Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dilettante is as Dilettante Does

I have accused myself of being a dilettante because I write in so many genres. It surely helps with writer’s block to have so many different projects going—plays to children’s books to culinary mystery to erotica to historical fiction to . . . well, you get the idea.

But, this time, I think I out-dilettante-d myself!

I started book two in my “Dinner is Served” series about two personal chefs and the murders they solve. Good you say? Not so fast. It’s not like book one is done. That’s the one I dumped and had to start over. But I can’t. Not yet.

It’s like there is static in my head. I want to “re-purpose” parts of book one, but I have to have a new killer and motivation. The red herrings change. Nope—can’t do book one right now. I can’t get a handle on the new story because part of my brain is still working on the old one.

Fortunately, long ago I planned out multiple books in the series. So, I moved on to book 2 to get back into the series. The hardest question was do I make Cooks in the Can book two or should it be Prime Rib and Punishment? After a suggestion from one of my critique group partners, I began Prime Rib and Punishment, set in a cooking school.

Interesting to me, anyway, is that I am not writing it episodically as I wrote book one. I used Hallie Ephron’s planning guide then wrote first two chapters. Then I wrote part of last chapter because I read somewhere that when writing plays, if you write the last act first, you know where you are headed and can plant seeds throughout that ripen and come to harvest in the last act. Okay, so that’s make some sense. Then, I started getting scenes in my head, so I wrote two other scenes that will appear someplace, not sure where.

Have I planned my novel? Yep, but my pantser stepped in. I don’t know if that is good or bad. I just know I have no control over the flashes. This has happened to me before with other novels. When I get the scene flashes, I know to write them down. Even if they end up on the cutting room floor, the more I write about my characters and my story line, the better it will be for the final book.

I took the first two chapters to my Pens Afire critique group yesterday. There were multiple problems to fix (as is always the case, eh?), but the biggest one harkened to Sue Grafton’s comment re writing a series. How do you keep the recurring characters fresh? How do you introduce them to a new audience while not boring your fan base?

Writing Alli Wesson and Gina Smithson or Gina’s mom Maria and her pal, Pearl—pretty easy. I know these women! I like them, and I can tell you what they are likely to have for breakfast whether at home or when they go out to IHop.

But therein lies the problem. I am not reading this with the eyes of a reader new to my series. So Pens Afire (Sandra Bremser and Annie Weissman) called me on it. Good for them. Even though I knew of the danger, I skated right past the warning signs onto the thin ice. It’s cracking around me, but I now know, early in this book, to skate away. Thanks, Pens Afire.

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