My process for crafting a novel is entirely organic. That’s a snooty way of saying I have no idea what I’m doing. I get an idea, and, with little forethought or planning, start writing. The plot, subplots, and characters evolve along the way until, with any luck, the story comes together.
My first four attempts at writing a book resulted in three published novels and an unpublished memoir. I credit my pals in the Athens Writers Workshop for the novels. They held my hand through countless revisions of Until Thanksgiving, watched over my shoulder as I wrote No Good Deed, and provided invaluable feedback on early drafts and revisions of Happy Independence Day.
After leaving the Athens Writers Workshop to free up more time for writing, the ideas kept coming, but the stories went nowhere. I’d hit a wall around 30,000 words, see no way forward, and eventually give up. My “in progress” folder filled with abandoned manuscripts.
Then I even quit trying until, inspired by Mom and Charlie Cochet, I tackled my fourth novel. As you can tell from the cover and blurb, Whippersnapper is supposed to be a humorous, May-September romance featuring Tellumo Magnamater and Oliver Crumbly. It’s a damn good story, but by no stretch of the imagination is it a romance. Blame Peggy Tucker, a minor character who found a way to make it about her.
Whippersnapper is not an exception. My novels are plagued with genre identity issues. Conventions be damned. Don’t tell me how to write. I’m an artiste!
Turns out, thou shalt not fuck with genre. Readers expect a certain kind of story. Within the constructs of the genre, surprising plot twists are acceptable. Venturing too far out of bounds is not. Bait and switch totally pisses off genre purists — as it should.
Duly chastised, I set out to write another thriller or mystery. The wall again loomed large. I had a blast setting the stage and creating new characters, but again, around 30,000 words, I couldn’t see my way to the end of half a dozen different stories.
Frustrated, I sent the latest hot mess to a pal from the Athens Writers Workshop. After reading it, he asked who the main character was. Believe it or not, I honestly didn’t know.
The question was the kick in the butt I needed. Forget going back to the drawing board. I quit.
To be continued…