The Plot Beast | author’s note

I’m now well into writing the tenth book in the series. In June, my seedling of an idea blossomed into the beginning of a story, and I dove headfirst into the first half. Chapter after chapter flew down, characters took form and were brought to life.

And then last Monday, I opened the 41,000-word file, scrolled to the very end—and found myself staring blankly at the page.

I didn’t hit a wall creatively, exactly. I had plenty more to say, plenty of ideas about what would happen next. No, I’d come to the problematic point I seem to always reach about now… I had no idea where the plot was going.


The vile plot beast, waiting to pounce.

Plots are tricky for me, but maybe that’s a universal problem. Since I’ve chosen to write suspense stories, I need to make sure that there’s coherence to the narrative, believable motives for the heroes and villains, plausible villains who don’t just get handily thrown in at the end out of nowhere. Even if my books are somewhat formulaic, I like to throw in a surprising twist of some kind, keep readers’ interest engaged until the resolution. It would probably be smart to spend more time on this at the beginning, but I never do. Murders and mayhem happen long before I have any idea why.

By this point I usually know how I want things to resolve for the main character, that isn’t nearly as much work. I know I want her to have reached a certain conclusion about herself or her life (so far my heroines have all been women), I can see very clearly what will happen to her because of the mystery and what it means for her immediate future. The personal and character-driven aspects of my stories fall into place much more easily than the mysteries, which is partly why I don’t completely fit into the mystery genre. I land somewhere between mystery, suspense and plain old fiction, but unfortunately where Amazon is concerned, genre categories are required, so I try to advertise as accurately as possible.

All week I tried to distract myself from the plot beast prowling at the edge of my mind. The beast who always watches as I attempt to ravel up a clever and functional plot, one I can successfully unravel in the rest of the book. It’s a sneery and challenging creature, very hard to please. I tried once already, jotting down a long series of complicated, illogical notes about who and why and how. The beast had a good laugh at that one.

My second try may be better. I hope it is. I hope I can come up with a viable intrigue, weaving it into the characters and settings, making sense of it, finding that degree of believability that’s so necessary for any kind of fiction. Once I finish the book, I can go back to adjust pieces of the narrative and fill up plot holes, but the story just won’t work without it.

To be honest, given my utterly haphazard process of plotting, I’m kind of amazed any of them have.

– Emily

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