As most of you know, I write the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series featuring Lynley Cannon, a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip. I write every day; never have writers’ block; and often work with a cat on my lap.
Last summer I participated in a panel of fiction writers called Communicating, Capitalizing, and Connecting in a Fictional World, presented at the CWA Conference. Patricia Fry (the Klepto Cat mystery series), Debbie De Louise (the Cobble Cove cozy mystery series), and Sandra Murphy (short stories) joined me to talk about fiction, what it is, and more importantly, how to write it. Preceding the presentation, the four of us got together and compiled a list of questions we might be asked. I wanted to share some of them with you, along with my answers.
If you’ve always wanted to write fiction but don’t know where to begin, here are some of the trade secrets I use in creating fiction that engages, compels, and connects with the reader. Fictional writing requires a unique skill and mindset. In this first installment, CAPTURING THE FICTIONAL WORLD, I’ll addressing craft, process, detail, observation, and flow. In the next post, CAPITALIZING ON THE CAT, I’ll move on to character development, and of course, focusing on cats.
FICTION WRITING QUESTIONS:
~What is your writing process? Do you outline the story, write the main theme and develop the story from there, or…?
Often my stories begin with something as simple as a title. I do not outline, but allow my first drafts to be spontaneous, following the whim of the story as it appears to me. I make notes as I go along of things I will need to revise, research, or otherwise come back to later.
~How do you keep track of your characters from one story to the next?
Beginning with the second draft, I note all new characters, with their names and descriptions, in a “Cast of Characters” file. I also note any additions I make to reoccurring characters. This file gets updated until the book is finished, then I transfer the information to a master file of all “Cast” so I can easily look up someone if they appear in another book.
~How do you come up with so many story ideas? (This question was aimed at Patty Fry, who just completed her 40th Kelpto Cat mystery, but applies to all fiction writers.)
Some little thing I see or hear will strike me, and there’s a book! A cat cafe, a chocolate diamond, a comic-con. It starts by thinking: “How would Lynley fit in here? What would she do in this situation?” The classic “what if” query is often the best place to begin.
~What is a cozy mystery?
Cozy mysteries are gentle mystery stories without foul language, explicit sex, or graphic violence. Furthermore, they have a happy ending.
The cozy mystery (sometimes simply called a “cozy”) is a sub-genre of crime fiction that gives readers a chance to delight in vicariously solving a murder. Protagonists are typically amateur (and often female) sleuths solving small-town crimes with old-fashioned detective work rather than forensics.
These unlikely heroes are often individuals who find themselves drawn into detection by a crime that connects them. In my Crazy Cat Lady series, it’s Lynley Cannon whose cat-like curiosity pulls her into crimes involving cats and cat people. Aided by family and friends, she searches for clues. Someone with police connections, such as my animal cop Denny Paris, comes in handy.
~What is the best way to promote fiction?
I don’t know about the best way, but my favorite way to promote my books is with in-person book signing events. I love meeting people who might like my books, and there is nothing better than someone who comes specifically to get one. I often note a spike in online sales after such an event.
~How long does it take you to write a book?
I try to put out one in my series each year. I work in stages: the first draft (a quick burst of creative energy); second and third drafts (fill in the blanks, add descriptions, check grammar and spelling); the printed read-through (it’s amazing how previously undiscovered typos and other mistakes show up on paper); reading out loud (revealing problems with flow). Then it goes to the beta reader and the editor. After that, I proofread up to two printed copies. That, plus launch promotion, takes about a year.
~Do you work on more than one project at a time?
Yes and no. In fact, I’m usually working on at least three different books in any one period, but that said, I do them one at a time. For instance, I’m currently finishing the third draft of Cat Conundrum. When done, I’ll take a break and concentrate on getting Cat Winter, the second in the Cat Seasons sci-fantasy tetralogy, ready for the publisher. I’m planning a vacation shortly, where I will work exclusively on new matter, the first draft of Adventure Cat, the 8th in the CCL series. I also have an idea in the works for a Lynley Cannon Cat Tips, Tricks, and Facts Workbook, in collaboration with author Ramona Marek. And there’s always the cat poetry…
~What is your greatest challenge?
Advertising. Self-promotion takes time. I’d rather be writing a new book!
Stay tuned for Part 2, CAPITALIZING ON THE CAT, coming soon.
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