Enjoyable and informative Master Class today with five excellent mystery writers from the U.S. Great advice to many in the room who were in Writers Groups in their hometowns, working diligently on their manuscripts and sharing their writing back and forth with each other.
I have a few faithful beta readers for my work, but I don’t send out my drafts very much, and when I do to only a few. I found it interesting hearing from the authors how using a few beta readers is, in fact best, and those writers who constantly solicit more and more notes back on their drafts often stay mired in just that – The Draft Stage. A truly deadly place if your object is to get your story finished. The overwhelming agreement from the authors today was – write your drafts, get them in great, great shape, and then put them away for a day or two, and if you can stand it – put them away for a week. Then, come back to your story and read it again with fresh eyes.
When I come back to my stories a few days later, I always read them out loud. I find that by doing so I will catch the places in the scenes where I need to tighten or change the pacing. Sometimes I can see it on the page, but in a complicated scene with multiple character’s voices, I can only hear the rhythm and the beats when I hear them out loud. This is especially important in scenes with action, and most definitely in scenes where I’m threading in humor along with the dramatic action. I noticed this in my story, “My Last Nerve”. The rescue scene changed over a few days, and finally reading it aloud came the perfect rhythm that in the final draft made it so amusing.
The subject of muses came up in a few of our sessions today, always an interesting subject – especially since our Muses come in so many, many forms. One of my favorite mystery writers, Laura Lippman, married to the TV producer, David Simon, was especially entertaining. Laura is always so smart and full of great animation and wise cracks. Muses, the consensus was, come in these forms –
First, they can be thought of as divine intervention to us when we’re stuck!
Second, they cannot be counted on to appear when we sit down, and so sit we must and work and wait, and then, when we’re convinced – it’s all over for us – do they land on our shoulder and begin their long awaited whispering.
When I write my L Word stories, my Muse I named last year, Bette Radio. I can fix things in my stories during the day, if I have time, but at about 10 pm at night, if I’m sitting at my computer – Bette radio will begin to broadcast.
Recently, I plotted a very long story that will be screenplay and has nothing to do with my L Word stories. I’m hoping that my new protagonist has her own radio station!
What are some of the writing processes you writers go through?
My goal is to make an idea or a thought, or a feeling, accessible. To that end I jot down character notes, concepts, phrases, outlines, and scan in pictures, video, doodles, etc in word docs or other media files that I have open for each of the storylines and each of the characters I’m writing about. Sometimes, even as raw text the words come across with “smoothness” that only needs to be aided by an actual story (sigh). Sometimes it’s the concept that is smooth, but, somehow, I just can’t get the right sequence of words, phrases, or sentences to make the story come alive. You and I have exchanged messages on other parts of my process, including having friends read the words out. As I finish I think of the reader’s precious time. I often don’t have enough time myself to do everything I need to do; I think no one does. So I want to make it worth not just my time but the reader’s time, especially. I should add that I like the pieces of writing you send.