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July's FEATURED AUTHOR: How Does She Do That?

July 28, 2010
Marie Force, July's Featured Author, stops over to share some thoughts on how she writes... Read on!

How Does She Do That?

One of the questions I’m often asked is, “How do you write a book?” Stephen King says, “One page at a time.” The writers out there will attest that it’s as simple as he suggests—and much more complicated. I’m convinced I could never teach my process because it’s so bizarre. However, as I’ve connected with more and more writers, I’ve decided we’re all a little bizarre, but that quality makes us better writers.

So how do I do it? I’ll try to explain my process using my most recent release, Fatal Affair, as an example. The seeds for that story began in a news article about a congressman who was found dead in his Washington-area home. At first, the police investigated the death as a possible crime because he was found at the bottom of the stairs. Later, it was determined that he’d died from a heart attack and fell down the stairs.

But what, I wondered, if he had been murdered? That was all it took to start my wheels turning. What if his chief of staff finds him? What if the murder occurred on the morning of an important vote? What if the chief of staff’s one-night stand from years earlier was the detective assigned to the case?

That’s exactly how it unfolds in my mind. Then come the decisions about where they’re from, what brought them together, and why they never saw each other again. Often I don’t have those answers before I start a book. I tend to discover these things as my story unfolds, which I’m told makes me a “linear pantser” in writing vernacular. I write the story in chronological order, I edit as I go, and nothing gets in unless it propels Character X or Character Y’s story forward. Because I go back, re-read, and edit often during the writing process, I end up with a pretty clean first draft. In fact, I recently stumbled upon the hand-written opening scene of my first book, “Line of Scrimmage,” and discovered that other than a renamed character, not much had changed.

Since I don’t plot, I spend a lot of time staring off into space when a book has me by the throat. During these phases, my kids often ask, “ARE YOU LISTENING TO US?” at the top of their considerable lungs. I have to confess that Mom just took a brief trip to Pluto, but I’m back now and you have my full attention. I do my best zoning/plotting when I’m driving (watch out for a maroon Honda Odyssey), doing dishes, showering, drying my hair, and vacuuming. I’ve solved a lot of plot issues while sucking up a few days’ worth of dog hair. I’ve run dripping from the shower to the computer to get something down before I forget it. Bizarre? You bet. My friend Chris likes to say that my mind is a strange, scary place. Of course I take that as a compliment!

To the writers out there, are you a plotter, a seat-of-the-pantser, a linear plotter, a linear pantser, an organic or what? To the readers, are you more convinced than ever after reading this that all writers are a little bit nuts? I’ll give away a digital copy of “Fatal Affair” to one commenter, so let’s hear from you!

Thanks, Marie! Well, all y'all out there... What're you waiting for? I never turn down the opportunity to win a free book! So go comment! *grin* And do it before 6:00pm CST August 3rd!


bermudaonion said...

I write my best posts when I'm driving or grocery shopping, but I can never remember them later. I'm impressed that she can!

Anonymous said...

Marie Force is one of my favorite authors! Great post. :) Even if I don't win, I am adding FATAL AFFAIR to my growing list of wanna read books. Her previous two were fantastic.

Jackie P said...

I don't think writers are nuts. I just glad that you do what you have to do to come out with something awesome for me to read.

Deena Remiel said...

Thanks, Marie! I'm so glad to find I'm not alone! I am a plotser, a combo of plotter and pantser. And I, too, can be found by my kids on many occasion, to be staring off into space. Now, it may look like space to them, but to me, I'm seeing my characters' world unfold before my eyes. It's magical, and it's wonderful. Yup, it's a little nutty, too. :)

Marie Force said...

Hi there,
Thanks for coming by today. I'm on a brief break at the RWA conference in Orlando. So glad it's not just me who hears voices and considers that to be normal!

JKaye, so great to see you here! Thanks for the kind words about my books!

Will be back later!

ossmcalc said...

I used to tell my students to hang in there with me when we were trying to learn a new concept in our math classes. We never know when that light bulb will go "on." I gave the example of when I was studying for a test in a graduate level Economics class when I had not taken any undergraduate courses in Economics. Well, I was sitting on the toilet and the concept suddenly became clear to me. I thought of the concept in terms of a math problem and realized that the concept was like taking a first derivative in Calculus. Suddenly everything made perfect sense. Yes, we never know when those great moments of clarity will happen.

Thank you,


Ruthie said...
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