by Lisa Lickel
Process of Writing:
Have an idea
ALL RIGHT – you want details, you ask? You seat-of-the-pants writer?
Just be aware: I can tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. (I’m an oft-times mystery writer—I just had to say that.)
I teach a workshop on “Where Do Ideas Come From?” I once had oodles of students roaming through a book store, checking titles, reading shelves, people-watching, studying headlines, listening to conversations…where do your ideas come from? A lot of mine are ripped from the headlines. What really happened to that missing person? What would it take to save the family farm? How hard is it to get a weapon across the country when you can’t fly with it or drive? There is a company trying to create hypoallergenic pets. What would it be like to move everything and start over at the request of your friend the mayor of a small town and then find his body?
So that last sentence was really the premise of my latest novel. Here’s where it started: small towns across America are dying as the younger generation generally prefers to live where life is faster and more exciting. Not everyone, of course, but it’s hard to keep small business afloat in communities where the nearest big box department store is only a twenty-minute or less drive. I like coffee. I like books. I like chocolate. I know a little about local small family newspapers; one of my neighbors uses a live answering service to keep in touch with his clients when he’s away from home. It’s personal. It’s nice. It really happens. I like cats, and researched unusual ones: voila – Egyptian Mau.
Put those elements together – out pops a book.
Oh, you want to know the “writing” part, do you? It involves research, for me a sharp pencil and notebook, a working computer, Internet, libraries, human beings to interview and partner with in the word-smithing. A lot of chair time.
Never trust a single source for research. I may have heard that a few times as a journalist. I generally use at least three resources for fact-finding: Internet, books, people. How do you make cat food? Research companies who manufacture it, interview cat owners, read about the nutrition values in books. I like to plot on paper. Genre. Audience. Those things lead me to a word length: mysteries run 60-80,000 words, although that’s becoming a little shorter these days. I like to write terse, round up or down later. I like my chapters certain lengths. For mysteries I need major players and minor ones. I chart characters. I need a big problem and lots of little crises to overcome. Some of these are going to become clues and some are “red herrings,” those mis-cues to lead my readers in a merry chase. Include a little excitement, a little romance.
Once I’m at the computer I develop character sheets and scene and setting sheets to keep my facts straight. I create a synopsis and work my chapters from those major goals. I try to write out the draft in a few weeks so I don’t forget where I’m headed, using my flexible chapter goals to keep me on task. I like to write with a critique partner ready to bounce off ideas and keep my p’s and q’s dotted and scored. I’ve learned to avoid the “write by committee” process.
Press “send.” Sometime along the way, even at the start, you’ll want to decide your target publisher. If you have an agent, cool, run the idea past him or her first. If you plan to cold-send to agents or publishers, pick out a half-dozen places first, check their guidelines and write accordingly. If you’re going to self-publish, line up good editors and designers. Make sure your manuscript is revised and polished before you hit the button. And no, reading a few times is not enough.
Happy dance when you reach milestones, like when the clues fall into place, you get that first rough draft done, you’ve polished, you’ve sent. Be brave when you hear back, no matter the news. Sometimes the “go” from a publisher or agent makes you quiver as much as hearing “no.” “Go” really means you have a lot of work ahead of you. “No” means you buckle up and keep processing.
Don’t give up! Just like surviving a game show, the one who reaches the goal is the one who learns and networks along the way, although in this business, making friends is a better way of making future readers. Remember, your goal is not to be published, but to be READ.
Meet the Author:
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin author of romance and mystery. Visit http://www.lisalickel.com
Click on the picture for information about Lisa’s novels.
Meow Mayhem is her latest book, from Whimsical Publications, now available in e-book and print.
When Ivy Preston and True Thompson move to quaint little Apple Grove at the bequest of their friend the mayor, they uncover the rotten side of town.