In the Bleak Midwinter

Posted: January 13, 2010 in crime writing, novel writing
Tags: , ,

The story so far:
I have written the first draft of a crime novel, provisionally titled Dolly Maltravers Investigates: the Nigerian Web. As I came to the end, I felt increasingly bothered by three linked issues (which I will keep vague so as not to spoil the story for later readers):

  1. I think the villain is too obvious. Cui bono? It’s not much of a mystery for the experienced reader;
  2. their alibi is rather thin: why should the police buy it?
  3. their character is too antipathetic. They are rather dull, conventional, lacking passion – the classic shadowy perpetrator. It’s clear the author doesn’t like them very much.

Although this is only a first draft and it can be solved in the rewrite, these issues sap my morale and motivation to get through the grunt work. I write long-hand and have to transcribe from my notebooks, so there’s typing up, formatting, and maintaining consistency in both voice and plot). Basically, I’m a bit out of love with the whole thing because I see these gaping flaws.
Coupled with this we’re in the midst of the bleakest bleak midwinter. I suffer from SAD and find it increasingly difficult to motivate myself to do anything at all,
So I have set myself some very limited targets:

  • type up 1.6k words per day (4 pages of long-hand;
  • write 1.6k words a day of new material, which can be exercises from writing books or my own exercises;
  • blog the process here.

I have been working my way through Writing and Selling your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron (Writers Digest Books). I came to the chapter on the Villain, and I really didn’t feel like doing it. I had brainstormed what I could do to tackle the issues listed above, but I really didn’t know how I was going to get the energy to do it…
I remembered an exercise I’d been given in a writing class: Dear Author

  1. If it makes you feel any better, I’m having a problem with MY novel: villain that’s too obvious. Revising, revising, revising… more than 50 pages trashed (so far).

    • gerrybeeewrites says:

      Yes, that does make me feel better. I found your book really helpful. I did various exercises – see my next post. I’ve made a bit of a breakthrough. I find writing letters, either as myself struggling author or as my character, somehow easier than writing something that will feature in the actual book.

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