One Week Until NaNoWriMo Kickoff

I’ve been absent a bit, madly working on three plots so I’ll have enough material to take me to 210,000 words and beyond this year. Not that I’m guaranteeing anything! Always good to be prepared, though. Three plots seems like a lot, but one never knows when one might get bogged down and need to start again, to get the true win.

Besides, all three stories are ones I’ve been aiming to write. If I finish one and start the other two, I’ll be golden. (No, wait; Sonia’s the Golden in the household.)

Hard to believe that there’s just a week left before the opening bell. I’ve even gotten wind of some “Sooners” who may break over the line early and try to take the best sentences for themselves. I suppose it happens.

Besides, just like it’s always five o’clock somewhere, it’s always midnight somewhere else…

Hurry-Scurry, One More Week…

Every Murder Mystery Plot. Ever.

This entry is part of a series, Mystery Plotting»

Well, that’s a bit strong. However, an article in The Boston Globe purports to cover them all, in a few hundred words.

For beginners, there’s the Obvious Killer story. Yes, the butler really did do this one. Or that guy with all the sharp tools, who’s always hacking up something. You know, the guy with the far-away look in his eyes, who snarls at kittens. Yep, it’s him. He really did it. You were maybe fooled for a bit because he was too obvious? Oh really; you knew it all along.

Or there’s the Tertiary Perpetrator. Alias T. Perp. Now, T. Perp hasn’t been seen since the opening act, except in the background at the opera or something, the night of the murder. You had no reason to suspect her. But little Miss Tertiary has been one very busy grimalkin. She may have used poison, or a sharp knitting needle. But she’s the one who did it. Or maybe she’s been friendly and helpful, a true paragon. Turns out she’s leading you astray. If you get too close, though, she’ll get you too; so watch your step.

Naturally, the Master of Deduction has to make a showing. Whether Sherlock or Hercule, Nero or Jessica, they always seem to have a convenient corpse nearby. With clues aplenty. Many of them not quite all they seem. Only a true logician can cut through all the fog and catch the killer. If the killer doesn’t get them first, of course.

The final option is the Big Twist. The one thing that’s for-sure true turns out not to be. The kitten is really a skunk. The narrator’s the murderer, all along. Or there really wasn’t a murder, as the victim is still alive, somewhere. Lots of these twists get used, some to the point where they’re a bit of a joke, like the insurance scam death.

Yep, that’s pretty much got all the elements in hand. Unless you read The Patchwork Girl by Niven, and then you’ll get even more ideas for your next mystery…

Seems Joss Whedon Agrees With Me…

This entry is part of a series, Mystery Plotting»

Found this webpage, where Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity and more) discusses writing. He doesn’t specify murder mysteries, but he does use big pieces of paper, charts, graphs, colored pens and so on when he’s providing structure to his stories.

Like my plot lab. Validation!

So you don’t need to borrow from me, you can steal from the best in the business…

To the Laboratory, Igor!

Two Weeks to Go…

Not a lot of time left to get ready! I’ve been adding details to my plots and storyboards, outlining the pieces I think will be tough to write. I’ve also been spending time on the forums, and practicing my Dragon and other software skills.

I think I’ll give WriteWay Pro a try this go-round, at least for the first work. If it slows me down too much, I’ll back up and go the usual route.

I’ve built my word tracking spreadsheet and populated it with the new goal. Looks mighty empty; that used to scare me, back when I was a noob. Now it gets my heart rate up a bit—I’m ready to go!

I also put together my sponsorship page and set a goal there. Heck, I really don’t expect to get anything. However, if you don’t ask, you for sure don’t get…

Antsy-Pansty: Let’s Get Started!

Looking to Bag a Big Impossapotamus This Season

It’s still three weeks until the kickoff, but I’m already on the hunt. Or at least getting the big guns all polished and loaded. I intend to score my biggest win ever this year at NaNoWriMo, something like 210,000 words. It’s aggressive, but I had so many days last year that were around 7,000 each that I’m confident I can make it.

I’ll need a huge start at the jump, though, so I have to get my research and plots in order. Back to work!

Impossapotamus Season’s Almost Here…

Not Much Writing Today; Pepper Jelly in Progress…

I’m taking a short break from preparations for NaNoWriMo. I have a ton of peppers to process, so I’ll be cooking up some habanero jelly batches today. In and around other small chores, such as making dinner. Minor items like that.

I hope your NaNo preps are going well! I’ll be back tomorrow, maybe…

Hot Stuff in Process…

Uh Oh; I May Have Messed Up…

Yep, I gone and done it. I volunteered.

Looks like I’ll be the General for the great Word War between Texas and Maryland. Austin and Houston on one side, Baltimore and poor relations on the other. We lost a close one last year; this year’s gonna be different.

Maybe we’ll get some payback for the Rangers going out early too? We’ll see…

Salute It or Paint It…

Mystery Plots: Simple (and Not So Simple) Schemes on the Web

This entry is part of a series, Mystery Plotting»

Naturally I’m not the only person presenting thoughts about murder mystery plots on the Web. Before going into detail on my woes, I’ll share some of the sites I’ve enjoyed reading. I’m not sure what I’ve incorporated from each of these, if anything. Some of the techniques and tips I’ve found in books, or made up similar on my own. Take a peek and see what you might could use:

eHow has a short article hitting all the high points for a do-it-yourself murder mystery.

If you want ten rules for mystery writing, try this list.

Another top ten, this time solid ideas for stories.

Maybe you like the number 12 better? Check out these dozen points for plotting the perfect mystery.

Or perhaps a twelve-step program to a mystery novel? (No, not THAT program.) Here’s a good one, in twelve chapters.

Sandra Parshall points out that clues drive the mystery.

Here’s an article that purports to expose every mystery plot. Ever.

The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has a fine site up on writing, and teaching about, mysteries. Great bibliographies too.

Jim Williams writes mysteries that are well-received, and spookily prophetic. His thoughts on writing whodunnits can be found here.

Crime and suspense are related, overlapping genres, and Lesley Grant-Adamson has written some fine examples. She talks about her philosophy of writing and story-telling here.

When pulp fiction ruled the genre many authors and pundits wrote lists about what constituted proper detective fiction. Here’s Ronald Knox’s Decalogue, written as a (partially tongue-in-cheek) Ten Commandments.

Lester Dent, of Doc Savage fame, had a simple formula that he claimed worked every time. You can read it here.

In closing, G. K. Chesterton (an author of some small repute himself) once penned an oath that all authors of detective fiction should swear by: Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?

Can’t argue with that…

Borrow From the Best; It’s Called Research…


Time to get cranked up! In the immortal words of Rudyard Kipling,

Back to the Army again, sergeant,

Back to the Army again.

Rather too free with my fancies? Wot—me?

I’m back to the Army again!

Now if that won’t light your fire, your wood’s all wet…

Time Marches On—

Mystery Plots: On Paper? Or Software?

This entry is part of a series, Mystery Plotting»

In this stream of posts on Mystery Plotting (and elsewhere) I’ve mentioned using large paper strips as part of the plot building process. While that’s nice, it can get to be Very Messy. And once you have a paper plot in hand, it’s often not that convenient to use.

Besides that, what if your witch’s familiar pet cat helps you out by spilling your morning coffee all over the papers, just as you were about to complete the plot line? (No, turning the cat into slippers won’t solve that problem, though it is personally satisfying and does help keep your tootsies warm during NaNoWriMo.) Note: Attempting to avoid the spilled coffee by never finishing the plot paper doesn’t help; Murphy doesn’t like it when you try to manipulate him that way.

There are ways to do all the things I’ve talked about electronically. On the premise that free is the best price, where starving artists are concerned, I’d like to draw your attention to a set of tools for concept mapping: Cmap Tools. Easy to build and use, concept maps (and their close cousin, mind maps) provide a nice pictorial interpretation of what you understand about a concept or related concepts.

Frankly, they’re a universal tool that adapts nicely to the needs of a story builder. The can show interrelationships, time progression and more. You can color code, mark and annotate to your heart’s content. You can brainstorm, refine, deepen, and yes, erase. Perfect!

There’s only one cost, hardly worth mentioning: You have to get and use the tool. And put up with becoming addicted…

Map Your Mind, Rule the Universe…