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General Insights From Reading And Writing

When I finished writing 'Seed Of A Lord,' I came to a sudden realization. Mostly, I read historical murder mysteries. This is a subset of a subset, where you have murder mysteries branching into cozies, which then branch into cozies that happen to take place many decades or centuries in the past. I have read far more of these than the 30 or so that a publishing agent I read recommended. Well, why force myself to dabble in genres I don't read? I'll write a murder mystery using the characters in 'Seed of A Lord.' I did that in a couple of months.

As a rough draft, it's all right. Whether it should ever see daylight is a different question. I then had a story that I felt naturally came from the murder mystery. That was less mystery and more adventure. Whether that particular story should ever be read by human eyes is an interesting thought experiment that I may never test in real life. I plan on writing the third one in the series starting in April, for Camp Nanowrimo. This gives me a little time to re-group and contemplate my stories.

What have I learned so far? What general insights do I bring to my next story?

1. I'm definitely a plantser. I don't have the patience for working things out in detail ahead of time, and I find that over-plotting saps my will to write. It's constricting. On the other hand, I need a general plan to hang my vignettes on and keep my thoughts coherent. I need the plot points mapped out for me so I can stay motivated and on-track. It lets me get my ideas down quickly, too, before they evaporate. I can fill in the details later.

2. Plot structure. 'Seed Of A Lord' more or less could be tracked, with a darkest hour and definite point of no return. The other rough drafts- the second one feels like it has a tight enough structure, though the point of no return is a hair late. The third one is more meandering. I might need to bone up on plot structure.

3. I am going to create my own country for my stories so that I have some wiggle room for my adventure. However, it will demand a certain amount of world-building and planning on my part. I'll have to sit down and draw out my country and work out my dramatis personae.

4. I've certainly learned more, and now I want to have a copy of the Picatrix. Wizarding book!

5. I need to work on character development. I am having a hard time letting my babies be wrong, but you can't have them be always right. Phoo-bunnies, as my sister would say.

Other general notes:

1. Anne Perry does just a little too much navel gazing and discussing everyone's feelings. Don't get me wrong: I love her work, and she is at her best when she can produce an intricate plot. However, she spends a lot of time on people contemplating how much they love each other, and that cuts into things such as solving crimes. Granted, she never leaves you hanging and her characters are fully realized. Her plots just feel ever so slightly forced and vague, while the melodrama seems to get ratcheted up.

2. I'm kind of done with the female mastermind behind the murder. Susanna Gregory relies heavily on it, and I can see it from a mile away. I'm starting to think that she isn't overly fond of women. There's something kind of obnoxious about the 'woman plotting to get rich murders some guys and is a master manipulator' when the book is set in the 1300's. It's like you're saying that the only type of women who wants some agency and control of her own life must be evil. It gets even more annoying when your other female characters constantly dip out of the plot when they are, say, running their lives. The last Thomas Chaloner mysteries at least gave the ultimate evil mastermind position to a guy and one who actually has the power to carry it off, but Gregory had to throw in her one femme fatale as a sub-evil genius. I suspected it early on to, and Ms. Gregory is normally so good at the twist ending.

3. In a way, horror and science fiction are such good buddies because they are both fantasies made 'realistic' enough to believe and given a dark twist. Someone needs to explore this.

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