If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

WWK's May interviews will be: 5/2--indie author Bobbi Holmes, 5/9--TG Wolff (aka--Anita Devito), 5/16--Chocolate Bonbon author Dorothy St. James, 5/23--Lida Sideris, 5/30--Food Lovers' Village (and multiple Agatha winner) Leslie Budwitz. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our May Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 5/5--John Carenen, 5/12--Judy Penz Sheluk, 5/19--Margaret S. Hamilton, 5/26--Kait Carson.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), will be available on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here.

Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with the authors in this anthology on 4/14! Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in August, 2018.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos.


Monday, November 5, 2012

A Writing Course Recommendation

 Last month I finished taking a course titled “Mystery and Thriller Structure by instructor, Kris Neri. Since I’m starting a new WIP, the course applied to me and the timing couldn’t have been better. After finishing Kris’s course, I highly recommend it. But let me explain the methods I’ve used in the past.

The first two novels I wrote using the pantser method. As most of you know, the term “pantser” refers to writers who write by the seat of their pants, starting with a blank page. Some writers swear by the method—if they knew who the villain was they’d be bored with their story before they wrote it, I’ve heard before. Having written two novels using this method, I don’t recommend it. Neither of my novels were messes, but I didn’t feel good about the process. Using the pantser method seemed chaotic to me. I felt out of control.

I chose a combination method of pantser and what I deem “planned,” when I wrote my third WIP.  To do so, I wrote a storyboard for each chapter, including the facts of the case to be presented and what had to be accomplished by each character. The backstory, character development and subplot complications I included via pantser method. This method was better, but I knew I needed help.

Kris’s course put into words and forced me to create what I knew was lacking in my own methods. The entire novel is considered. The plots and subplots are all planned prior to typing a word on the page. Triggers and plot points move the scenes. Although we weren’t required to do so, I created a detailed outline and timeline including the evidence, the characters’ roles in the plot and subplots, how the crime is solved by which characters and the backstory of each character that impacts the plot. Character development is not covered in the course or techniques for creating settings. But those elements can and should be added. All are set within the backdrop of the three-act structure and the proportions of the book that should be devoted to each act.  

For our assignments, I wrote the synopsis and backstory of the main characters including the villain. These helped in planning because they forced me to think about my story in its entirety including character arc, which I can carry over to a next book. 

I remember while using the pantser method in my first two WIPs that I kept switching the identity of the murderer. It was a surprise—the problem was that while it should surprise the reader, I no longer think it should surprise the writer. Elements must be built into the plot giving clues to the villain’s identity. Otherwise, solving the crime seems implausible or solved by a fluke. Knowing the identity of the villain, his relationship to the victim and what triggered the murder induces the writer to consider the timing of the protagonist’s story (and the plot points in the character’s story which propel the scenes) to that of the villain’s and victim’s story, and it is that story that the writer reveals.

Planning my next WIP using the techniques that Kris teaches has put me in control. I know what motivates my protagonist and that has changed my writing from plot driven to character driven, which I think strengthens my writing considerably. If you ever have the chance to take the course, do so. But Kris may not be teaching often. Her current script MAGICAL ALIENATION was a finalist in the New Mexico & Arizona Book Awards in the sci fi/fantasy category. In Kris’s case, she teaches what she does.


Gloria Alden said...

E.B. I use both methods. I know who my killer is in advance because I've written a biography of him/her. I know why he/she has turned to murder. But from then on except for an idea what my book and plot is going to be, I don't outline, but let the ideas flow as I write. Yes, I do write down some things I want to include, but don't plan these things chapter by chapter although I do have at least some ideas where I want the next chapter to go and what characters I want to bring back.

Donnell said...

E.B. thanks for the reference to Keri's workshops. I'm glad you found something that worked for you. Every time I sit down to write a book, I swear I can't do it again. Congrats!

E. B. Davis said...

Everyone has their own way of plotting, Gloria. I'm glad you like your method and feel comfortable with it. I didn't. I felt that I was missing something--and I was.

One concept that I hadn't considered--plot points--incidents that occur throughout the novel that provide the motivation for the MC. Triggers cause the incidents, but the plot points drive the character. So often, cases are solved by happenstance. The MC not only needs reason to initially start solving the murder, but there has to be additional motivation for the character to move the investigation in a particular way that fulfills her objectives (personal or investigative). That's what changes the plotting from plot based to character based--and what readers want from characters.

I realized that it is the characters that draw readers--something I knew, but I wasn't sure how to fulfill in my manuscripts.

E. B. Davis said...

Thanks Donnell. I was frustrated by the process. To not have stick-figure characters, you have to know what makes character's tick and their backgrounds to the point of plotting their lifelines out. During the murder and investigation, using timelines that trace where and what each of the characters were doing, why they got there and how they overlap provides a perspective that I missed. Sometimes parallels can be seen which are interesting and can add a dimension to your books that wasn't there before. Thanks for dropping by!

Warren Bull said...

Keri is an excellent writer. Her workshop sounds well worth seeking out.

E. B. Davis said...

Learning new techniques can lead to breakthroughs in your writing no matter what level you are at. I haven't read Kris's books, but I plan to read them.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I found this very informative. I like to work from an outline, leaving room to surprise myself as I write.

Cate Harris said...

That was a really interesting post, thanks E.B. I've gone to look up Keri's courses now.

Kaye George said...

I agree, writing out the scenarios that Kris suggests is incredibly helpful. When I feel my plot veering off into a dead end, I consult those initial files and remember what I'm writing about.

E. B. Davis said...

The planning that Kris makes you do, doesn't leave room for author surprises (except for parts of the personal story, which you can write by pantser method), Marilyn. Character motivation is the key that drives the entire story, and tying the relationship to the victim and villain to the protagonist, which also relates to the MC's arc.

I'm glad that your outline method works for you. But, it only partly helped me, which is why I thought that Kris's method improved my writing.

E. B. Davis said...

Good luck, Cate. It really will help you--if Kris gives the course again before too long.

E. B. Davis said...

I've found myself checking my notes just to answer these questions, Kaye. It is a method that you have to work through a few times (I fear) before it becomes a part of your own natural process. I'm still writing shorts, want to revise my WIP and start a new WIP so--I hope that I don't lose what Kris taught before I need it again. Good luck with that big Garfield type kitty!

Kaye George said...

Thanks, Elaine!

Polly Iyer said...

The bottom line for every writer is to find out what works best for her/him. I'm a pantser. So far that's worked for me. I know pretty much where I'm going in the plot, but there are always a few surprises along the way. I'm VERY visual and see my story as a movie. The surprises for me come in the secondary characters. I'm glad you've found the right process, Elaine. Whatever works.

E. B. Davis said...

Thanks Polly. (We are talking novels here, not shorts--LOL, although I have to admit when I write shorts in which I have the MC's voice in my head--they seem write themselves.). I wrote by the pantser method, but I didn't feel comfortable with it. I'm glad that it works for you (and it obviously does), but it's not me. Thanks for dropping by, and good luck on your first series, and the second of that series, Goddess of the Moon, after of many one-off books.

Kathleen said...

I took a course with Kris Neri, and I second the enthusiasm.