Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Starting a new book
First, I buy a new binder. Preferably a color I don't already have.
This is a great motivator, even better than the blank document on my monitor, which I can turn off at will. The empty binder sits there, an embarrassment, especially when visitors come to my office.
I love the new green binder that awaits the first pages of the next Sophie Knowles book. Sophie teaches math at a small New England college. A synopsis of the first book, The Square Root of Murder is now available.
With that empty green binder, I know it looks like I haven't started it, but in my head I've taken the first steps.
1. There's the label in the binder sleeve. A start, right?
2. I'm reading. I have several folders of printouts on college campus crime, math puzzles, and mathematician Sophie Germain, after whom my new protagonist is named. And a shelf of books, including math and beading, Sophie's hobby.
3. I've alerted my critique group, all published mystery writers who see chapter by chapter. Very important that they know my timeline so we can plan reading and meeting times for all of us.
4. I've alerted my beta group. These are from 12 to 15 readers who have never seen the book. Some are other writers, some friends who are good editors, some experts I've used as resources. It's the last step of the vetting process before I send it off. I like to give them a long lead time for when to expect the manuscript.
5. I've set up an excel sheet to keep me on track. I like to have about 3 months to write the book, and one month for my beta group to give me feedback.
I blogged about this on KillerHobbies a few years ago: Charting Progress. Even after more than a dozen novels, I can't tell where I am in the story without some measurement. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it! I can roll along for a while, but at the end of the day, I love knowing I'm 22.7% into my sixth miniature mystery, Mix-Up in Miniature.
All that's left now is about 45000 more words for one book and 75000 for the other. Both are due in 5 months. Now that the infrastructure is in place, they'll write themselves.
Raise your hand if you believe that.