Declaring Defeat

MURDER IN F MINOR has beaten me. I can’t write it. I am not a mystery writer… at least not right now.

When I first started writing MFM, as it became called, I was having a great time. My main character, Isabelle, had this Carole Lombard-esque quality about her and was a blast to write. The detective was bumbling and the best friend was a mere blip on the screen.

Then I went to a writer’s conference in New Jersey, realized mystery was hot but I had to do more with mine, and started trying to make it the dreaded M word – marketable.

MFM was no longer fun. Isabelle had to be in danger from t he start. She didn’t have time for rapid-dialogue quips and funny habits. The detective had to seem more competent, which in the end made him – well – bland. And the best buddy had to have more of a presence, which was the only fun thing about writing the new MFM. I’ll always love that best buddy character.

The I started tripping over plot. Suddenly I had a threatening note written in squirrel blood, but where did the squirrel come from? Baseballs were flying at people’s heads, but the scenes clunked. Things were awkward. And how does one write a poker game/gossip session without getting all the characters mixed up?

Pantsers cannot write mysteries. At least this pantser can’t.

If you’re looking at the screen wondering if my typos have suddenly gotten much, much worse than usual, let me step aside a moment and explain something. A Plotter is someone who makes collages and time-lines and actually figure out where a book is going before they sit down to write it. A Pantser (me) gets a couple characters in her head, has their basic motivation down, and knows approximately what the goal is. They you sit down and start typing and see where you end up.

That is no way to write a mystery.

The thing is, I think I could be a plotter. I could sit down, examine the murderer and figure out his or her every move. I could then weave it into what Isabelle does and where she needs to be. I understand Goal, Conflict and Motivation. I can sit down and figure it all out.

Or at least I could if I didn’t have 3 kids and a full time job.

So that is why MFM is going on the back burner for now. For a long time, actually, I think. It’s a year wasted, in a way, but somehow I think I’ll come back to it eventually. When I have time to plot and examine character motivation. Right now, though, I need some inspiration.

I wrote my first novel at age 13. It sucked, but it was fun to write. I started writing after a 10-year hiatus back in 2001, and wrote a 170,000 word book in 6 months. And it was fun. I wrote my first “real” novel in a month during NaNoWriMo 2002, and it was fun. ANOTHER TIME AROUND was another NaNo Novel, and it was fun. LET’S DISH was  blast.

I’ve had three false starts since LET’S DISH, including a futuristic, PLAIN JAYNE, which I may revisit one day, and MFM. None of them have been fun. Not even a little bit.  Okay, I lie, because MFM was fun before I started writing it seriously- I was just messing around. But now I’m worried about what I’m doing “right” and “wrong” and I’m frozen. So I’m going to take a tiny break from writing “seriously” to get over myself, feed my soul with an online writing class, and ferret out a new idea. I have a glimmer of one, but it needs serious fleshing out. And yes, even a little plotting.

In the meantime, though, it’s going to take me a bit of time to change the website and explain to my mother why I’m not a mystery writer anymore. Now that’s  not going to be fun.


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