When people find out my 20th mystery came out this spring they often ask: how do I do it? The answer is simple: If you do the work, the magic happens.
A shorter answer is that I consider writing my job. I make myself work on my books five days a week. When I’m in the process of drafting a new manuscript, as I am now, that means sitting down at my desk and not getting up until I produce a certain pre-determined number of words. These days, that’s usually 1,200 words, though when my deadline is tight, it can go up. And as I near the end of a manuscript, it usually climbs on its own until I have to be dragged away to eat dinner or sleep.
That’s not easy, and it can be a slog. There are many days when I have no idea what I’m going to write. And since I’m a “pantser” – plotting by the seat of my pants rather than from an outline – I have very little to go from, no “cheat sheet,” so to speak, that offers me a rough of a scene that I can spend my time fleshing out. That’s not to say I write totally blind: I usually have a vague idea of where I’m going with a book. I’ve heard other writers refer to this as “seeing as far ahead as your headlights.” But that’s not very far, and the idea that “pantsing” allows for more freedom can be cold comfort when it’s seven p.m. and I have 700 words still to go.
But that’s what works for me. Because, somewhere between the discipline and the frustration is where the magic comes in. I’ll be up against the wall, unsure of what to write next, having already cranked out more than enough pointless dialogue for the day (when I say I write 1,200 words, not all of those are keepers!), when I’ll suddenly realize: No, suspect A didn’t do it. In fact, she had no idea! And minor character B? Well, she’s the one! And character C helped her – they’re in cahoots! And then, half the time, I’ll go back and realize that I’ve unintentionally written in the perfect backstory for this plot twist – maybe in an earlier effort to get my word count done so I can go downstairs and watch “Elementary.” Suddenly my book takes off, and for the next few days at least, my word count is just a suggestion of when to take a break.
Does this kind of writing mean that I have to revise a lot? Sure, and I have my daily quota for that too. But this usually goes more easily than I expect. Put in the work, I find, and the magic comes.
Title: WHEN BUNNIES GO BAD
Author: Clea Simon
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Purchase on Amazon
About the Book:
Winter is hard in Beauville, where the melting snow can reveal much more than last season’s dead leaves. So when a wealthy, obnoxious tourist and his ski bunny girlfriend surface in Pru Marlowe’s little Berkshire town, she knows she should stay out of their way. The bad-girl animal psychic has to focus on more immediate concerns, including a wild rabbit named Henry, supposedly tamed and illegally living with an eighty-four-year-old lady in her home. Henry, who seems to be acting out and hiding, avoids responding to Pru. Yet when Pru discovers the tourist murdered and his girlfriend’s high-maintenance spaniel falls to her care, she gets dragged into a complicated case of crime and punishment that involves some new friends, an old nemesis, and her own shadowed past. A recent museum art heist draws the feds into the investigation along with a courtly gentleman radiating menace, who represents secretive business interests in New York and shows a surprising awareness of Pru. Her on-again, off-again romance with police Detective Creighton doesn’t stop him from warning her to steer clear of the inquiry. The spaniel, however, lures her in. Pru lives in a world where only her crotchety tabby Wallis knows the whole truth about her past, her flight from Manhattan, and her unique gift that surfaced abruptly one day. Fearing the worst, Pru now comes dangerously close to being exposed. With everything in motion, Pru, Wallis, and everyone they hold dear will be lucky to escape…by a hare.
About the Author:
Clea Simon is the author of the Theda Krakow, Dulcie Schwartz, and Pru Marlowe pet noir series, as well as three nonfiction books. A former journalist, Clea lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, with her husband, the writer Jon Garelick, and their cat Musetta.