have happened, often in the same novel
- There is a solution
- A complication may occur with the original solution, in which case there is a second solution
- [optional] the remaining characters get together for a party or other gathering
I recently tried outlining using the ‘snowflake’ method for a sci-fi novel, and it was not at all successful – not in the sense that the novel hasn’t been successful, although it hasn’t, but in the sense that I felt it made the writing even more stilted than it might otherwise have been. In my experience the thrilling moments when you are writing are the ones that completely take you by surprise, such as the start of my latest mystery novel when an alpaca crossed the road in front of someone’s car. I always assume (but I may be wrong) that these moments are equally thrilling for readers!
- I never know who the murderer is in my mysteries until the end, and quite often I don’t know who the victim is going to be when I start the first chapter. I usually have to go back through the draft planting clues at strategic intervals.
- I have a ridiculous pen-name – my NaNoWriMo name, in fact – that probably makes my stuff seem even more frivolous than it is.
- I have skipped to and fro between genres, mainly because I would drive myself nuts if I just wrote novels in the same mystery series one after another. As a history graduate I love writing things set in the past but it’s too much like hard work to do that all the time, and I can’t bring myself to write in the most popular historical sub-genres such as Regency romance.
By the way, don’t publish like me either.
- I have only once or twice had my work edited by anyone else, and these occasions were for anthologies to which several writers contributed. But I do go through several phases of self-editing, including a full read-through on my Kindle and one in print, so it isn’t that I’m throwing things up online without any checking. In some cases the editing process takes a bit longer than the writing, and quite often I find myself writing a bit more during the edits.
- It’s very unusual for me to let anyone see my novels before I publish them, mainly because I hate to think of anyone having to wade through the whole thing at that point, but also because I can’t be bothered to wait for someone else to be ready. I do sometimes let selected people read the shorter stuff.
- I’ve never had a cover designed by anyone else (again, except for the anthologies). I’m not an artist of any kind, despite having worked in an art gallery for over 25 years (eeek!), but I admit to having some previous PhotoShop experience.
- I do hardly any promotional activity and have only paid for advertising once or maybe twice on a Kindle forum. I run a Facebook author page and sometimes post tweets and write blogs about new releases.