Monday, January 4, 2016

#Mystery Authors Talk Writing in 2016

Since it's a new year, what better time to talk writing new stories and new ideas. But... what happens when those stories and ideas get kind of well, stuck, or just aren't working?

I asked a few of my fellow writer friends what they do when this happens. See what they have to say (and check out their latest works if you haven't!). Some good advice from some pros!

Margot Justes, author of the romantic suspense A Hotel in...  series, including the latest, A Hotel In Venice, had this to say about getting written into a corner:

"What usually works for me when I'm stuck and write myself into a corner, is to walk away, and work on another project," she says. "I usually work on two or three projects. I'm still mulling things over, but it seems to be less frustrating, and eventually I realize that all the arrows pointed in the right direction.

"I'm not a plotter, and I think that makes it a bit more difficult, but at the same time more enjoyable. I was shocked when I realized how A Hotel in Venice would end-had no clue who the murderer was going to be. So much frustrating fun, and the ending is terrific.

"I'm currently working on A Hotel in Barcelona, continuing with the series. I've grown to love the characters, and because I love to travel, the settings give me a great of pleasure, and of course I have to visit the places I write about. I'm also working on a novella set in Chicago that ties the hotel series-and is a sequel to A Fire Within-the characters have become a family to me."

Terrie Farley Moran is 
author of the Read 'Em and Eat Mysteries: Well Read, Then Dead and the latest,Caught Read-Handed, and the upcoming, Read to Death, as well as co-author of Parchment and Old Lace by Laura Childs with Terrie Farley Moran.  (See her latest short fiction "Inquiry and Assistance" in hte January Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.)

She is that author who takes the sometimes scary ride to getting a book written: 

"I am a pantser so I get stuck a lot, in the sense that much of the time I have no idea where the  story is going," she says, "That is, I may know how the story is going to end but I have no idea how I am going to get there. When ever that happens I go for a walk or a bike ride and 'talk' to the characters. Eventually the story comes together."

And when it's not working.... she has good advice.  "When I realize some part of a story doesn't work and a solution doesn't immediately come to mind, I write past it. When it is time to edit, I look at it again, either I fix it or delete it. I don't agonize. Quite often I find that if a part of a story doesn't work, it really doesn't belong."

What inspires her to go on (besides that editor breathing down her neck?)

"Ha-ha-ha. Inspiration? Writing is hard work and I sort of roll from one project to another. I have had extremely tight deadlines for the past few years. When I finish a project due this month (Crepe Factor by Laura Childs with Terrie Farley Moran) I have a slight hole in my schedule. When I realized that was happening the first thing I did was pull up the short story I abandoned when that first deadline hit three years ago. I can revisit and finish it right after this deadline. As an aside it is the only thing I ever started and didn't complete but deadlines for two other projects interfered and then new deadlines and, well, you know the drill."

Jean Rabe, multi-published author, including the latest - Pockets of Darkness about a thief of antiquities who also picks up a Sumerian demon  - (she actually has three latest novels in different genres) fittingly has her own method to keeping the non-writing monster at bay: 

"I don't usually have a problem with writer's block, or being 'stuck' on something with a novel-in-progress. I have two approaches to defeating tht monster:

"I switch to my other project, because I ALWAYS have at least one more project going...whether it is a short story or something I am tasked with editing. I figure if I can't work on my novel, I'll make sure I work on something. Then I'll go back to the novel the next day."

In other cases, she admits doing the thing writers would rather NOT do… “I do something I detest, like scrub the kitchen or bathroom floor. Hands and knees scrubbing, which gets a floor nice and clean, and which is onerous. Every minute I spend scrubbing, I tell myself I should be writing instead. So if I want to stop scrubbing, I go back to typing.

“I'm the sort who has to be doing "something." I've always had a problem with sitting still and doing nothing. A constant twitcher! That's it, I'm a twitcher, and so I might as well twitch away at the keyboard.”

Christine Verstraete, author of Girl Z: My Life As A Teenage Zombie and her latest, a short mystery featuring her zombie girl character and some missing dogs, in Young Adventurers: Heroes, Explorers & Swashbucklers, says the real problem is not the writing. She writes all the time and has a number of projects in the works. 

"My problem is not getting stuck - I usually can get past that by keeping the writing going - but I skip to other projects too often. I have several projects in the works. My goal is now to finish those and get them out there this year. As the old saying goes, if not now, then when?"


  1. Hi Christine, thanks so much for inviting me to join wonderful writers for some great conversation. xo Terrie Moran

  2. Thank you for the invitation, wonderful idea and fun to read how others handle 'getting stuck'.

  3. What fun. Being a hard-core plotter, I can't imagine getting very far without knowing what's going to happen next. But I will walk to get my brain back in gear.

  4. Anne Louise, it is amazing how, whether plotter or pantser, taking a walk does a world of good. Terrie