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“Kill a Man…Start a Cemetery!”

I was reading a discussion this morning on writing rituals. A questioner asked, “what rituals do you have when you finish a book or before you start a new book?” Since I just finished my first book, I don’t have an established writing ritual… yet. Oh sure, I did a happy dance when I got the “your book is published” email. Frankly, I did a happier dance when I logged on and saw that I had my first sale.

I didn’t take the time to clean out all my files as one author suggested she does as she finishes each book. Another author said she makes a soundtrack to go along with her as she writes each new book and she adds and removes songs as she goes. I was excited to get going again and I just jumped right in.

At the end of Relic, because I intend for it to be a series, I solved the mystery for my readers but I left one small thread about a budding relationship hanging. I picked up with that thread and carried my readers right into the next novel (tentatively titled, ‘Busy Bees’).

Book 2 will stand alone so I had to give the reader just a bit of background but, I still managed to kill a man on the first page to start off the story with a bang… or, in this case, a thud! Now that I’ve almost finished chapter one, I’m finding myself just a bit stuck. I know how I want to carry my original hanging thread through and I know the crux of this story going from the dead man to finding out how he got that way but I just can’t seem to map out how I’m going to get from points “A” and “B” to points “C” and “D”.

My dilemma reminds me of a visit I made on a touring vacation out west several years ago. We drove by car across South Dakota and Wyoming and took in some incredible sites and made some interesting little side trips all along the way. One thing we did was pay a visit to the cemetery in Deadwood, South Dakota where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried. It is an actual, in use cemetery but sightseer’s can pay a fee and tour it on foot. Sounds a little morbid, I know, but it was quite interesting.

When we exited the cemetery, a different attendant was at the window than was there when we had paid to enter. We stopped to ask her some questions. She was quite knowledgeable about the history of the area and, rightly so. She was Helen Rezatto, a local historian and the author of the book (for sale right there at the window), “Mount Moriah: Kill a Man…Start a Cemetery” about the history of Deadwood and its own Boot Hill cemetery from it’s earliest beginnings. The local history book got from “A” to “B” smooth and easy because it had a logical series of events to follow as all history books do.

I admit it; I was a “pantser” for my first novel. I knew the exact story I wanted to tell so I flew by the seat of my pants. I had a very spare outline that I used just to keep myself on track. This new story isn’t as cemented in my head as the first one was and so I’m struggling along. Perhaps it’s time that I started a useful writing ritual that includes making a more detailed outline of where my story is going?