Blood Lines

The mystery of writing … well, mysteries

  • Contact

    Send email to kevin at kevinwayne dot net.
  • The Work in Progress

    A rainy dawn breaks over a slum neighborhood in Washington, DC to reveal the brutally beaten body of a prominent judge. A few hours later, a suspect is arrested. But the judge’s daughter believes there are secrets that drove her father to his death, and she wants to know what they are. Clay Warner, a down-on-his-luck insurance investigator, is determined to discover the truth – and win back the love of his life. But he does not know how deep that truth lies buried, and how far some will go to make sure it’s never uncovered.
  • Meta

Back Up (Backup)

Posted by Kevin on April 16, 2006

WordPress.com, the service where I host this blog, was down almost all of today. It was a bit of a scare for thousands of bloggers — to log in and see that all our posts were gone — but now it's safely back up and everything looks in order.

A bit of a wakeup call for myself as well since it made me realize that I haven't backed up my novel since I started. Whoops — need to get used to saving that sucker on a flash drive or two. Since I've lost one laptop before to my own clumsiness (and a large cup of coffee), you think I'd be more careful.

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Posted in Mechanics | 1 Comment »

The Name’s the Thing

Posted by Kevin on April 15, 2006

I thought of a title for my novel first thing, but I didn't have to get very far into the first chapter to realize that it probably wasn't going to be a suitable one. A little too poetic for the voice. But it'll stand as the working title though I more often think of the book as "the novel" as opposed to using the title in my mind. I'll let the story play out until a more suitable one pops into my head.

The right title is too important to rush into. I've even had a hard time naming this blog! I put it up with just my name, then titled it "First Draft," and then decided that was a little too generic. So this morning I came up with "Blood Lines." We'll see if it sticks.

Posted in Mechanics | Leave a Comment »

Debut

Posted by Kevin on April 14, 2006

On a whim yesterday I stopped by the bookstore and picked out three "debut" novels by mystery writers: Whiskey Sour, by Konrath; A Cold Day in Paradise, by Hamilton; and Clean Cut, by Monsour. They are all relatively recent debuts by writers who have gone on to publish series. (Hamilton's the oldest, with a pub date of 1998 — which feels a lot more recent to me than I suppose it is.)

I'm not doing "market research" (see previous post) but rather wanted a little bit of inspiration from writers' other first works. I figure it doesn't hurt to be a little methodical in analyzing how they did what they did.

I read Konrath's book in a couple of hours. I've been reading his blog but hadn't read any of his books. It was one of those books that, if you stop to think about what's happening, you could spot cliche characters and events streaming at you from all sides. However, you don't have time to stop and think about what's happening — I couldn't put the damn thing down. Extremely effective at throwing one tense scene after another at the reader. Short chapters that keep you turning the page. And overall very enjoyable — I'm going to pick up the rest of his books.

Part of me feels like I shouldn't be reading mysteries while writing the draft. It can't be very good for self-esteem. (Konrath's book suddenly made my scenes feel very wordy, for example.) On the other hand, I've already decided that this is a "discovery" draft and it doesn't matter if it's any "good" or not. So I'm not going to let it get me down.

Hamilton's book, which garnered a lot of critical acclaim and awards, is next.

Posted in Mysteries | Leave a Comment »

I Don’t Want to Get Published!

Posted by Kevin on April 12, 2006

Okay, that subject line is a big, fat lie. Of course I want to get published — what aspiring writer doesn't? But I'm not thinking about it. In fact, the reason I feel more confident about finishing this novel than any of my earlier false starts is that I've already decided it's not going to get published. Maybe I'm wrong and it'll get an agent and a publisher and a high Amazon ranking — but I'm assuming it won't. In fact, even thinking about it at this point is verboten.

Of course, reading what some of the established writers say about their careers as authors — such as JA Konrath on the economics of writing genre, or PJ Parrish on the realities of the writing life — is enough to make anyone wonder why this is a worthwhile endeavor in the first place.

But you know what? I don't care. I want to write a mystery. I want to listen to my printer spit out hundreds of pages of finished first draft. I want to go back and rewrite them. I want to plot out my second novel. I don't know why, dammit. I wish I could wax eloquent about the joys of creation or the thrill of watching a scene unfold or any number of other things. But I can't. I just know I want to write a book. I always have.

Beyond that — the publishing side of it — I'll worry about when I get there. I pledge: I won't read any more articles on how to find an agent until I actually have something worth showing one.

Posted in Mysteries | 2 Comments »

He Said, She Says

Posted by Kevin on April 12, 2006

For some reason I tend to fall into a natural writing rhythm that is in the present tense. For example, I'll be writing along and without thinking the following paragraph comes out:

"Ahead I notice Carver changing lanes. Moves to the left, then left again, then back right. Ordinarily I might think he was trying to pull something — maybe he knows something's up — but during three days of following the guy I've learned he's just an erratic driver."

Then later I realize I've switched tenses and have to go back and clean it up. If present tense feels more natural to me, then maybe I should just go ahead and write in it? Problem is that whenever I read a book in present tense it feels like an affectation to me. It may be more acceptable now than it used to be.

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The Female of the Species

Posted by Kevin on April 11, 2006

How easy is it to write characters of a different gender? I'm finding it may be more difficult than I'd thought. Last night I finished reading Greg Iles' book Dead Sleep, which is narrated by a female character. I won't go into a full-scale review of the book here, but throughout the entire reading experience the fact that the character was being written by a man was never far from the back of my mind. Was he getting it "right"? I'm not a woman so I don't know for sure. It didn't quite feel right.

I'm not writing from a woman's perspective in this book, but as I write the female characters, I find myself paying more careful attention to what they say and how they react, than I do the male narrator or other male characters. Are the women reacting the way they should, as characters, or the way that men think women would react? Which is not the same thing.

This morning I also realized, as I reviewed my notes for the first draft, that my major female characters are all fairly adversarial. Hadn't intended it that way, so I will probably change the genders of one or two more "helpful" characters.

Perhaps I'm being too meta. Repeat the mantra: get it written, rewrite later.

Posted in Characters | Leave a Comment »

The Story So Far

Posted by Kevin on April 10, 2006

I'm not working this week — at least, not at my regular job since I took a little vacation. However, I am working hard on the book. My goal is to get the entire first act drafted before returning next Monday. I know that's a pretty big, hairy, audacious goal, and I promise not to get dejected if I don't reach it. So far, it's going pretty good — as of this morning about 27 pages drafted, covering the first three scenes and most of the fourth. I'm going to plow ahead and keep going.

The mantra inside my mind: "Don't worry. It's bad. Accept it. Rewriting will fix it but not until it's written in the first place!"

I have not written the opening prologue yet. It's a little intimidating, frankly, because it will show the murder that is the central puzzle of the book, and so needs to be a grabber that will draw the reader into the rest of the novel. I know in my head how it will play out but didn't want to waste a lot of time agonizing over a scene that is the most important in the book. The opening may be the last thing I write.

Posted in First Draft | Leave a Comment »

Scene(s) of the Crime

Posted by Kevin on April 9, 2006

Last weekend I actually finished plotting out a scene-by-scene of the first act of my novel. While I've wanted to write a mystery for years, "plot" has always loomed before me like a brick wall. It's my biggest obstacle. Every time I think of a basic premise my internal editor — who's a real asshole — chimes in with comments along the lines of, "It's been done. It's unbelievable. It's stupid." And the worst criticism of all — "Jesus, it's so obvious!"

I know that the first step to accomplishing anything with this process is getting the internal editor to — well, not shut up, I can't shut him up, but I can at least push him aside and try to ignore him. So I decided on my premise, and that's it. It's done. I'm writing it. I decided who gets killed, how, and who I think did it.

And then, following some advice from Hallie Ephron's book, I plotted out a scene-by-scene of the first act. They weren't detailed scene descriptions — just one or three sentences about what happens. So I have a roadmap for the first 100 pages or so. I didn't touch the second or third acts. I decided to sketch out the first act and get it written and then I'll work on the next one.

What I didn't do was write out detailed character sketches. In the past, during my many false starts, I spent a great deal of time, and wrote a lot of pages, about characters. I spent so much energy writing lengthy life stories and filling out questonnaires about characters big and small ("What's her favorite restaurant?" "What color are her eyes?" "What were the major milestones of her youth?") that I ran out of steam and got sick of them before I could even start the damn book.

Recognizing that no one process works for everybody, I decided that these past attempts were not just false starts, but learning processes. (This makes me feel better, anyway.) What I learned was that I'm innately pretty good at character — at least instinctively grasping who a particular character is (whether I'm good at writing them remains for others to judge). So I'm not wasting a lot of time writing out these biographies. Instead, I have one character "bible" document where I wrote some brief sketches about each major and minor character I've thought of so far, in order to keep track of them. I can add as needed as I go along.

It's plot that trips me up and where I need to get organized. So that's how I'm handling it this time.

Posted in Mechanics | 1 Comment »