Stitching It Together

Sometimes I write in a linear fashion. Sometimes I don’t. Then I have to stitch everything together.

Since I returned from Bouchercon, I’ve been hard at work on Death Deals a Hand, the latest installment in the adventures of Zephyrette Jill McLeod, who rides the rails on the California Zephyr, the sleek silver streamliner train which was also called the Silver Lady.

In this book, she’s on a westbound run of the train, traveling from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area in April 1953. As was the case in her earlier outing, Death Rides the Zephyr, the passengers include an assortment of people with clashing personalities and secrets to hide.

There will be a murder, of course. I’ve already written those chapters. But right now I’ve just gotten the train to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and the murder takes place somewhere in Utah.

The book starts before the train’s arrival in Denver. After writing those initial chapters that take the train into the Mile High City, I jumped ahead and wrote the scenes where the murder is discovered, then I wrote scenes to stitch the plot together.

Then I went off to Bouchercon in Long Beach and spent one night in a stateroom on the Queen Mary. After having afternoon tea on board, wandering around the ship, I took the self-guided audio tour, climbing from deck to deck and looking at the ship’s equipment and relics of the Queen Mary’s past.

And the photos, of course, that decorate many of the decks, showing famous passengers who crossed the Atlantic on the ship. And the not-so-famous, like the thousands of servicemen who made the crossing when the liner served as a troop ship during World War II.

What does the Queen Mary have to do with the California Zephyr? Well, I use all the material that comes to me, no matter the source.

I decided that several of my train passengers have traveled aboard the Queen Mary, one an Englishwoman and the other an American veteran.

So I’ve written those scenes and now I’m stitching them together with the scenes I’ve already written, figuring out where they belong in the plot.

Perhaps it’s like making a quilt. But I’m making up the pattern as I go along.


One Response

  1. Hey, Janet:
    While I don’t quite feel like it’s a quilt (for me, anyway), I find the building/outlining of a story by far the hardest part of writing. And also, in many ways the most satisfying, because once I’ve nailed my story, the rest is [relatively] easy — and fun.

    Nice piece.


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