I’m often asked what advice I have for new authors. I think that’s a fairly standard question for most published authors and I’m always interested in what others have to say. Often, their suggestions are reminders to me of something forgotten or needing more thought.
My answer to the question is to rewrite, rewrite and rewrite some more. This comes to mind now because I’m at that stage in my fourth Ashton Corners Books Club mystery, Book Fair and Foul, which will be released next year.
It’s the first rewrite and it’s the one I probably enjoy the most, mainly because the book is written. It has a beginning, middle and end complete with characters, plot and setting. What a relief! At times, when buried in the depths of writing, the end can seem almost unattainable and self-doubt appears to play mind games.
I know of one best-selling author who when writing each new book hits a wall, complaining loudly. His spouse will calmly ask him what stage he’s at in the novel. He says about ¾ of the way through. She says, I thought so. This happens every time at this point.
Love that story, it’s so reassuring. Going a bit nuts at some point or other while in the frenzy of writing a novel is totally normal and acceptable.
But come rewrite time, it’s a leisurely visit back to your fictional community. This time around, you get to flesh out the characters, and that of course means spending additional time wandering through their lives. Hopefully, you enjoy your characters.
Next to the solving of the crime, I think the characters themselves are the most engaging part of a mystery. These should be people you’d like to have living next door, to meet for a drink at the local coffee shop, and to invite to dinner.
Their interactions, their own friendships, are also of prime importance and that’s all part of fleshing out the characters. Any pets? They need personalities, too.
As your character wanders, or jogs along the street where she lives, you see the neighborhood through her eyes. As a writer, you’re almost on a mini-vacation, visiting this community in your mind, enjoying the beauty of each season, shopping in local stores, going to work.
And then there’s the plot. Readers enjoy an intriguing mystery. The more complex the better but it still had better be readable and understandable. This takes a lot of thought in order to include just the right number of clues without being too obvious about it. Hmmm…lots to think about there.
On this first read through, it’s possible (oh, yes!) to stumble over repeated scenes, wrong names, and even major gaps in either the timeline or the thought process. These are challenges that get the adrenalin flowing. As a crafter of words, you are able to repair these gaps and errors. In fact, that’s one of the most demanding parts of being an author. But there is immense pleasure in doing so, a secret thrill that this is a world of your crafting, a world where you have ultimate say (well, next to your editor, that is) on what will finally be seen in print.
But of course, the ultimate thrill is the launch of your book, your baby onto bookshelves everywhere.
Oops, got a bit carried away there. I’d like to leave a final tip for new authors. Rewrite until it’s the best it can be but also, know when to step away from it. Know when to send it off. Then start plotting the next one.