Jan 252018
 

Short stories are making a comeback. This is no doubt due to the advent of ebooks and self-publishing. And although I personally rather read longer stories, I thought it a good idea to try writing a short story myself. Once finished it would be a good marketing tool, as free short stories are often used as reader magnets for a mailing list sign-up.

And how hard can it be to write a short story? It’s usually not more than 15,000 words and it can be a spin-off or part of an ongoing series, meaning that your characters and world are already developed. Easy peasy, or not?

I started writing my short story in November 2016 and wrote an optimistic blog post about it. Now 14 months later, the short story still isn’t written. Why not? Because I discovered that writing a short story is exactly the same thing as writing a long story, with the difference that it’s even faster paced.

Structure
Structure is very important in the writing of a good story. And as it turns out, it doesn’t matter if this story is 8k or 80K in length.
I’m a plotter, so I love structure, be even I didn’t realise that it was an integral part of a short story as well. So when I started writing the short story in 2016, it didn’t feel right and I abandoned it for more urgent projects. But last December I realise that having a short story as reader magnet was now the priority, so more than a year after I started it, I decided to revisit my short story.

Standalone
Not only did I need to come up with a proper structure for it, I also wanted to fit it within the existing set-up for my series. For although it is a standalone story which can be read, or not read, without influencing or losing track of the rest of the series, I did want those fans who took the time to read it, get that same feeling they have when they read my 80K books.

I even wanted those loyal fans to find hidden Easter eggs, little things that hint towards upcoming books, but also slightly look back at the books that came before. Things that won’t matter if you don’t read them, but give this extra dimension to the series as a whole for those who recognise them.

Writing
It took me six weeks to come up with a proper plot and structure and last Sunday, I started to write. It’s so much fun ‘being back’ in Milbury and follow the adventures of Paddy and Vinnie. And although not a full blow ‘murder’ mystery, there is a mystery for Paddy to solve.

Keeping it short
My biggest challenge now is to keep the story moving forward. As I ‘only’ have 4000 words for each of the four acts, it’s vital to keep only those bits that keep the pace in the story. Not that easy as this morning I discovered that I had already written 4000 words for the 2nd act, while there are still very important plot points to write about.

Where I normally have about 20K words for each act, I now need to be very strict and cull all those things that aren’t moving the story along.
I’m starting to realise that writing a short story is a craft, just like writing a full-length story is. It’s a craft that I will have to keep practising, to perfect it.

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If all goes according to plan the first draft of Peanuts! the 16K short story will be finished before the end of January and ready to go to my editor on the 1st of February.

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Nov 022015
 

crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76The month of November usually gets writers in a bit of a tizzy as they have the chance to participate in the National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a novel (at least 80000 words) in one month, a challenge that requires a lot of concentration, spare time and fast typing skills.

I tried NaNoWriMo two years ago, but got nowhere as I’m a plotter, who can’t just sit down and start writing. I soon realised that planning my novel in that month of November as well as writing it, would be impossible, so I abandoned the project about a week in.
I decided that if I ever would do another NaNoWriMo, I would plan the novel in advance, something that is allowed according to NaNo ‘rules’.

This year I am participating in a NaNoWriMo of sorts. As of tomorrow, I am ready to start scene-blocking Book 1 of my series. A big step that I have been working towards for the last ten months.
I have never scene-blocked a book before, so I have no idea how long it will take. However I have set myself the task to finish it by the end of November, giving me my own personalised NaNoWriMo.

Scene-blocking is an exciting thing for me, as it is the start of writing my book. While scene-blocking I decide on the order in which events happen in my book. Every scene is described in short, without dialogue. In this way it is easy to move scenes around and change them, finding plot holes etc., without having to re-write the whole book.
This method of working allows me to go from large to small, adding more and more detail the smaller things get. And of course the smallest ‘size’ will be the complete finished book.

I’m looking forward to my NaNoWriMo, even though it will mean I have to get up earlier for a while to get the extra hours in. The result will hopefully be a complete planned out book that is ready for the next fase, the writing itself!

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Oct 262015
 

bugsyEvery hero needs a bad guy, as without a worthy adversary the hero’s journey wouldn’t be interesting enough to read.

I have two heroes in my new series. One is a human and one is a rat. At first I thought it was a good idea to give them the same antagonist. After all, I want their stories to run parallel and intertwine, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. But when I started to work it all out, it somehow felt wrong.

For Jacob, the human in the story, it was no problem to find a suitable reason why his antagonist hates him so much. They have a mutual past and a lot has happened.
In fact, so much happened between them that it was easy to fill the nine books in the series with the reveal of their hatred and how Jacob deals with this. And this slow reveal is how it should be, as the antagonist is not just a villain. He is Jacob’s uber-villain, who deserves the respect of having their story worked out into detail. Only then would their villainy make sense and have the reader rooting for Jacob in his quest to bring his main antagonist down.

Of course all of the books in my series are standalones. As cosy mysteries, each have a murder that gets solved. The murderer also has villainous intentions. He directs them not only at his victims, but also at those who try to uncover him. So the murderer is also Jacob’s adversary, but only for one book. Then Jacob ‘conquers’ him by exposing him as the murderer.
On top of having to deal with murderers, Jacob also has to deal with the uber-villain who will challenge him to the max. At the end of the series, beating the murderers as well as the uber-villain will change Jacob’s life forever and to the better.

I don’t know why I thought that a rat could have a human as uber-villain, but I did. Paddy also needs something to sink his teeth in, otherwise their is no point in him being the hero. However, it’s not going to be a human. Paddy’s uber-villain is as worthy as Jacob’s, but more on a level with the rats. He also has a complex background story and it has been so much fun to conjure one up!
I am putting the finishing touches to Paddy’s uber-villain right now, coming ever closer to the point where I can actually start writing.

The ‘only’ thing I need to do now is to find a way to intertwine the storylines of the two heroes and the two bad guys. I already have some cool things in mind. Jacob and Paddy better beware!

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Oct 202015
 

ImpartialWhen I decided last year to change the direction of my series from not-having-a-distinct-genre to cosy mystery, I suddenly needed to find out how to write one.
I have read mysteries in all its forms for as long as I have been reading, including a large amount of cosies. But to go from loving to read a cosy to suddenly writing one, is a completely different story.

Here’s what I quickly found out about how to write a cosy mystery series.

  • The setting is a smallish local community. This can be a village, a hotel, a neighbourhood etc. There needs to be a good influx of ‘new blood’, otherwise it might become a bit unbelievable, with not many people left to ‘be murdered or be murderers’.
  • There is an amateur sleuth. There are exceptions, but in general the person who solves the crimes in a cosy is an amateur. They will however have contact with the local police, often in the form of a friend or family member. This gives the sleuth access to information about the murder, other people wouldn’t have. Often, but not necessarily, the sleuth is a woman.
  • The murder itself is not overly bloody or violent. Choking, smothering, poisoning etc. are accepted. Chainsaw hacking, not so much. On top of that the crime is not describes in too much detail. The ‘why’ the crime was perpetrated is far more important than ‘how’ it was done.
  • There are no overt sex scenes. Things like that happen behind closed doors.

Keeping these things in mind I realised that it is also important that the book is constructed in such a way that the reader is not already able to guess on page 2 who did it. This is easier said than done and requires careful planning.

A cosy mystery usually contains a so-called Web of Lies. This is a group of people who know each other well, but who keep secrets from each other. The victim is often an in general disliked person, sometimes part of the Web of Lies, on bad terms with a number of people, thus creating a list of suspects.
Even innocent people might become suspects, as, being part of the Web of Lies, they have secrets they like to keep under wraps. These secrets become the red herrings for the sleuth, covering up hopefully to the last page, who the real murderer is.

StringsI found that it is a lot of fun to create a Web of Lies. Maybe even the best part of writing a cosy. It doesn’t only contain ‘why’ the murder was done, but also a complex social structure between people, which the writer can make a deep as they like.
It took me three months to create my Web of Lies for Book 1, as new ideas and connections kept popping into my head, making the Web even more complicated.

Best thing of writing a series for me is that I get to create another Web of Lies for Book 2 and Book 3 and so on, all the way to Book 9. It’s great to be the devious mastermind that pulls the strings of imaginary characters, until they do just what you want!

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Oct 122015
 

ADuelgainst better judgement, I decided on having two heroes in my new series.
Now you might be wondering why that is wrong. Two heroes, more heroics, right?

Well, in general having two heroes is seen as a bad choice.
For instance, if only one of the main characters has a clear journey throughout the story, the other might feel like an annoying hanger-on. Or, if the goals and roles of the two main characters are too similar, why just not have one hero?

Despite these concerns, I decided on having two main characters. Perhaps I am too stubborn to listen to sound advice from people who have been writing fiction for years. Or perhaps I am making the rookie mistake of counting on beginners luck.
In any case, Jacob and Paddy are here to stay.

Let me explain why.
My series actually takes place in two worlds. A human world and a rat world. The rats live in the human world, but they have their own concerns and storyline.
But wouldn’t it then be better to write two stories? Each in their separate worlds? Well, no, as the two worlds do collide and influence each other.

I am writing a cosy mystery series, which means there are murders to be solved. Jacob is my (human) amateur sleuth, who unwillingly gets dragged into this and after a while starts to enjoy playing detective.
Paddy the Rat doesn’t actually help him solve the crimes. I don’t want anthropomorphic, Sherlockian rats in my series. However, unwittingly, Paddy might be of help every now and then, unknown to Jacob, of course.

Although my two worlds are very different, there are similarities as well. This is because a story can have two heroes, as long as their storylines are running parallel and are connected at the same time.
Jacob and Paddy each have their own lives to live and problems to solve. And although one is a human and one a rat, their problems are similar.

I am aware that I have bitten of a whole lot and might not be able to chew it all. It has, however, been great fun creating these two worlds and finding ways to connect them and have them influence each other.
I don’t think having two heroes is going to be a problem.

The journey of both my heroes is now well thought out and planned. This is not going to be an average cosy mystery series. Instead they are Cosy Mysteries with a Twist, two heroes and all!

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