Book Done Yet?: Pick a Lane

Note: This weekly post is to keep me honest about working on the WiP. It’s going to be mostly me figuring things out and therefore probably not very interesting. Feel free to skip as I free-associate myself through to enlightenment.

So as part of my New Efficient Approach to Life (wait for the implosion, it should be here any minute), I am determined to pick one WIP and FINISH the damn thing. Which means I have to analyze what I have and see what I really want to write. (Okay, what I really want to write right now is my version of Lucifer but I know nothing about LA or the nightclub business, and the last thing I need is an eighth book in progress, so back to the WiPs). Below is my analysis of the seven manuscripts I have in progress, in no particular order. It’s pretty much a three part analysis: Do I have story? (protagonist/goal/antagonist/goal); How much do I have done? (word count); How do I feel about this book? (what do I love/what’s keeping me from working on it?).

Protagonist: Liz Danger
Goal: Finish ghosting the autobiography of Anemone Patterson
Antagonist: Murderer
Goal: Get away with murder.
How much is written? 47,000 words
Why do I want to write it? I love the characters and the relationships and the long plan.
What’s keeping me from working on it? I suck at writing mysteries and this one is kinda lame; I need to make the heroine more interesting, and I really need to think it through as a whole, try to get the concept of this book. It’s good stuff, I just haven’t got a grip on it yet.

Protagonist: Zelda
Goal: Find out who her father is (medical reasons)
Antagonist: Murderer
Goal: Get away with murder.
How much is written? thousands of words spread across multiple files over ten years kill me now
Why do I want to write it? Love the characters, love the ghosts, love the trapped in a big house by a snowstorm and somebody’s killing people plot
What’s keeping me from working on it? I suck at mysteries, and this ones been kicking my ass for ten years now.

Protagonist: Alice Archer at 30
Goal: Evict a fake parapsychologist from her family home and then possibly burn the place down.
Antagonist: Aunt May?
Goal: Snatch a body and get back to living.
How much is written? 7000 words
Why do I want to write it? Love the heroine, love the hero (Ethan from Faking It ), love the tone which for once I nailed straight out of the box. Also I get to write about ghosts and butterflies and magic (non-supernatural, rabbit out of a hat stuff). And I have this plan to make this book happen at the same time as Stealing Nadine (see below) so some of the scenes would overlap, just be told by different points of view, so you’d read one book and get one view of the story and then read the other and get another view, which I freaking love.
What’s keeping me from working on it? I have no plot, just . . . stuff.

Protagonist: Nadine Goodnight
Goal: Protect the family legacy.
Antagonist: Clea? Carter?
How much is written? 500 words
Why do I want to write it? I love Nadine and the Goodnights. The hero’s great, he’s Alice’s brother Carter, and I’d get to write about art cons and art theft and comic books. And Nadine. And it would take place at the same time as Haunting Alice (see above for all of that.)
What’s keeping me from working on it? Plot. This has even less plot than Alice. I CANNOT PLOT.

Protagonist: Courtney
Goal: Take down whoever’s framing her for theft.
Antagonist: The Cook Sisters?
Goal: Get the Egg and bring down their rival.
How much is written? 9000 words
Why do I want to write it? I love the heroine, her friend Henry, her sister (Trudy from “Hot Toy”), her friend Maxie, the hero who’s a Dempsey, the whole thief/con artist thing, trying for a Leverage approach, build a team, take down the bad guys . . .
What’s keeping me from working on it? The Plot Sucks. I CANNOT PLOT.

Protagonist: Zo White
Goal: Protect her orphans at all costs.
Antagonist: Randolph
Goal: Get into Ylva’s bed.
How much is written? 30,000 words
Why do I want to write it? I love this world, love every character in here, love everything about it.
What’s keeping me from working on it? I’m not sure. This one even has a seven-part plot and it’s good. I think. Well, it’s weak, but it has huge potential. Okay, the plot is the problem again, it’s still wobbly, but it’s GOOD, I swear it’s good. Also, supernatural steampunk alt-history fantasy is new for me, so there’s that.

Protagonist: Cat Gilford
Goal: Save her world (Monday Street) from murderous thugs, meddling do-gooders, and gentrification.
Antagonist: Emma? Phil?
How much is written? 37,000 words
Why do I want to write it? I love these people, I love this world, and I love it that it takes place six years after Paradise Park so I get to use those characters again.
What’s keeping me from working on it? Well, I have to finish Paradise Park first. And this is the one that Toni and I are collaborating on until Life clobbered both of us, so I don’t know if this a parallel book with her book, which would be fun, or if it’s one book we’re both writing, also fun. Plus we’re still working out the world which is a lot more present in this one than in Monday Street. So this wouldn’t be the first one I’d finish anyway.

You know, I want to write all of these. There’s nothing here I want to abandon.

So triage.
• I can put Nadine and Alice aside since I don’t have that much written on them, although their world is solid in my mind.
Monday Street is on hold until Toni and I figure out what we’re doing and until I finish Paradise Park.
You Again is going to take some massive reconfiguring, just wading through all the notes, most of which are probably worthless now.
Cold Hearts has great characters and a solid tone but a plot that’s missing a lot of pieces. Also, it was conceived as a novella and it appears to be overflowing its banks, so it’s really not cooked yet.

That leaves Lavender’s Blue and Paradise Park.

Lavender’s Blue:
I know the characters, I know the world, I know the murder plot, sprained though it is. I think it might be too over-the-top right now, but that can be pulled back.
But the contract is for 50,000 words and it’s going to be closer to 100,000, so it’s not that close to being finished. And I’m doing it in first person which is not a good choice for me, but when I tried to put it into third it wouldn’t go. And my heroine really needs rebooted because she’s close but not quite right. But close.
I think it just needs pulled together. Plus I have 47,000 words that have been rewritten so many times they’re pretty polished, so really, the first draft is almost half done.

Paradise Park:
I know this one. The seven-part structure is solid, I love the characters, I have a clear antagonist with a clear goal, and a lot of it is set in a big old house that’s full of traps and magic, and my heroine has five orphans she’s taking care of and each section is based on a fairy tale, and they all combine together to make a novel. And having worked with Toni on Monday Street, I have a good idea of where they’re all going. In fact, I know exactly where the first four are going. Five and six, not so much. Seven, uh, it’s the climax. Dear god, I’m a terrible plotter.

Then I pulled out the collages, including the one for You Again.

YACollageMay copy

This one is way out of date, but the story’s still there. I really know this story, it’s just revamping to bring it up to date with everything that’s attached to it over the years. It’s so much better now. I really think that this just needs pulled together and updated. Of course pulling together ten million files . . .

Lavender’s Blue is in the same place:


That is, I look at this and I can see the book, but it’s changed. A LOT. The good news is that I can still see the book as a whole. I just need to think it through, and I really need to do something about my heroine, she’s kind of a downer. Also, the plot.

Paradise Park is a little different because it’s seven stories that combine to make a novel.


It’s like seven chapters. And I know the first three chapters; that is, I know their plots, their structures, their endings, everything. And I know where the last four are heading and I have a good idea of the climax.

So maybe tomorrow, I’ll fool around with digital collage on all of these and see which ones connect. And maybe try to get the You Again stuff in shape so I at least know what I’ve got. Ditto for Lavender’s Blue which is in better shape and for Paradise Park.

The most practical choice is Lavender’s Blue.
The second most practical is You Again.
Which means I’ll probably work on Paradise Park and Monday Street.

61 thoughts on “Book Done Yet?: Pick a Lane

  1. I heard someone say once that “Energy follows focus.” You’ve whittled down your list and narrowed your focus. Now it’s time to “Choose, but choose wisely.” LoL. Thanks for sharing your thought process!

  2. I love this! It’s good to see the thought process. I can plot. I have one finished MS and the second in the series half through. I can’t revise to save my life! Maybe the whole collage thing would help. I don’t know. But yours obviously help you focus so I should try that. And no, I’m not procrastinating.

    Not really.



    Just a tad…

  3. Some people can write plots but can’t do people. I’d rather read about interesting people with a weak plot anytime. Just saying.

    Thanks for sharing the process with us – it is fascinating. Makes me glad I have a 9-5 job, but fascinating.

  4. Your plots are just fine. I think creatives think in a circular manner. They may start out on a project with a planned deadline and then get tempted off course with new ideas and then find they are working on five projects instead of one. Sure, it would be great if we could work in a linear fashion but then maybe the muse would visit less often. Love the characters Alice and Carter. just read Maybe This Time a second time, avoiding the great clear up in my space and thinking about why I avoided painting a series of selfie kiss portraits in time for Valentines Day. The chemistry between North and Andie totally pulled me in. Your collages are great!

    1. Oh – just read your post on patterned structure where you put this much more eloquently!

  5. Thanks for sharing. Insight into process is always helpful.

    Confused though re one bit re Lavender’s Blue–say contract is for 50k words & you think it would end up more like 100k. Is that 50k set by publisher & supposed to be a full-length book? If you go over word count is that a deal breaker? Is that limitation something that’s stopped you from finishing it? Has it affected your writing process & enthusiasm? Seems otherwise like you’re in good shape with that one…

    1. Generally, the contract is set in stone.
      But I’ve been working with Jen for twenty years. If I turned in a full length novel, she’d be happy. If I turn in a 50K novel, she’ll be happy. At this point, she’d just like to see a ms. from me. Woman has the patience of a saint.

      In general, you can go 10% either way on work count, so for a 100K book you can turn in 90 to 110K and be good. I’ve turned in more; Fast Women was 116K as I remember.

      Jen places no limitations on my writing, so it’s absolutely not word count or contract. In fact, all my contract says is “Next work of fiction,” so she’s ready for anything, if I’d just FINISH something.

      1. Gotcha. Was wondering if the limitation caused a freeze-up type feeling. But sounds like you have a really supportive team. So nice.

        Hope you find your groove with whichever book clicks with you:)

        Empathies on the plotting issues. Sometimes I find it hard if I can’t see my end scene at the start. For some reason, I always need that end scene to know where I’m going…

  6. I look at Haunting Alice and Stealing Nadine, and wonder if they could somehow be woven together… But their objectives are different, so there wouldn’t be a common goal to bring them together and make them a team.

    But gosh, I really like those girls! I can’t wait to get to know them as adults!

    1. I have a third terrible idea that will drive Jenny nuts: How’s Dillie doing? Isn’t it possible that she at least knows Nadine and could add some fun?

      1. I was trying to figure that out–I have to enter all of these people into Aeon Timeline so I all I have to do is click a button–but I think she’d be in college or in her early twenties. I figured I could send her to Ohio State because she’d be near Davy that way and within driving distance of Temptation. Phin would want her close and Sophie would tell him she had to get out of Temptation, so I can see OSU as a compromise.

  7. My vote is for Lavender’s Blue. Chop away some of those words to bring it in line with what the publisher wants. I still recall the opening to that story and it must be at least five years since I read it in rough draft. Is the hesitation coming from the fact that this was meant to be the first book in a mystery series? I know that could seem daunting, but you only need handle one at a time.

  8. I am a long time lurker who very rarely comments (introvert, hard to type on tablet, which is where I do most of my reading these days). These are my observations from reading your thoughts and about your progress over the years. (Of course, feel free to completely disregard this post and my unsolicited comments!) You love to teach and you love to critique. The topics typically cover writing, television, movies, and art. And based on the length of your posts about those topics, and how easily you seem to produce them, you appear to greatly enjoy this type of nonfiction writing.

    Your writing of fiction seems to be a chore and done more to satisfy your readers than yourself. Is it time to step away from writing fiction and focus on a way to make money from your nonfiction writing, if that is the type of writing that brings you the most joy? I have read every book that you have written multiple times and have gotten friends hooked on your writing. I would greatly miss not reading more fiction authored by you; however, this isn’t about me or your other readers. This is about you, what brings you joy, and how you can best support yourself.

    I do not write fiction and probably never will. Even so, I would buy anything that you publish about writing or any critique of television shows or movies. I stopped watching Arrow after the first season, and still haven’t gone back; however, I faithfully read every post that your write about Arrow because I love the way that you frame things and allow me to see something in a different way, in the same vein as Roger Ebert. I think that you undervalue your nonfiction writing because it comes so easily to you; however, there is a large circle of people who would be willing to pay for thoughtful and thought-provoking critiques, or essays, or whatever.

    And if writing fiction is truly what speaks to your heart, you are on the right path, and I look forward to reading the next opus. (I suck at plotting, too–maybe you can find a plotting partner?)

      1. I call it “bouncy ball attention span,” but the key is to bounce your ball back and go between multiple projects if you must.

        My current list: designing/making a Christmas tree apron with lights and ornaments, a giant Hamilton cross stitch sampler, a sweater with a stomacher attached to it.

  9. I would love to see you write Lucifer, too, but I’d also love to read all of the others.

    As for the plotting, I beg to differ. You plotted your other books. You whipped together the beginnings of a plot for Lucifer in no time at all. Your plot process may not be as quick or straightforward as you would like, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. This is a pet peeve of mine and we all do it entirely too often. If you tell yourself you can’t do something, then you can’t (Yoda knew what he was talking about). Self-belief and self-doubt are powerful things.

  10. So… this might be heresy but I’mma go for it anyway. 😉

    You say, for instance, that you look at the collage for You Again and you can see the story but the stumbling block is 10 years of notes and rewrites. Here’s where I get radical: have you considered just scrapping those words and notes and rewrites and writing the story you see now when you look at the collage? Bring in what bubbles up from the past organically and taking a fresh stab at it? I may be completely off the rail, but it’s a thought?

    Also, isn’t Lavender’s Blue the one under contract? Seems as good a reason as any to start there…

    1. Oddly enough, the You Again collage kept drawing me back last night and today. The paper collage is out in the garage and it’s too damn cold to go rooting around out there, so I starting working on it as a digital image and I’ve been obsessed with it all day. I think that might actually be the book I’m going to work on. The collage is certainly better.

  11. Gee, I’ve been reading you for more years than I care to think of – how is I never noticed you can’t plot?

    Oh, right, because when you’re not beating yourself up, you can.

    After the fact.

    You’re complaining you can’t plot NOW. When if IIRC, every other book you wrote out and then edited for plotting. So why are you changing your process now?

    Which DLD has the most energy? Which is the one you have no clue what’s going to happen next?

    You’re not writing mysteries – you’re writing Crusies. Welcome to Temptation. Fast Women. Tell Me Lies. Agnes & the Hitman. Faking It. They weren’t mysteries even with the dead bodies.

    It sounds to me like Lavender is in the “tear it apart and put the plot together stage” so I might go with that one. But the other approach is to go with the one that makes you jump up in the morning and run to the computer to see what happens next.

  12. It’s at least reassuring to know I’m not the only one who has trouble picking a lane. (Six chapters of YA WiP; 125,000 words-but-no-plot of collaborative contemporary romantic suspense WiP; 10,000 files and notes for NA thriller… I’m not having trouble picking a lane, I’m having trouble picking a highway!!! Argh.)

    But I do very much enjoy reading your thought process as your swerve around. 🙂

  13. Having studied (and learned) plotting with you, I feel like I can say pretty authoritatively that you do know how to plot. You certainly know what a good one looks like and what’s wrong with bad ones. Unfortunately, plotting doesn’t come to you as efficiently as you’d like. You have to wander around and try a lot of stuff before you find the thing that works. That’s your process and it’s why you always wind up with characters you love, characters your readers love, characters who drive the plot and vice versa–because all that wandering around lets you really get to know them. The other way is a lot faster, but what comes out at the end isn’t any better.

  14. This post makes me so happy! 🙂 I have been wondering for a while now when I will get my next Jenny Crusie fix. I love how your characters, your humor, and your all out skill. Yay that there are projects in the making. I cannot wait! Well, I can, but with happy anxiety. 🙂

  15. “Love the characters, love the ghosts, love the trapped in a big house by a snowstorm and somebody’s killing people plot.”

    “Oddly enough, the You Again collage kept drawing me back last night and today. The paper collage is out in the garage and it’s too damn cold to go rooting around out there, so I starting working on it as a digital image and I’ve been obsessed with it all day. ”

    I think you answered your own question.

    (Although I admit, I will always vote for the Goodnights. I love those people so much, they actually inspired me to write a romcom.)

    Still–the one you can have passion about? That’s the one to do first.

    GO! GO! GO!

  16. I love your books. I love your insights about writing craft and story. I love reading your drafts here at Argh.

    Whichever one you pick, I’m excited about it. I want to read them all.

  17. I love your books and am intrigued by your writerly process. I noticed none of the WIPs you listed have a conflict-lock in place. Why not? I learned about conflict locks from reading yours and Bob Mayer’s writing blog. You write character-driven fiction (the best kind) – in my experience, plotting is easier under those circumstances if the antag and protag are set up in a conflict-lock. You have such a fascinating combination of analytical and intuitive approaches, here. The intuitive part seems to be that you write to explore the world and the story. Do you apply the analytical stuff (conflict boxes, TP scenes, 4-act structure, escalating conflict etc) afterwards?

    1. Yep.
      I have to write to my story which is why my process takes so long. By about 50,000 words, I have enough to see what the book is about and where the conflict is going to be, and that’s when I do the analytical stuff. I don’t know what my story is until I see what I write.

  18. You don’t have any problem with plotting for TV, maybe you should think of your book as a TV show pilot, what draws the audience, what works, what you get rid of. What would a director cut from a script cause it slows down the action, what parts would be best improvised. Set it out like a script and see what flows. After all your imagination has no budget restrictions on your cast or production.

    1. Weirdly enough, I can’t do that because I don’t think visually. That’s why I have to collage. Some people get movies in their heads and they write those down. I get radio plays. All dialogue. So I have to get that down, and then once I have thousands of words of conversation, I know the people and I can see the relationships and then I start looking for the antagonist and the conflict and all of the stuff I teach.
      The truth is, it’s easy to be a back-seat writer and tell somebody else how to fix his or her story. The hard stuff is writing your own.

      1. Holy cow, was this comment of yours ever an epiphany for me! I don’t know much about writing, so I never knew of the methods by which the material (inspiration?) comes to the author. Thanks for this!

      2. Oooh, I have the same problems–can’t picture, do collage, write lots of dialogue. I got asked why I don’t write plays too, to which I said, “I can’t exactly publish or get a play done without the help of a lot of people that I don’t have.”

  19. I can’t even fix my own story. I would never attempt to tell you how to fix yours. 🙂

    I just want to read it.

  20. I feel you on the sucking at mysteries. I’ve been picking apart my one attempt at a mystery, trying to understand Where It All Went Wrong, and mainlining/dissecting a few of my favorite mystery writers (Christie, Georgette Heyer, Ellis Peters) in an attempt to absorb their genius.

    One realization that helped me a bit was that the most important character in a mystery often isn’t the detective. It isn’t even the murderer. It’s the victim. Learning who the victim really was, what their goals were, their… well, their cut-off character arc, really, and by inference who it benefited to see that arc chopped short — that’s really central to most of the mysteries I love. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to treat the victim as a full-on character instead of a plot object, but boy did I feel dumb when the lightning struck the brain.

    Of course I still need a few more lightning strikes before this poor book-monster starts Frankensteining, but I’ll take what I can get….

  21. Oh good, You Again. As I type I am curled up on the bed of an Art Deco hotel so I’m glad to see my transatlantic mind control is working well. I will send a postcard.

    The food here is good, the hotel itself is somewhat surreal. Built as a railway hotel in 1933 (the now-disused station is just across the road) , it stood derelict for a few years before being restored and reopened in 2008. There’s a weird mix of restoration (the staircase is fabulous) and ‘contemporary additions’. Husband is still laughing about my panic on arrival in our room – I had a call of nature to answer and couldn’t find the dampened toilet. What sort of idiot designer hides the loo in a cupboard? For a panic-stricken minute I thought the restoration had included sticking to shared bathrooms.

    Anyway, we have a sea view so I can watch the tide come in across Morecambe Bay. I shall not be venturing on to the balcony to take photos as Storm Gertude is blasting in from the Atlantic.

    The Lavender book sounds good too.

    1. You sent postcards and they’re FABULOUS. I took it as a sign. In fact one of the reasons for doing You Again was you and the poison garden. And the hotel sounds wonderful. You take the best vacations.

      1. I’m currently reading Murder at the Manor: country house mysteries, one of the beauties from the British Library Crime Classics series. It’s a short story collection, and includes a Margery Allingham tale (although not, alas a Campion). There was a Campion story in the Christmas collection I read last month. Would these collections be helpful to get you in the mood,or are they more likely to muddy your thinking?

        1. I think I have that book. Or at least did before I moved and off-loaded all my mysteries except for Campion, Marple, John Thatcher, and whoever Michael Gilbert was writing.

          Really, the postcards were so fabulous. Plus I watched the first season of Grantchester which was so good and I’m catching up on all the UK murder mysteries that don’t make me want to kill myself, so I’m nicely steeped in detective stories.

  22. All I can say is, speaking as a longtime procrastinator, I feel a lot better if I just finish something. Anything. So it doesn’t really matter which one you pick, as long as it is possible to finish it and get it out. The worst are circular problems I keep brooding on but not resolving. Timesucks that stall the whole thing. Resolve them by any means necessary* and move on.

    *sometimes I’ll set myself a time limit of 30 minutes to solve a problem thats been hanging around for months. Then its either solved or I dispose of it entirely.

  23. What I notice is that your increasingly prominent theme as you go through the list of projects is “I can’t plot,” or a close variation of that.

    Whether or not that’s true, you’re FEELING its true, you’re experiencing plot as a barrier, and you’re experiencing that feeling on every project in the list, to varying degrees.

    Have you thought about reading books on plotting, taking online workshops on plotting, attending a class or seminar or master class or workshop on plotting, or contacting several writers whom you consider good plotters and asking them to advise you, chat with you, coach you, or brainstorm with you?

    It seems to me that what’s holding you back in every one of the above projects is that you feel yourself wrestling with a major craft issue: how to plot.

    I love the Actor’s Studios interviews that James Lipton did for years, and I always learned stuff from them. One that stuck with me was Danny Glover. He says he still, when he can, goes back to his old acting teachers and sits in the back, observing the class–because even when you’re very experienced and working a lot, regularly employing your craft, you forget stuff, and you forget that you already know stuff, and it’s very helpful to attend classes and be reminded of what you know and forgot, or what you learned worked but–working in the real world at your craft, for money–lost confidence in or stumbled away from.

    It’s possible that you wrote many books without strong plotting skills. (I wrote 12-13 with very nonexistant-to-weak POV skills.) Or it may be that you know how to plot but have mislaid or forgotten what you know. Either way, maybe guidance, advice, books, a class, etc. will help you past that barrier.

    1. I learned to plot from Michael Hauge, and I did go back and take his class again.

      I’ve been thinking about this a lot this weekend because the You Again plot is taking shape, and I think i just Wore out. I worked so hard on the Career and that paid off, and then I got hit with a lot of lousy stuff in my private life, one thing after another, and it got to the point where I couldn’t get up. I feel like the not-dead guy in the Holy Grail: I’m feeling much better now. But I also think I always had trouble with plots, I just don’t think that way. So it’s always a struggle, it’s just in the past years, I didn’t have energy to fight the good fight.

      1. I cannot plot for shit, apparently (so says my writing group and by god, they’re right), so while that sucks for you, it makes me feel a little better that even you have issues with it.

  24. Have you thought of stealing a plot, and just shoving it in, and then taking it out again when the characters do their own thing? I mean stealing it for just long enough to get things revved up and characters in motion? And if the plot happened to stick, well, there are only three plots anyway.

    I’m particularly thinking of this for the Alice and Nadine stories, as they have characters and world and no plots at all.

    (You know how people say there are only three plots? Well, judging by what I see getting retold a lot, they are “Pride and Prejudice” “Hamlet” and the story of Belisarius. You could try putting any two of those into those stories and see how they fly. Specially Hamlet, eh?)

    Also, as somebody said above, whatever you write, I will read.

    1. You know, it just doesn’t work for me. That was actually the plan for You Again, to write my version of Agatha Christie, but I couldn’t do it. I think I just have to write to my plot. Incredibly inefficient but eventually . . .

      When I was collaborating with Bob, it made him nuts. He had his plots all worked out on spread sheets which made me nuts. He could tell me what happened in every scene, but he had first drafts where the characters didn’t have names. I, on the other hand, knew what had happened to my characters in kindergarten, I just didn’t know what the hell they were doing in the story. It took us awhile, but eventually we learned to accommodate each other. I told him it was like we were on one side of a field and we had to get to the other side, and he plotted a course straight across the field with the goal in sight and started on a beeline, but he was tied to me, and I keopt stopping and saying, “Look, a butterfly!” “Look, a squirrel1” “Look, daisies!” Eventually, he drag me across and we’d get there, but because I was there we’d also have a butterfly, a squirrel, and daisies.”

      To which he of course would say, “What did we need with a butterfly, a squirrel and daisies?”

      A butterfly, a squirrel, and a bunch of daisies walk into a bar . . .

      1. I started laughing out loud at this… I am very happy you included the “butterfly, squirrel and daisies” into your collaborations with Bob. They would not have been as much fun to read without them.

        I am another fan who will willingly (and happily) read whichever one you write. In fact, I can’t wait (even though I know I have to) for all of the above to be finished. And, I have to admit that I too, am intrigued by your Lucifer story.

        I feel the need for a Crusie fix coming on…which one do I want to re-read…decisions, decisions…

      2. I did Bob’s “Write on the River” workshop and was sort of amazed by his process. I’m much closer to the “OH LOOK A SQUIRREL” method of writing. And I’m a pantser. I start with characters and just sort of see where they go. Trying to apply some of his methods helped get me unstuck a few times, though, and I think it was useful to hear about his (completely alien) model.

        On the other hand, when I write collaboratively, it’s with someone who’s constantly lobbing high explosives at the field and I’m the one pulling us out of the way (seriously, in a recent chapter she sent, the heroine’s car exploded. “Who blew up her car?” I asked. “And why?” She emailed back, “Oh, I don’t know, we’ll figure it out.” Ack!)

        (I did figure it out. But it took a long time. And I had to insist that the blast didn’t also kill a bystander because she was trying to add in the bystander’s whole backstory and… I think this explains why we have over 100,000 words and only the barest beginnings of a plot.)


        If you started offering writing workshops I would definitely come learn about the butterfly-collecting collage-heavy version of the process! I’m still trying to figure out my process (and finish something, ANYTHING) and it might help to get the complete opposite perspective…

        Not that I want you to stop writing and start holding workshops, mind. And reading your blog has been incredibly helpful!

        1. One thing that all my collaborations have done is begin with turning points. We agree on who the common antagonist is, and then we rough in the turning points (which often change). That way we have a framework so that if somebody blows up a car (that would be Bob), I can say, “How does that fit?” Because it was Bob, it always fit. Mine were harder to explain, but he coped as long as I could fit whatever it was into the structure we’d agreed on.

  25. If you write it, I will read it. That said, I loved the excerpts from LB. Also, I really, really don’t care about plot. I love your characters, your voice, your settings and the relationships or communities you create. You could re-use the same plots and I would still love your books.

  26. I’m assuming this means the voices in your head are speaking to you again or the girls are out of the basement.

    I hope so because as much as I’ve enjoyed being able to still read new Cruise via the blogs, I’d love to help support any remodeling/fixing the cottage needs by buying your next publication.

      1. Can you write that into You Again? And can Rose be newly menopausal and mildly astonished by the physical and emotional changes in herself?

        1. I’m still trying to figure out ages, so I’m not sure where Rose is on the menopausal scale. I think she’d be past it. There are a couple of other characters who might be just hitting that stage, though, and that could add a lot. I need to get my timeline done.

  27. This may be heresy, but why do the mystery books have to be mysteries? Couldn’t they start out as a maybe mystery and the heroine finds out there really is none and it evolves into a book about relationships?

    1. In the case of You Again, nope, because the baseline for the book is Agatha Christie mysteries, in the same way that The Turn of the Screw was the baseline for Maybe This Time. Mystery/suspense is actually a very good pairing for romance. Kind of like peanut butter and jelly.

  28. I’m hoping you blend the Nadine and Ethan books into one! I loved every personality that came out of Faking It. Seeing what becomes of these two, and if Nadine ever settled on a career, gets me excited. Plus I loved the art fake/forgery aspect and keeping the family secret safe kind of gives you a built in plot.
    …but then again, I’m a non-plotter myself. I just end up wanting my characters to do it all and it’s hard to streamline it or hold them back.

    Good luck!

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