Plotting My Next Thriller

Promised my agent I would have my manuscript for my next novel ready by summer 2017. NAKED TRUTH is getting there. The plot, about the death of a Supreme Court justice, is three quarters complete. Good beginning, Great ending (I think it’s better than NAKED AMBITION), but still working on some twists in the middle.

The middle of a novel is key. That, according to the experts, is where a lot of novels go to die. It’s the bridge between a great start and a shocking ending (well, at least in my case). My secret weapon is my daughter Jill. She and I work on plot twists together. I’m a plotter, not a “pantser” (someone who writes by the seat of his pants). That’s because I love putting as many twists and turns into my plot as humanly possible. That takes a fair amount of planning.

Once I complete the plot (which for me is my first draft–now at 150 pages), then I’m off and running on the rewrite. I’m weird in that way. I LOVE to rewrite. Most writers I know hate that part of writing. But this is where I dissect every sentence and try to make it sing. And since I have a completed plot, I know where I’m going. Of course this doesn’t mean I don’t make plot changes during rewrite. I make plenty of those.

I’m also working on my anthology of  famous thriller writers. I’m explaining the struggles they went through to get their first novel published. Everybody does it a different way and surprisingly, most take years and years to get there. Unless, that is, your name is Lee Child. I spent more than an hour interviewing him recently and learned how quickly his first novel was accepted and published. And it made money! Every writers dream.

Lee is  one of the nicest writers out there. This weekend, Tom Cruise’s new Jack Reacher movie opened about his main character, and that will sell a lot more of Lee’s book. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.




The Writer’s Life

So I’m talking to an old friend today, Anne Zender, from Chicago. We are attending the Association Media & Publishing annual conference in Washington, D.C. We were AM&P board members together years ago, so we both know a lot about magazine publishing. She learned about my novel through AM&P’s Signature magazine and asked me what it was like to write a novel. After I explained it was a hell of a lot different from journalism, she suggested I write about the writer’s life.

Her first question was, “How do you do it?”

So here goes. I do it at 5 a.m. each day. Until 7 a.m., maybe 7:30 a.m. Then it’s off to work.

It comes easier and is more exciting when my plot is solid. Right now, working on book two in the series, the plot is not complete. It’s almost there, but I’m trying to figure out some new twists. Still trying move the plot from A to B and then C, of course. My plots are about intrigue. I’m not about crazy car chase scenes and I will never–ever–end a novel with the protagonist and antagonist fighting it out, mano a mano, in some dark (always dark) deserted warehouse or rusting crust of a vacant factory. How many novels and movies have ended that way? The cliche drives me nuts.

So for the next few weeks I’ll still be slaving away on the plot. Once I get that down, my first “draft” will be done. But it’s not really a draft at all. It’s simply the plot, which will change as the real writing begins. That is rewriting. That’s the fun part. I love writing second, third and fourth drafts. Each stage is a lot different from the previous one. More on that later.

An Editorial Genius

One of the secrets to the success of my new novel, NAKED AMBITION, is my book editor, Lorin Oberweger. Lorin did both the developmental edit and a year later the final line edit. I took her outstanding advice in both cases, but the line edit was more intense. It’s one thing to flip some chapters around or cut story lines that add nothing to the entire book,  but it’s quite something else to go line by line through the novel and make recommendations and ask questions. Why is this paragraph here? What is she thinking here? Why not take this out completely? She explained several things I had done wrong and yes, on occasion, things I had actually gotten right.

Since I’ve been a journalist all of my life and not a fiction writer (although sometimes accused of writing fiction when I upset a public official or two), it was a huge transition for me to attempt fiction. I read some 40 books on fiction writing and listened closely to Lorin. It was an intense few years, which I equate with getting an MFA in fiction writing (and cost only about half what an MFA degree would cost).

Thanks to Lorin and others who read my manuscript and offered constructive criticism, the next book shouldn’t take so long. I finally get it! My goal is to have the manuscript for NAKED TRUTH in her hands by winter.