Developing one's writing skills as a novelist is an ongoing process. I'm discovering that the way I write a novel is undergoing a process as well. In previous books, I always wrote as a plotter. I worked from an extensive outline, while allowing for changes as they arose to better suit my storyline. But with each book in my current series, I find myself becoming more of a pantser. Writing the most recent book, I have even become more daring. I outlined what would be the beginning chapters and I knew how I wanted the book to end, with the murderer firmly in my mind. This is especially important as I usually have two plotlines that converge at the end.
But I found myself doing things differently this time around. When I got beyond the opening chapters that I'd outlined, I mentally plotted out the next two or three scenes, which I then wrote. And so I continued. It was kind of like swinging on a trapeze with no safety net below, but oddly enough it didn't make me anxious.
A new character appeared, then another, and I found myself in the middle of the book with plenty of activity and no sagging middle in sight. New characters brought new elements to the book, and before long I found myself changing the identity of the murderer.
Why this growing confidence in the writing process? Partly, I suspect it's due to the fact that the more we write, the better we get at it. Not that it's easier, but we're honing skills that develop well below the surface of our minds. Another reason is my editor trusts me. I tell her what my next book is going to be about. Just to check in, not because she asks me to. And I've a wonderful group of mystery-writing friends who I can turn to whenever I get stuck. Even if I don't take any of their suggestions, somehow the act of asking for help and writing out the problem brings me the very answer I need to resolve my problem.
And then, of course, writing a series makes things easier. I know my protagonist well, along with her friends and family and the town they live in. Yes, I write cozies, but I deal with less-than-cozy issues like abandonment and dysfunctional families. I feel free to explore my characters' thoughts and feelings, without worrying about restrictions. All of these factors allow me to write more freely and to have faith in the writing process.