As I surface from a round of self-edits on my work-in-progress, Letter of the Law, I can hardly believe another month has gone by. Letter of the Law is the third book in my Lone Star Law series (think big oil, family drama, federal agents, and drug cartels). Somehow I thought my process would be different for this series. After all, the overarching plot stretches across all the books in the series and many of the characters appear in all the books. So, it should be fairly easy to plan the story, right?
Wrong. Well, easy probably isn’t the right descriptor. I suppose I thought the process would be more efficient, but what I’ve learned – fifteen books into my career – is my process, no matter how I try to change it, always plays out in the same way. I power through about two thirds of the story and then sit down and sort it out. Some stuff stays, some stuff goes. A lot of things get rearranged because once I’m that far in, I can actually see the whole story taking shape, whereas when I’m just starting out, I can usually only see a scene at a time.
I equate this to putting together a puzzle. It’s not a perfect analogy, but bear with me.
The picture on the box is the synopsis I provided to my publisher to get the contract for the book. It’s my guide and, since it’s likely already been posted on websites and in distributor catalogs, it’s important that the final product matches what I promised in that blurb.
After taking a good long look at the synopsis, my next step is to dump all the puzzle pieces out where I can see them. I do that by writing a bunch of story. Pages and pages containing all my thoughts even if they are a little crazy and I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to make them fit in the final version. No filters at this point because filters are story killers, at least for me, and I need all the story I can get at this point in the process. Once I have a big bunch of story parts – characters and scenes and plot devices – I spread everything out where I can see it and start the business of fitting all those pieces together. It’s messy and maddening and not nearly as efficient as planning it all out ahead of time, but as crazy as I get sorting out the puzzle, it’s what works for me. Once I start seeing it all come together, I have that “ah ha!” moment and then the pieces start flying into place until, puzzle solved, I have another novel on my hands.
So, as Mercury retrogrades, I’m going to go back to my puzzle pieces to sort out the rest of this story because by springtime, this particular solved puzzle will be available for sale everywhere books are sold.
In the meantime, feel free to share any insights you’d care to about your creative process in the comments. Thanks for reading!