Paula Paul visited and chatted about her skipping and stumbling steps to writing a novel. Sound familiar?
HOW I WRITE A GLADSTONE BOOK
By Paula Paul
For Dead Men Only is the fifth book in the Dr. Alexandra Gladstone series. I will be writing the sixth soon.
Someone asked me recently what steps I follow when I’m writing a book for the series. The question caught me a little off guard, and I had to think about it for a while. I quickly realized that the steps I take are pretty erratic. Sometimes I skip along happily, sometimes I run, sometimes I walk backward or in endless circles, and sometimes I fall flat on my derriere.
The first few steps are happy, school-girl skipping. I come up with an idea that I think is wonderful, and I imagine how much fun it will be to write about it. Next is a happy stroll as I begin to do research on the idea. For example, I had quite a bit of research to do on Freemasons and the Templars for the new book, For Dead Men Only. I love research. I could sit in front of the fire with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and read fascinating books on the subjects. It was like a nice stroll in the park.
I could do research and read those books forever, but there comes a time when I have to get down to business and work out a plot. That’s when I start walking in circles, walking backward and then walking in circles again. It seems I never get the plot worked out to my satisfaction at this stage, so I just start writing, using what passes for a plot. This is something of a relief. I can walk along at a normal pace for a while, writing about characters I find interesting in a situation I find intriguing.
Inevitably, I stumble because the plot isn’t working or a character is balking at doing something he or she has to do to keep the story going. If I’m lucky, I can get the character to talk to me and tell me why he or she is balking. I do this by sitting down at my computer and starting with a question such as, “Why won’t you do this or that?” Then I just write what comes to my mind. The character starts trying to explain by telling me something about his or her background or religious teaching or fears or handicaps, etc. The answer often changes the story, and I have to take it in a different direction.
If that doesn’t work, and I discover that the problem is not with a character but with something like my logic in developing the plot, I start walking in circles again, and I very often fall. I’ve fallen many times in this metaphorical respect and therefor have a sore metaphorical derriere.
Sometimes I simply get lost in a plot jungle and have to go back and start from the beginning. That can be frightening when I have a deadline. Most of the time, I don’t go back, I just keep forging forward, telling myself I’ll go back later and fix whatever needs fixing. Finally, I come to the end, leaving a lot of muddy and messy footprints behind me that I have to clean up. I don’t mind that so much because now I at least have something to fix, something to clean.
It often takes a lot of work, a lot of rewriting, some more research. It’s like learning a new dance step that you have to practice, practice, practice. I usually go over the manuscript at least three times and often four. By that time I sick of it, and I more or less run to the end. I’m ready for different scenery, a new story, more interesting research.
Finally, when the book is published, I feel as if I’m walking on a cloud. I’ve forgotten all the agony and stumbling and retracing my steps. I have a new creation to present to the world. I know it’s not perfect. I know all of its faults better than anyone. Nevertheless, it’s beautiful to me, and I present it to you with pride. You read the first sentence, and it becomes yours as well as mine.
Thanks so much, Paula, for stopping by and sharing your writing steps. I hope everyone buys and enjoys your book!
For Dead Men Only: An Alexandra Gladstone Mystery
2nd in Series
Historical Cozy Mystery
Random House LLC
The Temple of the Ninth Daughter sits on a hill at the edge of Newton-upon-Sea, an aura of mystery lingering over its tall, gray silhouette. Villagers whisper about the treasure housed inside, protected by local Freemasons who are bound by clandestine oaths.
Dr. Alexandra Gladstone has no time for such nonsense. Between the patients in her surgery and the rounds she makes with her faithful dog, Zack, her days are busy enough. But Alexandra has no logical explanation when the Freemasons start dying, one by one, with no sign of foul play other than smears of blood on their Masonic aprons. And what to make of reports that a Knight Templar rides through the village before each passing?
After the constable disappears in the midst of the crisis, Alexandra reaches out to her dashing, diligent friend, Nicholas Forsythe, Lord Dunsford, for assistance. Is someone after the treasure, or might a more sinister game be afoot? In order to solve this puzzle, Alexandra must somehow catch a killer who shows no remorse—and leaves no witnesses.
About The Author (visit Paula here.)
Award-winning novelist Paula Paul was born on her grandparents’ cotton farm near Shallowater, Texas, and graduated from a country high school near Maple, Texas. She earned a BA in journalism and has worked as a reporter for newspapers in both Texas and New Mexico. She’s been the recipient of state and national awards for her work as a journalist as well as a novelist. Her previous novels featuring Dr. Alexandra Gladstone, including Symptoms of Death, have appeared on bookstore and online bestseller lists. She is also the author of the Mystery by Design series, which she wrote as Paula Carter. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.