Monday, October 31, 2011

Scary Book Moments

by Elizabeth S. Craig @elizabethscraig

First up, hope you’ll run by to visit me (actually, visit my character, Lulu) today at Dru’s Book Musings. My third Memphis Barbeque mystery, Hickory Smoked Homicide, releases tomorrow!

blog111Halloween made me start thinking of some scary book moments.

These weren’t moments that were intentionally scary. I wasn’t writing about a harrowing chase or the moment when my sleuth met up with my murderer. These were problems with my books that made we wonder if I were ever going to meet my deadline. And that’s scary.

Alex Cavanaugh created the Insecure Writer’s Support Group—supporting each other the first Wednesday of every month. Since I’m on Joan Swan’s blog on Wednesday, I thought I’d run an early post with the same theme in honor of Alex and Halloween. Hey, if your manuscript’s got problems, you’re not alone. Here are some of my scariest book moments (scattered among seven books):

1. A plot hole big enough to sink a whole book. At the end of one of my first drafts, I realized the solution wasn’t logical and my sleuth was babbling while trying to explain it. If it couldn’t be explained easily, it wasn’t a sound ending. Solution: I changed the murderer and changed all the clues leading to her. I also took out a subplot.

2. A character with no motivation but an important role to play in the mystery. Solution: I cut the character and assigned the important role to another character in the book (who made more sense.)

3. Since writing out of order does work for me (when I get stuck on one section), I decided to write an entire book out of order. Kids, don’t try this at home. Solution: A few days later, I’d finally ironed out all the jagged transitions in the book by going through back-to-back complete read-throughs of the manuscript.

4. I got 30% through the mystery that’s coming out tomorrow and realized I didn’t have a handle on the subculture of the beauty pageant world I was writing about. I decided to scrap the book and start fresh with a completely different idea. I was brooding over it when I picked up my daughter from a playdate. Solution: Research from a primary source. Little did I know the mom of my daughter’s friend had first-hand knowledge and enough insight to fuel me the rest of the book.

5. A required outline flattened all of my characters during the first draft until they were cardboard cutouts. Solution(s): I made a list of all the opposing characteristics of the stock characters I had---and incorporated some of the opposing traits into my characters. I did a few character worksheets. I also spent a few days letting the various characters accompany me on my day to day life.

Are any of these problems familiar to you? What are some of your scariest moments when writing a book? And…Happy Halloween!