Sunday, April 18, 2010
Following Stephen King's Advice
It was at this time that The Man I Married heard a radio interview with Stephen King and repeated to me what Mr. King had said. What TMIM understood Mr. King to say was not to organize, outline, or solidify your novel ahead of time. Just start telling the story and let your characters take you where they will. As I considered Mr. King to be a genius and myself to be a former English teacher cursed with a pedantic style, I welcomed this advice. Yes! I would just start writing, and maybe what I wrote would sound natural and not heavily pedantic. About 12 chapters into "Nice Girls Don't Bite," I ground to a halt, impossibly snarled in what I had written, without a clue as to where to go next. I went to my best thinking place, the shower, and puzzled over my problem until the hot water ran out. I saw the light. Mr. King, still a genius, was talking about mainstream novels. I, still a pedantic doofus, was writing a commercial novel. Organization and plotting are the bedrock of mysteries. The author absolutely must plan ahead of time who the murderer is, how he committed the crime, where the clues have to show up, how many red herrings to plant, what order the detective follows, and a lot of other good stuff. I went back to the beginning, wrote a 12-page outline, and started the novel all over.