Monday, July 1, 2013

The Beginning

            Welcome to the beginning of our journey.  To recap, today we begin to go through the process I used on my novel, The Zealot, from the very beginning to where I am right now.  One of my biggest challenges will be to tell you about the making of my novel without telling you about my novel.  As we go through this process, please let me know of your thoughts.  I want to know how my process compares to what you have gone through.

            For me, in the beginning, it was a little complicated because I was already working on another novel.  I was about 100 pages into it, doing okay, having fun, but not “feeling it”.  As I have said before, at the time I had been driving a cab for several years.  Driving gave me a lot of time during the day in spurts of 20 minutes here and there to write and tons of time to think and imagine.  As I have posted before, I am a dreamer.  My imagination is always going full tilt. I sleep five hours a night.  My mind never stops.  I can’t help it.  I dream and I worry. 

            Near downtown Indianapolis is a huge complex of hospitals.  This complex is great for taxis, keeping people like me busy with the elderly and sick, taking them home.  Just west of the area is a rundown community called Haughville.  One of the main streets that goes through there is Michigan Street and I go through Haughville multiple times a day.

 An idea for a new novel had been stirring in my brain for some time.  A what if scenario of a religious nice guy that lost his way and started killing drug dealers, but for a very valid reason.  My idea kept evolving.  Without spilling the beans, he kills “certain” drug dealers, and leaves religious messages and tortures them and extracts information from them.  All this went through my mind each day, growing as I drove through Haughville.  I could see it happening there.  It became more real each day in my mind.  I became more excited about the possibility of this novel becoming a reality.

After about three months of this imagining, I was driving through Haughville on Michigan one day and crossed a double set of railroad tracks I had crossed a thousand times before.  To my right were two businesses that shared a gravel driveway.  I had seen them the same number of times before too, but this time a little voice said to pull in.  I drove to the back of the building.  I instantly smiled.  There it was.  My first murder scene.  Plain as day.  Double railroad tracks running diagonally along the back of the property.  The gravel drive shared by two businesses in a rundown area.  And the topper was the telephone pole right against the back of the building to my left about halfway down.  Perfect.  I knew immediately that I had to write this story.

I don’t outline.  I know some writers do and some don’t.  I don’t.  Maybe I should.  Maybe I will for the next one.  I don’t know.  All I know is that for me, for this novel, I saw the story in my head from day one. I didn’t know what the characters were going to do the day after that, but I had faith it would work out.  Sounds nuts, doesn’t it?  That’s me. 

So I went home and chucked the novel I was working on and started over.  New character names, new everything, but first I have a ton of research to do.  I don’t care because I can see the story in my head and I have read a lot of mysteries and the story I have hasn’t been done, at least that I know of.  I am pumped and ready to go.  Bring on the research.  That’s next and I had no idea it would be dangerous.


  1. I always have a couple of ideas in my head when I'm working on something. If the idea has percolated for a year or more (without a word being written) and I still enjoy thinking about the story, then that is my litmus test.
    The project I'm working on now is something I started writing back in November or December of last year. I had been thinking about this one for at least a year and a half before that, but when I had done the twentieth revision of my last novel and couldn't stand it any longer, I put it aside and started the new project.
    I bet if I went back to the previous project now, the problems would fix themselves. I actually think it's a great idea to have several unfinished projects to go back to.
    If I don't keep starting new ones.

  2. Thinking about it a year and a half ago? Then went back to it? Twentieth revision? OMG Heather!! Do you have OCD? Let's see, I had some notes to a novel I was going to do around here somewhere. It was a great idea. I set them down about a year and a half ago. I wonder where they went? If something percolates in my brain for a year and a half, it became reality a while back or my brain throws It out my left ear as mush after two weeks. And 20 revisions? Come on, you write well, pert near as good as them fellers on Duck Dynasty. Quit with the revisions and move on to something new.

  3. Having lots of great ideas percolating is like having a nice 401K in that you can't spend them right now but you know they'll have some value in the future...but that value may fluctuate and could be a lot...or a little....but it feels good to know you have something stored up!

  4. And one of the great challenges of writing is to know when to stop fiddling with a project. When you lose enthusiasm for it and it no longer feels like positive work but simply drudgery, then it's likely time to put it in the drawer. Who knows, maybe at some point you'll find a new entry point or some enlightenment about the project and you can bring it to life again.

  5. Yes, yes. That's the problem with revision: it's hard work. Putting it aside for a while can make it fresh again when you look at again.
    That other project--the modern redo of Frankenstein--is something I still enjoy as an idea. I hope to go back to it, but the revisions had turned into a monster itself. Who was it that called the revisions, "Franken-revisions" or something? That is what happened. I lost sight of the work and the excitement. Working on something else has helped me to get some perspective on it.
    And yes, hopefully it is an investment in the future. I doubt it, but maybe.

  6. Hi, Dr. Keith here. We aren't really talking about revision, are we? When we revise and revise for the sake of revising, I wonder about the fear of putting it out there for the public to see. Putting something aside for a while will make it look fresh again later, but why would you want it to? When will you know it is time to send it out there for everyone to see it? There is no such thing as a perfect piece.