Monday, January 6, 2020

MAILBAG: YOU NEED A PLAN, EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU DON'T

By Mary Kennedy                                               

Time for today's mail. We have an interesting question from "Perpetually Procrastinating in Peoria."

Dear Mary, I never seem to be able to buckle down and work. My goal this year includes writing two mystery novels, researching an historical fiction book and editing a collection of my unpublished short stories. It's almost past the first week in January and I'm paralyzed with self-doubt. The research is really interesting and I'm wondering if I should just concentrate on that.  Or maybe tackle one of the mystery novels and let the research go until I have more time?  And let the second mystery novel go until another year?  I just can't decide. Sometimes I think I should just flip a coin. What do you think? Thanks for your help. PPP
                                                                         

Dear Procrastinating, first of all, nice alliteration! Here's what I think. You have GOT to pick and choose and commit to something. I agree that research can be fun/entertaining/addictive but it is really time consuming. I'm sure you enjoy it but the fact is, only a small portion of your research will end up in the finished book. A miniscule portion! 

You may be investing a great deal of time and effort into something that will never see the light of day. Sometimes spending a lot of your writing time on "research" is just deluding yourself. You can pretend you're actually writing something and moving forward when you're not.  I'm not saying this is what you're doing, but I would think about it.


I am assuming you do not have an advance for these books and you are simply writing them, hoping to attract an editor or agent. As we've discussed in earlier blogs this is not easy! In fact, it's darn near impossible in today's publishing environment.

Okay, some concrete advice. I would do one of the mysteries. Pick the one that has the most detailed, fleshed out plot and that way you can get past the paralysis of the blank page. You will have a road map.  Write a list of the suspects and make a Means, Motive, Opportunity list for every one of them. Write all the reasons they "could have" committed the murder, and now write all the reasons they didn't. Their alibis. Write a character sketch of the victim. Who is he/she and why would anyone want to kill him? One suspect, of course, turns out to be the killer. So obviously their alibi doesn't hold up.

Now write a "for my eyes only" synopsis. Just write the story including every scene necessary to introduce the characters,  do the sleuthing, solve the mystery, unmask the killer and be sure you tie up the loose ends. Because if you don't, a sharp-eyed reader will be sure to notice.

Hope this helps and let me know what you decide and how you're doing, Mary




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