by Julie Moffett, author of No Questions Asked
When I was asked to write this blog, it was suggested that since I’ve written such a long series (the Lexi Carmichael Mystery Series) over a period of more than 10 years, maybe people would be interested in knowing how or if I’d changed and developed as a writer. Did my process change with each book? Did I think about the books and characters any differently by Book #12 than I had at Book #1?
I thought it’d be easy to address these questions, but after contemplating them for a while, I realized it wasn’t that simple. While I have definitely developed, improved and changed as a writer over the course of the series, the writing process itself still remained largely the same for me, at least for the first four books. I would jot down plot items and characters in a notebook, create a working outline (from the end to the beginning) and write according to the outline. I was definitely a plotter verses a write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants (pantster) writer. Carina gave me an excellent editor from the get-go, Alissa Davis, and together we grew as a solid author-editor team, learning from each other (well, mostly me learning from her!), and making each book better as a result. However, by Book #5 in the series, I was writing a book every six months while finishing up an M.Ed, working full-time, and juggling two kids (one under five) as a single mom. There was no wiggle room for me to operate. By the end of the day, my writing time, I was exhausted. But somehow, I needed to write faster and cleaner. That led to an inevitable change in the way I wrote my books.
I’d played around with different methods for writing faster, but none seemed appealing to me until I decided to try storyboarding. I bought a science tri-fold board and a bunch of colored sticky notes, and began to plot. I use different-colored sticky notes to indicate what needs to be done in each chapter. For example, specific character growth is blue, action is yellow, green notes are series arc elements, while romance and mystery are noted on pink notes. Orange is used for secondary character growth and development. Using that process, I mapped out the book from end to beginning. Now I could see the whole story visually, and easily rearrange notes and chapters as needed by simply moving the sticky notes around on the board. Then, at the end of a long day, I could sit down to write and not have to wonder where I was in the story or what came next. I simply pulled down the sticky notes from the board for that chapter and began to write based on what was there. If I was stuck at a chapter for whatever reason, I skipped it and wrote ahead, realizing I could come back later to address it. Yes, gasp, I wrote out of order. It increased my writing speed exponentially and I was able to make my deadlines—thank goodness!
So, did I think about the characters any differently than I did at the beginning? Of course, because as I grew as a writer, my characters grew, too. They changed as I changed, and we all evolved during each book. Some specific character growth was planned from the beginning and intended to stretch out over the series, and some development evolved organically from the experiences that happened to them in each book. It wasn’t simple. Growing and stretching as a person (whether fictional or real) is a messy process filled with uncertainty, self-doubt and fears. But there are also the triumphs, the courage, and the miracle of finding the extraordinary within yourself to rise above difficult circumstances and learn from your mistakes. Our fictional characters are human, and if an author want them to be relatable, then they have to be genuine in their actions and behaviors.
It’s certainly no surprise to my readers that I love spending time with Lexi and her friends, because they are like family to me. It always warms my heart to hear that Lexi, as well as other characters in the books, have become like friends to those who read about them. Because in the end, that’s really the end goal of an author—to make the reader care enough about the characters that they feel invested in their well-being and future.
About No Questions Asked:
One last fling (with danger) before the ring?
Nothing’s that simple when you’re a geek girl. Julie Moffett’s beloved Lexi Carmichael mystery series returns with No Questions Asked.
Lexi Carmichael: saving scientists one snake at a time.
Weddings aren’t my thing—never have been. But eloping would break my mother’s heart, especially since the president of the United States put in a good word for me with his daughter’s wedding planner. I’m going to have the wedding of the year…whether I like it or not.
Before we can say I do, Slash and I are flying off to the Brazilian rain forest. Our mission: stop hackers from stealing a vaccine that could save millions of lives. I thought it’d be easy, but from the moment we step off the plane, I’m up to my neck in trouble.
After an attack by drug-runners, being kidnapped and discovering that the bad guy is even worse than we’d imagined, I’m pretty sure someone in our group is working for the enemy. And they’re succeeding. I’ll have to use all my geek skills to stop the bad guys if I’m going to make it home in time to tie that knot.