By Thonie Hevron
I’ve written four books (three published) now, so I feel like I should know a bit about story-telling. But here’s the thing: they’re all different. My first book, By Force or Fear, wrote itself. I struggled with details but the story was already in my head. Still, the ending was problematic. I had a huge climax scene imagined with a mudslide taking the heroine’s storm ravaged-house down a hillside. But I got to the end and decided that instead of a random act of nature, I had to serve red-hot justice up on the villain. I wanted the heroine to shoot him in self-defense. I eventually decided against that because I didn’t like the improbability of this heroine (a sheriff’s deputy) shooting two people in this book. Statistically, very few law enforcement officers shoot people (in direct contradiction to the CNN headlines this morning about cop shooting deaths topping 1,000 this year, as in two previous years). The bad guy’s eventual death was at the hand of one of his henchmen (really? Does anyone use that word?). A kind of retribution for the villain and redemption for the henchman. When asked why, he said, “I couldn’t let him kill a cop.”
Intent to Hold took me a year to write, front to back. I’d had years to consider this sequel and by the time I sat down, the story poured out. Easy-peasy.
Not so with With Malice Aforethought. I wrote this story around a single scene I’d had in my head for years. The rest of the plot I had to work on. I completed the story in 2015 submitted it to Public Safety Writers Association Contest (PSWA) in unpublished novel category. I won second place and sent it to my publisher. She sent me a contract, which I signed and returned. Unfortunately, she suffered a persistent health problem that resulted in returning my rights. Something bugged me about the ending, even though my publisher liked it and so did PSWA, I got back to work on it. It took me almost a year to get it right—and then, it was with the help of my critique group. One member, Andy Gloege, is particularly adept at finding the path not taken. He wrote a couple of paragraphs that took Malice in an entirely different direction. Yet it was where the characters were going!
I cannot stress enough how important it is to listen to other professionals, particularly those close to you. Andy had been through three books with Nick and Meredith. He knew them almost as well as I did. Armed with his suggestions, I wrote the ending of Malice with a smile on my face. I knew I’d gotten it right this time. Two years later.
A writer’s journey will always be a forward motion. If it isn’t, get help. Talk to other writers, readers who you can trust, professional editors, agents. Read books by Donald Maass and Stephen King. Read blogs like Jane Friedman or this one!
Today, I begin Friday’s Writer’s Notes with guest authors’ thoughts about when their stories are over— “When is it THE END”? You’ll hear from writers in many genres: detective mysteries, historical romance, cozy mysteries, memoir and police procedurals. This topic was so popular that there will be posts on Wednesdays and Fridays as well as our normal cop vignettes on Sunday mornings.
In August, I’ll return to Friday Writer’s Notes and Sunday cop posts.