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Category Archives: Crime Writing

Writing an outline or not for your novel?

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Do you painstakingly outline your characters every move and every plot development in your novel before you write it? Or do you jump right in and write from your idea of plot and characters? With a series (like my Beyond Blood series) the second option is modified as you already have your main characters – they just need further development.

I do a little of both and by that I don’t mean outlining to the last detail what is going to happen. I start with an idea and some new characters and start to type in an outline. But something happens as I do this. The darn story wants to be told so I involuntarily switch to writing mode.

Not that I’m through doing outlines. Far from it. I have had to stop and think between writings what could happen next. I say “could” because characters and situations change (like people in real life situations). And being anal and sticking to the original plan is often not in the best interest of the novel. This is creative writing – fiction.

Because a few things happen when you are in creative writing land. You get better ideas and characters like to take over. Listen to them. Some original plot ideas may not work out. Some characters need fleshing out and/or need to be connected to the story more, particularly what I call the “guest characters” as opposed to the series regulars.

I tend to write complicated plots and am constantly going up and down the screen to fix inconsistencies. I do have a list of inconsistencies and also a list of what I call “Balls being juggled in the plot.” The latter refers to what evolves as I write, but they must be worked out in the story telling. Let no story thread be left well, unthreaded.

One thing readers hate is if some plot development is left hanging at the end of the novel. I’m not referring to continuation of series characters’ private lives – for example relationships that have formed in the novel and may continue in your next novel. If Alice and Joseph start dating in your novel, you don’t have to marry them off at the end of the novel. Leave that open-ended one way or the other as anything can happen in the next novel. But if you have a subplot that is a red herring (part of the criteria for mystery novels), you better resolve that one.

So I ask you again – how do you write – from an outline or by the seat of your pants?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Click on the Beyond Blood cover at the top to find out where copies are available.

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Promote your book alone or with other authors?

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Do you join with other authors to promote your books? Or are you the lone wolf? I do both and there are pros and cons for each.

With other authors – to use a variation on an old phrase – there are benefits in numbers. If three or even five authors band together to do a reading or some sort of presentation, it can draw in some readers that might not otherwise attend your presentation alone. Not to belittle your book, but we all have preferences for books we read. In the crime genre there is fiction and non-fiction. So by mixing it up with a variety of sub-genres, you can draw in more people. They may not know you or your books but they will find out. The trick is to be friendly, knowledgeable and interesting. Panels with q and a and a bit of author reading work best I have found. And when readers congregate at the author table at the end, there is a good chance they will be purchasing books. Yours might be one of them. Just don’t push it. And you get to meet a bunch of authors writing in the same genre and learn from each other.

Going it alone is a good idea if you want to focus on a particular subject that your book deals with – that could be writing series characters, especially if some appear in short stories as well as novels. Or if you want to talk about particular issues that are in your book and use your book and its story as an example. Beyond Blood covers child kidnapping, serial killers, fraud and abortion pill issues. Although Beyond Blood is set in August 1998, the abortion pill in the novel is still illegal in Canada.

Lots of fodder for thought there. You may also have a specific type of crime writing workshop and use your book for examples.

Then there is the honey of all solo presentations. When the person in charge of the venue – whether library, cafe, pub or festival – asks you to come and do a presentation. The latter has happened to me a few times with Beyond Blood and yes, I have sold book copies. I will be doing it again Sept. 3 (see the Gigs and Blog Tours page).

Just remember not to come on as a salesperson. You are there to primarily entertain and of course underneath all that, hopefully sell some books. But if you stand up (or sit at a table) like some of these motivational speakers continually pitching their courses, you won’t sell a book.

My thoughts anyway.

What do you think?

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Click on the Beyond Blood cover at the top to find out where copies are available.

 

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