Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Nearly There In the Process

It’s 10:30 AM in my neck of the woods and I just realized I haven’t yet posted today. This would make three weeks in a row I haven’t for those who are counting. But … my time hasn’t been spent in silly idleness. Nope. Lately, my mind has been totally into the writing of my third novel, SHROUD OF LIES.

With two books under my belt, I’ve paid more attention to how I organize my writing this time around. This book is actually two stories wrapped into one so I’ve been particularly watchful of blending them well so as not to confuse the reader.

I’ve also learned that I write in layers. In fact, in other articles I’ve compared my writing process to oil painting. You know, start with a blank canvas, add the base coat of paint to the background, add the images, then slowly begin to show depth and perspective through light and shadows.

One very important thing I picked up this time around is that it’s absolutely okay, if not vital, to walk away from the writing for days or weeks when necessary. It clears my mind and energizes me so when I return, I can easily solve the problem sections that were giving me fits. In fact, I’m enjoying the process so much now that I don’t feel particularly rushed to finish it and this, I hope, is a positive sign. I’m not saying that this will take years for me to complete—more like months, but the plot is complex and can’t be rushed. I also have a tough time turning off the internal editor. Right or wrong, I can’t help reading each chapter several times before feeling I’m ready to move on to the next.

The first draft is the shell of the story—the nuts and bolts of introducing characters and what’s going to happen in this book. I threw in everything I could possibly think of into it and often repeated the information in several chapters just so I wouldn’t forget. It was during the first read that I noticed the repetitive statements. Those redundancies were the first thing to go. That’s also when I begin to pepper it with clues. Character development begins with the first draft as well, but for me it’s an ongoing process. As the story develops, my characters face numerous challenges and each one can add or change their motivations.

I’ve kept most of the clues I started with, but a few that seemed brilliant at first turned out to be nothing more than bulk in the end. The thing is, I may have a good idea of the direction my story is going to take, but it’s not until I’ve edited the pages several times that I get a handful of “aha” moments and realize that some clues will never work or are too complicated to pursue, while others are just plain (okay, can I say it?) genius.

SHROUD OF LIES is around 71,000 words at the moment and thanks to my crit partners, Kim Smith and Aaron Lazar, those “aha” moments have been coming in quick succession. It’s at this point in the writing that it’s fun for me. This is when I can see the logic in what I’ve written—when all the pieces fall neatly into place. It’s doubly rewarding when my readers laugh, cringe, or bite their nails when they’re supposed to.

As a writer of mystery/suspense—a lover of complex plots, one of the toughest things for me is to hold back and keep the suspense going, to squeeze it out in bits and pieces as long as I possibly can before the great reveal. So, imagine my evil laugh when the readers are a few thousand words from the end and haven’t yet guessed whodunit.

About the author:
Marta Stephens writes crime mystery/suspense. Her books are available online at familiar shops such as all the Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, and Powells. Other locations include, but are not limited to those listed on her website.

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).
SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery),
Personal site:  
Personal blog:  
Collective blog:  
Blog: /
Character Blog:  


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Loved your post. It's amazing how many writers do similar things and yet not all.

And I know what you mean when you really get going on a book, you really don't want to do much of anything else.


Marta Stephens said...

Thanks Marilyn. My mind has been a blank recently when it's come to blogging. I always want to give/share something of value, but all I've been doing is writing. So for the next several weeks the best I may be able to do is write about my progress! LOL

Kim Smith said...

And what a great book this is! So excited for you Marta as you continue down the road of writing. Glad to be a part of it :)

s.w. vaughn said...

Isn't it great to be so close to the end? *G* Congratulations, Marta! Always a thrill to do something new! :-)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Marta, I've thoroughly enjoyed reading through Shroud of Lies, and I LOVE the changes you made. Wonderful twists, and wow... the ending ROCKS. You've done so well - you should be immensely proud of what you've accomplished. I am!!!

Marta Stephens said...

Aaron, thanks so much for all your wonderful observations and comments. I'm really, really glad you enjoyed it. I'm even more thrilled that you didn't see the final twist and liked it just the same.

PS: I have great plans for Jack. ;)

J D Webb said...

Okay, I'm ready to read it. Great post. Wishing you much luck.