‘If you examine it carefully you will see that both the pen and the ink have given the writer trouble.The Hound of the Baskervilles
I write mysteries for Sherlock Holmes to solve. I am presently writing my fourth historical mystery novel. Each one evolved in it’s own way. If there is truth in the saying that books are like children, this one is the hellion.
Nothing like the other three. The first taught me how to write novels, the second followed that pattern. The third decided to be completely different from them. But this fourth is from another planet.
You will still recognize my characters: Sherlock, Doctor John, Irene, Rachel, Mrs. Hudson, and those who come to Holmes for assistance. It is the conceptualizing that is completely different.
I must apologize to my characters. This time it is they who have had to catch up with me. The book has travelled to places other than London. Some of it is being written here in my writer’s cabin, but I must confess, I wintered in Los Angeles.
The city that encompasses Hollywood is as unusual a town as it has been hyped up to be. The rich and famous live in the beautiful Hollywood Hills which surround the rest of us. We bump into each other every once in a while. The weather though sunny and warm most of the time also has smog similar to the peasouper fogs of 19th-Century London.
But how do I include my characters, here? Do I put Sherlock in surfer shorts? Doctor Watson in a Tesla Roadster? Oh, there are so many backgrounds and scenes I’d love to be able to use. But Los Angeles was farmland in the 19th-Century. Unless one is writing a spoof, one of the necessities of writing historical novels is to be historically accurate. So much of my research goes out the window. If I have chosen to write about the first six months of 1881 and the perfect historical event happened in July 1881, I can’t use it. Back to research.
This book is happening by fits and starts. It seems my Muse is indeed wearing surfer shorts and is also engrossed by the exciting sport. Though I have overall themes for the book, my scenes are scattered and disconnected. They are good scenes but I can’t find where they connect, or how they will lead up to my finale. If you find yourself in similar circumstances, I highly recommend you write them anyway, even if you don’t know where they fit. The act of writing alone may stir the creative pot and eventually lead you and your imagination to the right place.
I kept writing. Sometimes believing in it, sometimes not. I have many wonderful but stand-alone chapters: An opening, a few leading scenes, a perilous boat-train voyage. Then with a few days of polishing, I uncovered the perfect climax and denouement.
So like Sherlock Holmes, I now must reason backwards.
This is safe sure ground for an author of Holmes and Watson novels. I know the application of Sherlock Holmes’ method will lead me to completion. I am far from finished, still have a way to go, but I now know the path and that Holmes will lead me there.
Watson is saying, “It is all so absurdly simple.” And all’s right with the world.
Never give up. Even if nothing makes sense. Even if your Muse is off surfing the waves. Trust your writing will get you through to the end.
And then you can begin your second draft!
Award-Winning author, Gretchen Altabef, publishes with MX, Belanger Books, Mondadori, and Mystery Magazine. These Scattered Houses, in Sherlock Holmes’ own voice, chronicles the conclusion of his ‘Great Hiatus’. In Remarkable Power of Stimulus, Holmes finds London awash in murders, anarchists threatening Paris, and the return of Irene Adler. Under surveillance by Moriarty’s henchmen, Holmes steps into Baker Street knowing he will find Watson’s friendship and unerring aim are as dependable as the British Rail. THE KEYS OF DEATH is a genesis story of the young occupants of No. 221B Baker Street.
Do you enjoy my stories? Are there ways they could have been improved? Please help me and future readers of my books by posting a review on Amazon. Doing so would be incredibly helpful. Thanks in advance, Gretchen.