The Blog Tour, Day # 7: Beth Anderson

November 30th, 2011

Beth Anderson is a multi-published, award winning author in several genres including romance and mainstream crime fiction.

A full time author, she now lives in Washington state. She has appeared on Chicago’s WGN Morning Show, The ABC Evening News, as well as numerous other radio and cable television shows. She has guest lectured at Purdue University, Moraine Valley College, and many libraries and writers’ conferences. She’s also the possessor of an awesomely productive writing routine I can only envy.

Beth, what’s your writing routine? How did you evolve it? Why does it work for you? Does it break down from time to time, and if so, why? How do you get it up and running again?

On a normal day I start writing very early, around seven, eight a.m. and continue until anywhere from one to four, depending on whether I’m on a roll at the time. If I’m struggling I’ll stop at one, maybe before, depending on how frustrated I am. Almost always, if I sleep on it the answer will come to me overnight.

I always plan on writing a chapter a week. I’m doing one point of view per chapter with two alternating leads in my Raven Morressey series and it’s working well for me. I have found my books always come in between 85,000 to 95,000 words. I pretty much say all I need to say in that many words because I tend to write tight and I edit so it becomes even tighter, so that’s always about the word count I automatically come to.

My first book was a Harlequin Superromance. Their required word count was around 85,000 and that’s how many I wound up with. That’s pretty much a constant for me now, with one caveat. The more subplots I come up with, the longer the book will be, and I do love those subplots. I always make sure every subplot has something to do with the main plot and is woven through it.

If there are things going on in my family that seriously disrupt my life, yes, my whole routine can break down. As an example, I was writing when we found out my mother had Alzheimer’s Disease. I was her primary caregiver, along with a nursing home in her last years. During that time, writing was my salvation because I was pretty much running on fumes 24/7, but after she died, it was as if my whole world had stopped, and it had.

It was several years before I could either read or write a book. Emotional stress can easily make your mind go blank. I wasn’t sure I would ever write again, but one day I got tired of being bored and forced myself to begin the same routine again, and I wound up writing three new books in a row. Morning remains the most comfortable writing time for me. I’m a morning person anyhow. Later on in the day if I have time, I read or do other things.

How do you develop your ideas? Do you plot in advance or write by the seat of your pants? Once again, how did you evolve this approach and why does it work for you?

The first thing I do is decide what I want to write, then I research everything I can think of pertaining to location and anything else I need to know that I’m not sure of. While that’s going on, I’m making copious notes by hand in a notebook and at the same time, in that notebook, I’m making notes on whatever comes to my mind that may spur a crucial scene. I’m also, during that time, doing extensive backgrounds on my characters, learning more about them, getting them into my head so well that I know exactly how they’ll act or react to different situations. I know them all well inside and out.

At the same time I’m doing that, I’m thinking and making notes on things I can do to make my leads miserable. The ability to multitask does come in handy sometimes. 😉

Something entirely different goes on while I’m asleep. I often dream key scenes. This has happened on every book I’ve ever written, and it can happen years before it ever shows up in a manuscript. The culminating crucial scene in RAVEN TALKS BACK came straight from a nightmare I had where the same thing was happening to me that eventually wound up happening to Raven. The dream was so vivid and so powerful that when the time came to use it, I was able to write it in vivid color and detail without stopping.

I start writing when I feel I’m ready, and I’ll noodle over two or three chapters, getting a feel for the story. Then I’ll stop and plot a few more chapters out. Nothing formal, no clear outline, just notes jotted in my little notebook. This works well for me because I always know how the book will end before I start writing. I think it’s important to decide on this in the beginning because you have to know where you’re going so that knowledge will keep you from veering off into another story.

New writers often joke about their secondary characters taking over the book, or about the book itself taking off in a new direction other than the one they first thought it would, but if you know what the ending IS, and always, no matter what, head in that direction, and always make sure any subplots are heading toward that same culmination, you avoid a lot of problems. The middle in my books might change with different things that come up, but my ending is always the one I started out with.

Thanks, Beth — an amazing writing routine.  Beth’s newest book is the Raven Morrissey Mystery Raven Talks Back.  Her website is http://www.bethanderson-hotclue.com and her blog can be found at http://www.bethanderson-hotclue.com/blog

For those of you who wonder what I’m up to today, I’m over at Anne K. Albert’s blog site, which is http://anne-k-albert.blogspot.com/and I’m answering questions, including some personal ones — maybe you shouldn’t read it.

9 Responses to “The Blog Tour, Day # 7: Beth Anderson”

  1. Mike Orenduff Says:

    A thought provoking post, Beth. It’s interesting how you keep the ending firm but let things change in the middle to accommodate the fluidity we experience once we are into a story.

  2. EverettK Says:

    Thanks, Beth, great interview/blog. Your method sounds very close to what works for me in my creative endeavors, except I’m terrible at writing stuff down, so I end up trying to juggle everything in my head. 🙂

  3. M.M. Gornell Says:

    Very interesting, Beth, learning how you write. Love hearing other author’s talk about how and what…

    Madeline

  4. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Welcome, Beth, and thanks for the wonderful interview. You and I work very differently — I never know how a book will end, and when I think of one, I’m continually trying to top it as I work to get there. But there are a lot of ways to write a book, and one of the great things about this blog tour is that I’m reading so many fresh insights.

  5. Jean Henry Mead Says:

    Loved your post, Beth, as well as THE RAVEN TALKS BACK. Inever know the conclusion of a novel until I get there and sometimes don’t even know who the killer is until I’m near the end, so I admire the fact that you do.

  6. Alice Duncan Says:

    Great post, Beth. This line: “…but if you know what the ending IS, and always, no matter what, head in that direction, and always make sure any subplots are heading toward that same culmination, you avoid a lot of problems…” really resonated with me!

  7. W.S. Gager Says:

    Beth: Great post. I to find that writing problems get resolved if I sleep on them. The brain is amazing that it keeps thinking while you sleep.
    Wendy
    W.S. Gager on Writing

  8. Anne K. Albert Says:

    Like you, Beth, I often will sleep on a problem and have the answer by morning.

    Unlike you, I have an inkling of how I want the ending to go, but it’s not written in stone. It changes. Sometimes as early as the first chapter when the person I think is the villain ends up dead! That really messes things up, but makes for interesting writing.

    Bottom line, each writer has their own process–and that’s a wonderful thing!

  9. Brenda Says:

    Beth, I really enjoyed this post! The line that resonated with Alice resonated with me and I am going to copy it down as a reminder. That is so interesting about your dreaming about key points in advance.

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