I don’t think I’ve been living under a rock as far as reading suspense novels goes, yet somehow I’ve missed the books of Clare Mackintosh, my newest favorite author. In the past few weeks I’ve read “I Let You Go,” “I See You,” and “Let It Lie.” I’m still amazed at how many times in “I Let You Go” I was wrong. Wrong about which POV character I was reading, wrong about who did it, wrong about motive. Wrong in an absolutely great way.
In the process of looking for an interview I recently read with Clare Mackintosh and another writer, whose name unfortunately escapes me, I found an interview with Mackintosh and Ruth Ware, an English writer I’d never heard of. Now I’m reading Ware’s “The Death of Mrs. Westaway” and I’ve added “The Woman in Cabin Ten” to my list.
In the interview, Mackintosh states that she’s a detailed plotter. Yet she works out what the story is as she writes the first draft then discards 70% of it and basically starts over from scratch. Sounds somewhat organic to me. Ware plots a bit in her head and then writes the story in the order that the reader will read it, from beginning to end. Definitely organic.
I won’t regurgitate the entire interview–you should watch it.
I’m also reading Steven James’ “Story Trumps Structure.” He’s an organic writer, aka a pantser, and his advice about writing that way is inspiring. I’m underlining and starring information I want to come back to, which is approximately the entire book.
Before starting James’ book, I thought I had made a momentous decision. After rereading my most recent writings for “Anne,” I decided that all it had been was a very long, drawn out writing exercise. It was too much of a romance gone bad story with a murder thrown in to resuscitate. However, James has inspired me with some ideas on how I can make the novel work by keeping some of my old themes and just trashing everything else.
One area that I struggle with is how much information to reveal to the reader and when to reveal it. James says: suspense requires that we reveal, not conceal, information. I’m going to take that approach with this current “Anne” rewrite and see where it leads me.
Now I’m bursting with ideas and constantly turning to my phone or yellow pad or laptop to make notes about “Anne.” I’ve even produced a satisfactory opening paragraph. That alone is a major accomplishment!
Is all of this renewed energy and enthusiasm the influence of the wise words of Steven James? Or is it the mind-blowing twists of Clare Mackintosh? Probably.
Posted on January 28, 2019, in blogging, books, Point of View, reading, rewriting, Thursday Night Writes, Uncategorized, writing and tagged Clare Mackintosh, I Let You Go, I See You, Let It Lie, Organic writing, Pantser, Plotter, Ruth Ware, Steven James, Story Trumps Structure, Suspense, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, The Woman in Cabin Ten. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
Aaagh! [anguished cry of recognition, in case it got garbled in transmission] I love that Macintosh works out the story then chucks 70% of it and starts over! And I love your description of your novel as “a romance gone bad story with a murder thrown in.” I recently picked up a copy of Gail Sher’s One Continuous Mistake and have become convinced that our sacred duty as writers is to write badly with all our might, knowing that if we do so long enough, statistically speaking we’re bound to produce something good. I find that takes a lot of the pressure off. Keep writing! 🙂
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Karen, I just sent out a Margaret Atwood exercise that compares the opening of her novel Alias Grace with the way she first started it. She said that she threw out the first 100 pages and rewrote the whole thing from a different POV. So… see how much you have in common with the Greats?
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