Monday, March 24, 2014

A 'Writing Process' Blog

Today is my day to post and participate in the continuing series “My Writing Process” blog tour. My writing friend, Douglas Quinn, who writes mysteries, historicals and children’s fiction, posted last week. You may read his blog at

What am I working on?

I generally have more than one project going at the same time. This is because ideas don’t develop and mature at the same time. The germ of a story may germinate for months or even years before it gets to the stage where I begin to put words on paper (or screen when working on computer). This also prevents what is commonly referred to as “writer’s block;” if I get stuck or bored with one project, moving to another soon gets me back on track. At the moment, my projects include:

An untitled seventh novel in the Sticks Hetrick crime series involving the murder of a young school teacher and birder in which Officer Flora Vastine is insisting on a more prominent role.

A third book in the Sheriff Sylvester Tilghman series (also untitled at this point) in which the body of Borough Burgess Zimmerman’s deceased mother-in-law is snatched from the funeral parlor and held for ransom. Lydia is also dealing with competition for Syl’s affection, which may prompt her to accept one of his many marriage proposals.

Closer to completion than either of these is a stand-alone historical mystery, tentatively titled “Something So Divine,” about a detective who finds himself defending a slow-witted boy accused of murder.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Difficult question to answer since I work in more than one genre. Probably a majority of mystery/suspense novels today are set in major metropolitan cities or exotic locations. My Hetrick series differs in being set in a small town, rural area—not that it’s unique in this. I could name dozens of other writers who’ve chosen the same type of location. My historical novels and stand-alones have also been set in smaller communities. These settings reflect the kinds of places I’ve lived over the years and not a particular distaste for the big city.

Why do I write what I do?

Though I read a wide selection of fiction and non-fiction, mysteries and history have always fired my interest and imagination the most. This may be a reflection of cutting my reading-eye-teeth on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson, Washington Irving and the like. Over time, I was influenced to try emulating the writing of those I admired with stories of my own.

How does my writing process work?
I’m not generally an outliner. I may jot some notes, though they’re usually so scant they’d be meaningless to someone else. Often I’ve thought out the story line in my head long before I start setting it down. Other times I may pitch in with just an image of a person, place or situation in mind and let the characters lead me from there. I don’t want to know too much ahead of time. I like to be surprised by my characters and hope the twists that provides will be equally entertaining to readers.

To continue the Writing Process blog tour on Monday, May 31, go to:

C. L. Swinney, author of Gray Ghost, an Amazon bestseller, is currently assigned to a Department of Justice task force that investigates crimes ranging from street level drug deals to homicides and complex cartel cases. You may view his blog  at

Roxe Anne Peacock is the author of Leave No Trace, Fatal Catch and the History Lover’s Cookbook. Her decade-long participation in Civil War reenactments and an avid interest in history inspired the above-mentioned cookbook. View her blog at


  1. John,
    I enjoyed learning about your writing process. I admire the way you can have more than one writing project going at the same time and that you can have a story in your head, or just a tiny part of one, and sit down to write.
    My process is the exact opposite. If I don't have a chapter-by-chapter outline to lead the way for me, I'm stuck after about a page. I don't always adhere to the outline because my characters have other plans but it's like a road map for me; I'm lost without it. And, when I'm writing a book, I'm so focused on it that, if I do come up with an idea for something else, I jot it down. I guess I'm one of those people who can't walk and chew gum at the same time. :)

  2. We all must work in our own way, Pat. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. We do have a similar writing m.o., John. Like you, I let the characters lead the way, which is both surprising and fun both for me and, hopefully, for my readers. Looking forward to your next novels. -- Doug

  4. Great insight as to your writing process and current project. Excellent work buddy!

  5. John, we really are kindred spirits. Next you need to do a cookbook. lol Our interests and writing styles are quite similar. I love reading all your posts. Enjoyed the Stick Hendricks series and am looking forward to reading more. Thank you for inviting me to post about my writing process next Monday.

  6. Thanks, Roxe Anne. A cookbook? For a skinny old guy, I do have a big interest in food and cooking. I'm contributing to one being developed by Oak Tree Press writers. Doing my own? I dunno. I've witnessed how much work goes into it.

  7. You are one very prolific writer, John. I like what you have to say about going back and forth with projects, rather than give in to "writer's block" -- and I enjoy learning more about you and your work. I'm not an outliner either, and thank God for all those notes scattered on the desk or in file folders. So many wind up in the mix!