Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Guest Blog by Anne K. Albert

Anne K. Albert’s award winning mystery and romantic suspense stories chill the spine, warm the heart and soothe the soul…all with a delightful touch of humor. When not at the keyboard she loves to travel, walk on a beach, visit friends and family, and of course, read using ‘Threegio,’ her beloved and much cherished Kindle 3G.

Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Anne. It's good to have you join us here.

Thanks for featuring me today, Jean. You requested an article about how I plot. Well, the truth is, I don’t! Every one of my stories, however, begins with a kernel of an idea. Then, I creep forward. S-L-O-W-L-Y. Very slowly, scribbling my thoughts down on paper. The catalyst for the story ranges from a blurred image to a crime or snippet of conversation. Like the story, it’s like a mirage--never really crystal clear inside my head. It’s more of a feeling.

As you might well imagine, I’m envious of writers who are able to plot out their stories beforehand. I listen and stare in amazement when a fellow writer says they have such and such a scene to write and then they proceed with in-depth and often layered details.

How do they do that? How can they possibly know these things? Am I doing it all wrong? Do I dare admit I never know from one sentence to the next what will happen?

As you may have already guessed, I’m a ‘pantser’, or ‘organic’ writer.

It took me a very long time to accept this haphazard approach. It took even longer to embrace it as my own. Why? I wanted to find an easier way to write. I wanted to get the story down as quickly and painlessly as possible. Anything seemed preferable to standing in the fog and inching one step forward and then taking two steps back. Besides, when it came to revisions, I’d revise until my eyes bled!

Surely there was an easier way.

I read how-to write articles that advocated plotting a story before committing it to paper. It was the method of choice for countless bestselling authors, I was told. So, I tried to follow the instructions. I tried outlining. I diligently plotted two complete manuscripts, and wrote page after page of detail, dialogue, and description.

Great, I thought! I’ve done it. From here on in it'll be easy, peasy! When it came time to actually commit those weeks and plotting notes to writing those stories, however, I couldn’t do it. I’d start, write a few words, and then suddenly decide the bathroom needed cleaning. (Which is very odd, considering how much I detest housework!)

It took years for me to figure out why I procrastination flowered into writer’s block. The answer? Plotting took the fun out of writing. What was the point of telling the story when I already knew how it would unfold and end?

I came to realize I’m my first reader. I write to find out what happens next.

The same holds true for character development. I learn a little about my characters each time I meet with them on the page. It’s a process similar to meeting a real person for the first time. You’re introduced, and in those few brief seconds, you make a snap impression of who you think they are. With each additional encounter, those notions are either proven or discarded until a clear picture of who they really are emerges. Even more fascinating (at least from a writer’s point of view) is when a person lowers their mask and shows you who they really are! In real life, as in fiction, that makes for a great story.

To wrap this all up, every writer needs to understand there is no correct way to write. All that really matters is getting the story written. How that’s accomplished is up to the individual. What works, works. End of story!
Speaking of story, here’s the blurb for Frank, Incense and Muriel. The story takes place the week before Christmas when the stress of the holidays is enough to frazzle anyone’s nerves. Tensions increase when a friend begs Muriel to team up with a sexy private investigator to find a missing woman. Forced to deal with an embezzler, kidnapper, and femme fatale is bad enough, but add Muriel’s zany yet lovable family to the mix and their desire to win the coveted D-DAY (Death Defying Act of the Year) Award, and the situation can only get worse. This story, book one of the Muriel Reeves Mysteries, is recipient of the prestigious 2011 Holt Medallion Award of Merit.

I’d like to encourage readers to enter my giveaway contest. Up for grabs is an e-copy of Frank, Incense and Muriel. Leave a comment and you're automatically entered. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on my blog on December 12, 2012. Good luck!

Thanks for the good article, Anne.

You can learn more about Anne K. Albert at her Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Pinterest and Amazon.


WS Gager said...

Anne: You are correct. If you aren't surprised by your characters, neither will the readers. My characters surprise me as does the plot and it comes out much better than I could have ever planned. Great post!
W.S. Gager on Writing

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I don't plot, but I write a lot of notes along the way. And yes, the characters always have a lot to say and do about what is going to happen.

Anne K Albert said...

Thanks, Wendy. I'm always relieved when I learn another author is a pantser. It adds credence to my own method!

Anne K Albert said...

When I'm stuck, Marilyn, I often grab a pen and sheet of paper. I'll record my thoughts and they help me make sense of where I am in the story, where I want to be, and then, I'll return to the actual writing.

The really strange thing, at least I think it's strange, is I never refer to those notes again. and 9 times out of 10 what follows next in the story has nothing to do with those notes!

I've learned to just accept it. They served their purpose and allowed me to continue writing. What more could I want?!

Patricia Gligor said...

I smiled as I read this, Anne. You admire people who can plot, then write, and I admire people like you who can sit down in front of a blank page and create.
I guess it's kind of like short people who wish they were taller and tall people who would give anything to be shorter. But, as you said, there is no "right" way to write. Each of us has to figure out what works for us.

Anne K Albert said...

You hit the nail on the head, Pat. We always want our reality to be different. For instance, I've dragged around a few extra pounds since I was a child. I read not too long ago our normal weight is pre-determined like our height and eye color. No matter what we do to change it, our body will eventually return to what feels right for it.

OH, how I wish that was false, but like being a plotter or pantser I think it's just who we are!

M.M. Gornell said...

From another "panster"--so nice to know I'm not alone. Loving this tour, hearing how everyone writes, wishing to be more like some, and feeling so glad when kindred styles, like yours, are revealed. Love your post, and several times--was right there besides you!


Anne K Albert said...

Glad to have you along for the ride, Mad!

Collin Kelley said...

I create a long synopsis of the story to keep me focused and then add lines of dialogue and plot points as I go along. It's a funny looking outline, but it works.

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