How Not to Write a Book

Off chasing yet another tangent

Off chasing yet another tangent

From time to time I am asked where did I get the inspiration for and how did I plot Against Their Will. The answer is one that often surprises people, especially those who are preparing to write their own books. I simply started with a couple of people I could visualize, adapted a real life event in my own life and inserted them into it. After that event concluded, I had no idea where the book was going next or where it would end up. I just had two characters who had experienced a cataclysmic event in their lives. For those organized and perhaps anal writers, this is not the way to start! But, I will admit, I am a free-thinker, and being creative, I don’t want to be “boxed in” by parameters, especially those set by others. My husband often accuses me of deliberately doing the opposite of what I am told to do, just because I can. And, I do! It drives him crazy, but I’m happy.

When I started on my first novel (long since buried in the trash can), I wrote what I liked to read. I still do. Reading a variety of other works, and a good dose of those that fall into the same genre as what I am writing in, helps me to develop my own voice and style. This initially didn’t help me with the plotting conundrum, but as I have learned to step back and analyze my work, what I learn from other writers makes a big contribution to my own development. I’m not advocating any kind of plagiarism, but rather the studying the styles and methods of successful writers is a way, especially for new writers but also more experienced ones, to see the types of things that work and those that don’t work. .

Because I love thrillers and suspense novels and those are the books I want to write, I asked myself what could I do next to surprise the reader. Nineteen chapters and one prologue later, my novel was born.

Despite the challenge and fun of creating a story in this manner, I would never suggest to another author to use this method. Using an outline as a skeleton and then adding “meat” to it would be my preferred method. However, I am the kind of author that gets “lost” in the created world I am developing and it is just more fun to let the tangents rule and follow their trails in unknown directions. A pre-defined story map is often limiting to those of us who let their creative sides trump the more structured side of their writing minds.

One big set-back to the tangent writing style is the fact that it can get complicated keeping the story straight. This caused a lot of re-writes and edits in my case. It also necessitated a content edit to be sure all the dangling events were tied together and resolved.

Although I still utilize the Tangent Style of writing in my other books, I have incorporated a new method to help me focus. That is, I write the ending just as soon as I have the opening scene completed. This gives me a “finish line” or goal to achieve and helps to keep my wandering ways in check. It also helps when I get “stuck” or blocked. I re-read the ending and visualize what the characters would have had to do to get to that point. Soon after, the creative juices get flowing again and my fingers are tapping away on the keyboard.