Sunday, May 24, 2009

Writing a Mystery

My lack of communication lately is due to the continued mulling over of my writing life and what I want to do with it while avoiding arriving at a decision. Then last week I received a package.

It came in a plain, heavy-duty mailing envelope. There was nothing with it--no letter, no invoice, no advertisements and no indication of where it originated except for the clue in my own address: it ended with the designation "UK" so I know it came from abroad.

The package contained a novel writing kit, which consisted of a handsome set of multi-colored novel-component forms and a book. I was amused and intrigued. Did it come as some promotional package, a bonus for re-upping my magazine subscription, or had a won it in a contest? If so, there would be some indication of where it came from and why I had it, but there was none. And the only magazine I have re-subscribed to recently is "The Writer," and since the "You Can Write a Novel Kit" is put out by Writer's Digest Books, I find that idea highly suspect. Had someone gotten tired of hearing me whining on the web and sent it to me to shut me up? Who knows? If someone did send it to me, thank you.

I wasn't sure what to do with it at first. I figured I could use the pads for scrap paper (they were too small for the copious character sketch notes I compile, anyway) and maybe have a look through the book just for fun; I mean, what more do I have to learn about writing a novel? So a few days later I picked up the book and read the first few pages. I'm still reading it, and the note pads are back in the pack ready to be used for their intended purpose.

This little book has more of the nuts and bolts of writing a novel than any I have ever read. And I find myself buying into the minimalist theory of the author, James V. Smith, Jr, especially since I recognize over-planning and never getting to the actual work as one of my major pitfalls. The theory is, all the prep work you do is, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, locks you into a set pattern, causing you to expend a lot of energy fitting all your preconceived notions into the story, leaving little room for creativity and surprising turns.

It's something I can relate to from the experience of my last novel. All the work I did up front rarely made a difference, and along the way, as the story took shape, I came up with a lot more and better ideas. By sketching out the really important points, you can just get on with the process of writing and flesh everything out along the way. Writing a novel should be a process of discovery, not a paint-by-numbers exercise.

So I think I'm going to give it a try. I'm convinced writing the novel is the best thing to do; all I have to do is find the time.

The mystery of where this came from, however, remains.


  1. Good for you! I wish you good luck look with the novel. I found your blog by accident. I'm a freelance reporter. Enjoyed your blog!

  2. Silly Girl: Thanks for stopping by, even if it was an accident. The novel continues to inch closer.

  3. The kit looks cool. Brightly colored candy! I'm not sure I'd get any writing done for just sitting there staring at the pretty colors. LOL. Maybe that's how they get you to start writing.

    I wish I had mysterious benefactors who sent me gifts. You must be living right. :)

  4. Aren't they originally Band Aid boxes? J/k

    However you are such a prolific writer. Keep Up the good work.

  5. Wendy: Yes, they are pretty; I haven't had the heart to sully them yet.

    EVeRNA: I dont' know about prolific, but I'm trying to be.