So I was all set to write a post about how much I hated this week's Game of Thrones episode when I got a message from my friend Neliza Drew about an outline of my WIP I recently sent her. Then I thought, screw Game of Thrones, I'll write about this instead.
|Now this is a typewriter.|
But the sort of backstory I'm talking about is, if you're writing a mystery, what actually happened vs. what happens in the pages of your book. Presumably, you've got a protagonist, who, for whatever reason, is searching for the truth. As the writer, you can't just lay everything out on the page for everyone to see, otherwise it's not a mystery.
This has happened to me twice now (with the forthcoming Mistress of Lies and with my current WIP), so I'm thinking it might be a pattern: here I am happily plotting my novel, when I reach a point where the story just isn't flowing. Things are fuzzy, I don't feel like writing, I start doing work avoidance activities like re-arranging my bookshelves and testing my pens to see which ones still have ink. Stuff that needs to be done, sure, but not right this minute. It's a classic sign that something's not right in my writing world.
This period of insanely clean toilets and immaculately dusted knick-knacks lasted over three weeks.
What got me writing again was realizing that I didn't have a clear idea of what had happened leading up to (and to some extent, during) the story I was actually writing. What, in fact, was the mystery my protagonist was trying to solve? I had a vague idea that it involved the discovery of a large amount of vintage champagne and someone trying to double cross someone else, but that was it, and it certainly wasn't enough to drive the plot I was trying to suss out.
I went back to the beginning and wrote the alternate story--that is, the story of what happened that led to my victim's killing. Most of those details won't make it into the book, except in drips and drabs. But knowing exactly what happened before my book starts is the key to me figuring out how to best tell the story.
As I said, this topic might apply mostly to traditional mysteries. One of these days, I'll learn how to write a crime novel that isn't a mystery and then I'll have to come up with a whole different formula. Yes, I said formula. I like formulas. You should know this about me by now.
Thus, my questions for you are: For those who don't outline, how much "pre-writing" do you do on a novel? Also, what did you think about this week's episode of Game of Thrones?