Austin might be famous for the South-by-Southwest Conference, but the Texas Book Festival is no slouch. Last week, I listened to Phillipa Gregory, the Book Doctors, and many others, but my favorite session brought together three mystery writer,s each with a series set in the Great American West. C.M. Wendleboe, Craig Johnson, and Margaret Coel shared stories about their characters, writing process, and why they do what they do.
As a long-time Tony Hillerman fan, I've read many mysteries set in the West. Nothing beats sitting on the back porch with a Western mystery, eating a chopped beef BBQ sandwich, washing it down with a Shiner Bock while trying like hell to keep the sauce out of the keys on the Kindle. Maybe there is a place for paper books, after all.
Each author's personality came out as they spoke of their work, why they write the characters the way they do, and the price they pay for living as storytellers.
The big takeaway? Each author confessed they write "why done it?" not "who done it?" When asked if they write by inspiration or outline, Craig and Margaret gave detailed reasons as to why outlining is the only way to go. Think of it as road map, they each said. And both said they did things to their main heroes in the first novel they would have never done if they'd only realized they were writing a series.
Note to self. An outline for the book is insufficient. Must write an outline for the SERIES. Duh. Sounds so simple, doesn't it?
Hear that noise? It's my shredder, consuming a flawed outline. I'm back to the drawing board, only this time, I have a tool that matches my ambition.