Tag Archive | writing

How My Writing Process Continues to Evolve

notebook_glassesI have written at least eight full-length novels, all of them mysteries. What may surprise you is my process of writing has never been the same. With each manuscript, I learned what worked and what didn’t. I think I picked this up through teaching. I’ve written stellar lesson plans that I was sure would inspire young minds but then found they only inspired me.  Next time around, I’d pull out the dull stuff and find something else that worked better. Same way with sewing, you can always do it just a little bit better next time.  (Yes, you Pattern Review people, I love to sew, but this darn writing gig keeps stealing my time.)  So what’s involved in writing  for me?

Outlining. Yes, I’m not a pantster. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a “pantster” is someone who writes whatever comes into their head instead of using an outline. These are the same people who can construct beautiful arguments and talk me into a corner in just a few minutes. I admire their ability to write like that, but I’ve always been a compulsive planner.  I can’t help it, and worst of all, I enjoy it. I can admit to myself that maybe my first idea is not always my best idea. I just came to the end of a full-length mystery, read back through it and changed the murderer.  I had to change all the clues and discard my efforts of putting the now defunct murderer in the right place at the right time, but darn it, I liked the character too much. I wanted that character to continue, not go to my bad guy file for the rest of eternity.  Time to re-outline…rewrite…a few more scenes… dinner is going to be late again.

Documentation. I keep a three-ring binder with sections on plots, subplots, characters, crime detail, research. Then I keep sections on Scrivener, a brand of novel-writing software. Then, I keep a computer file with more information.  One of the things I learned along the way is I have a lousy memory.  Keeping the binder came into my process about four books ago.

Audio Editing. I have an editor, but I can’t afford to have her around every day. I find many errors just by listening to each chapter read out loud.  It works. You hear things you might miss, for instance, the other night I read a chapter to my critique group and realized I said “little” four times on the same page.  By reading like this, you can better get back into the flow of the writing and the flow the reader will hear as they read your book.

Embrace Mistakes. That’s right. You are a human being and not a computer. Once you find an error, don’t waste time berating yourself. Fix it. Move on. It’s like painting a wall. See that ugly gash you made moving your husband’s oversized desk down the hall? It was a bad day. You don’t want to remember it. Spackle, sand, and paint. Voila! Rewrite, move things around, get rid of things that don’t work. Forgive your husband.

New Pecan Bayou Novella in the Process: A Peek Inside

Good news, Betsy fans. I will be contributing to Happy Homicides 4. The stories in this anthology will fall anywhere from Labor Day to Thanksgiving, and there are some excellent stories in this one. I can’t tell you any more other than I can’t wait to get my copy!  I can’t resist a Halloween story, so I’ve plopped Betsy and family down on Halloween with malevolent ghosts, a cemetery walk and of course, a murder mystery to solve.

While I’ve been working on other projects, I’ve started using storyboarding to work on plots. As I’ve stated before, I’m a visual thinker. A child of the television age, I have found putting each scene into a visual format is extremely helpful. Here is a panel I created for the Halloween novella I’m working on at the moment. It looks like a cartoon, but you can get the idea of it.


If you are familiar with the Pecan Bayou Mystery Series, you will probably recognize many of the characters. We have Betsy up front in the Sixties costume, with cute little Coco by her side. Behind her is Tyler, her stepson, who is in black and Zach her son in the toga. Sitting at the table is Danny, her cousin with Down Syndrome, and Aunt Maggie. I brought back the character of Howard Gunther for this story because of the paranormal element. Howard is the head of the Pecan Bayou Paranormal Society.

And the answer is NO. There will not be a comic book version of the Pecan Bayou Series!

If you can’t wait for this one, pick up a copy of Happy Homicides 3: Summertime Crime.  Betsy and her crew head for the beach to solve a mystery for dog lovers. paw-prints

Cold Weather and March/April Appearances

Baby TomatoesHere it is spring already.  It is spring, right?  Even in South Texas we’re getting the arctic blast that is wreaking havoc everywhere else.  I have about 8 tiny tomato plants sitting in my kitchen window waiting to get planted.  I’m hoping this is our last cold spell, because my little window garden is ready to go in the ground!  I know that by summertime I’ll be dreaming of these chilly days and trying to remember what it felt like to wear a sweater.  Right now, though, there’s chili on the stove and lots of writing to do!

Good news, I’m finishing up the first book in my Piney Woods series.  I have a whole new set of characters (that I’m already crazy about) and lots of surprises in this book.   I’m not sure about the status of this one- if I’ll go Indie or try traditional.  It’s in the “what if column” for right now.

Here are some exciting places I’m going to be at in the next month or so!

I will be doing an author visit at Freeman Memorial Library in Houston, Texas on March 9.

I will be appearing at Katy Budget Books in Katy, Texas on April 12 from 2-4 for the Dear Texas Event.

Creating Characters: The Good and The Bad

Every story needs to have two strong characters-the protagonist (the good guy) and the antagonist (the bad guy).  Without them there is no conflict and no motivation for the characters to do what they do.  If everybody gets along, your story is nothing more than those sappy Christmas letters we all get every year. 

Take a look at these two gentlemen.  Choose one to be your protagonist and one to be your antagonist.

Answer these questions about your protagonist:

1.  What is his name?

2.  What is he doing in this scene?

3. Fill in five details about him.  Married or single?  Rich or poor?  Mannerisms, goals and desires, perceptions, and views.

4.  Does he realize that the other guy is out to get him?

5.  What must he do to overcome the bad guy?

Answer these questions about your antagonist:

1.  What is his name?

2.  What is he doing in this scene?

3. Fill in five details about him.  Married or single?  Rich or poor?  Mannerisms, goals and desires, perceptions, and views. Is there a back story that will tell us why he is the way he is?

4.  What is his evil plan?  Write a short monologue in which the character outlines how he will defeat the protagonist.

5.  What is his motivation?   Why must he hurt or trick another person?

Do this exercise again and switch the characters.

Photo found on MorgueFile

Interview Time at MK McClintock’s Blog

I’m over at MK McClintock’s blog today being interviewed.  Here is an excerpt from the interview about future Pecan Bayou books.

Do you have plans for a new book?
Yes!  A Dash of Murder was my first book and I am promoting it during October because it takes place on Halloween.  Since then, I have written Overdue for Murder , a story that centers around writers doing a book talk and features lots and lots of cupcakes.  At this time I am working on my third book that will take place over the Fourth of July.  I can’t say much about it yet, but Betsy and all the characters come back and take a “slice” out of the incredibly high crime rate in this tiny town. 
To update about the third book, it is presently in rewrites!  I had so much fun researching this book, eating watermelon, watching beauty pageants and remembering my own mother and her love for old cowboy movies.  Happy trails to you…..

Writing and Old Friends

I’m over visiting at Book Review by Dee today.  I guest-posted about one of my favorite writers-Stephen King who just turned 65.  You can also enter your name for a giveaway of my book, A Dash of Murder.  Here is an excerpt from the article.

Every writer is haunted.  Every writer started out as that kid in the library clutching books against  his or her chest walking up to the checkout desk, ready to go on an adventure with a new found “friend” who has one heck of a tale to share with them.  They’ve drooled over the cover, read the blurb and are ready to share a few hours digging up archaeological relics, solving a mystery in an oh-so-haunted mansion, or confronting a beast that has evolved from unknown chemicals left in the lagoon.  I was that kid, and one of the first writers who really scared me so much  I was keeping the light on in my room into my  teen years, was Stephen King.

Go to Reviews by Dee to read more

Portraying Mood With Your Setting

Can you portray a mood in your setting?  You bet!  Take a look at this picture.  It is intriguing to me because it is built in a rough, old fashioned way.  The structure is very small and the little walkway and handmade bench are made with such care.  What is this little house used for?  Is it someone’s home or is it a workshop of some sort?  Is it the world’s worst mother-in-law suite?  This will be a short visit.

To set up a scene with this picture follow these steps:

1.  Decide what this house is used for-be creative.  Storing lawn equipment is not creative.

2.  Define a mood that surrounds this structure.  Is it a happy place?  Is it an ominous place?  Does it raise curiosity in your story?

3.  Use the elements around the house to create your story.  Who sits on that bench?  Why is the little house right next to the woods?  What’s up with the dirt yard?  Who put in the walkway?

4.  Finally create the character that uses this little house and let your mood established in #2 reflect in this person.

5.  Do this exercise one more time and switch your mood and character to something opposite of what you wrote about the first time.

Photo used with permission from MorgueFile

Crazy Days With NaNoWriMo

I’m over at Cindy Vine’s Blog today talking about my Crazy Days With NaNoWriMo.  Are you thinking about writing a novel in a month this year?  It is truly crazy, but a wonderful way to get in writing shape (I see those flabby adverbs).  Here is an excerpt or you can read the entire article at Cindy Vine’s Blog.

Don’t Give Up:  So there I was, on the last night of NaNoWriMo with 47,000 words and an important choir rehearsal to go to at my church.  Did I mention the end of November also coincides with the beginning of all the Christmas crazy scheduling?  It does.  I was ready to give up.  I could cling to the fact that I had done so much in one month, and I just felt like I was out of story to tell.  Other writers write books that are hundreds of thousands words long and someday I hope to be one, but for right now I am what I am.  I was trying to write but ~BLOCK~.  Then it hit me, probably as I drove  to choir.  Let’s hit somebody in the head with a frying pan!….

Read entire article

I’m Being Interviewed Today at Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews

I am over at Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews today being interviewed about my book A Dash of Murder.  Here is an excerpt from the interview.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Not until I had  Bride’s Magazine call me and tell me they actually wanted something I had written. They really just used my article as research, but there I was writing about the fascinating world of…tuxedos. After that I continued to write and submit, but mostly scored rejection slips. I started writing fiction during that time and decided it was a whole lot more fun.
Lisa is also giving a free ebook of A Dash of Murder, so head on over an enter by leaving a comment with your email address below the interview.  Click Here To Go to Reviews and Interviews.

Photo used with permission from Morguefile

Coming Up With a Title For Your Book

I’ve been working on many fronts lately.  I continue to pound away at book number three, now tentatively titled A SLICE OF MURDER.  It’s funny how I go through two or three working titles before I get the one I decide to stick with for a book.  My last book OVERDUE FOR MURDER was titled The Quiet Please Murder on my computer for the longest time.  I just couldn’t get the image of the librarian, Martha, shushing all the rest of the characters.  She was just one of those characters that once created started bossing everyone else around, even me.   Still I ended up changing the book title at the last minute.

Here are a few ways to go about creating a title.

1.  Are there any other books with the same title?   Google your title and also check for it on major sites like Amazon.

2.  Does the title reflect something in the book?  You can’t have it give away anything about the mystery and yet it must be about the mystery.

3.  Is the title easy to remember?  Keep it fairly short. although I still remember “The Effect of Gamma-Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds”.

4.  Think about your title in relation to the cover art for your book.


I am working on my guest blogs for my upcoming blog tour in October to promote my Halloween mystery, A DASH OF MURDER.  I will be posting here so that you can follow me to free book giveaways, interviews, reviews and articles.   You can also follow me on Twitter  @ttrent_cozymys.