As I am wrapping up the first complete draft of the second Carrie Shatner Mystery, I thought I would take a couple minutes to explain the unconventional process I went through while writing this book.
Way back when I first invented Carrie Shatner, I had grandiose dreams of this being a multi-volume series of at least twenty books. In my naivety I had gone so far as to plot out ideas and pick out titles for each of the books. It didn't take me long to realize that (A) that's not exactly how this works, and (B) I was trying to bite off far more than I could chew.
By the time I signed my contract with BookEnds LLC in July 2014, and my agent began sending out Criminal Misdeeds to publishers, I had long since left behind my grandiose dreams behind. I still had dreams of there being a Carrie Shatner Mystery series, but I had scaled back on how many books I was planning to write. Instead of twenty or more books, I scaled it back to four. I figured that four is a much more manageable number. I could tell Carrie's story in four books. And it still left the possibility open for more books in the series.
Still, that's not quite how this works.
After more rejections than I want to count, Camel Press made an offer for the first Carrie Shatner Mystery. The offer included two more books. Two, not three. Which was fine with me. I happily and enthusiastically accepted the offer. (Thank you, Camel Press!)
After accepting the offer from Camel Press, and signing the contract, I had to sit down and decide what to do next. As I said, I had been planning for the series to be four books. The first book was with the publisher, and I had a second book written. I also had ideas for the third and fourth. So what was I going to do?
A few weeks before Camel Press made the offer, I went back and reread the manuscript for the second Carrie Shatner Mystery. I finished writing it back in 2015, and hadn't really touched it since. There wasn't much point considering the first book hadn't sold yet. But, deep down, I must have sensed that things were about to change, because I woke up one morning and knew it was time to get back to that second book. After rereading it, and making notes on sections that I felt needed rewritten, revised, or completely redone, I then set it aside for a couple weeks. I needed time to think everything over. I still liked the book, but I now felt like there were parts that just didn't work. I was still trying to sort things out when my agent called and told me I had been offered a three book deal.
In some ways, getting the three book deal made things easier for me. The plans I had for the fourth Carrie book got bumped up to the third. Yes, some of the secondary storylines have to change, but the main storyline (the actual mystery) will stay the same. For me, what will happen in this book - the murder Carrie is tasked with solving - will bring up ghosts from her past and cause her to finally take a good look at her law-breaking, morally deficient family members. This is how her story has to end.
But what about the second book I had written, and the ideas I had for the other book I had planned out? What was I going to do about those? Like I said, there were parts of the second book that I still really liked. And there were parts that I didn't. I also loved my victim and circumstances surrounding the murder that I had come up with for what I had planned on being the third book. It seemed I only had one option when it came to the second Carrie Shatner Mystery - I decided to take the second book I had written, and completely redo it to fit the victim/circumstances of my other idea.
In some ways, this was easier said than done. I had a complete book written - with major and minor storylines. Deciding what needed changed to fit my new major storyline wasn't always easy. I must have rewritten the first five chapters twenty or more times - changing sections over and over until the right muse finally spoke to me. Once that muse spoke, everything seemed to just fall into place. I also had to ditch one of the minor storylines because it no longer fit into the book. But it took me a couple weeks, and a lot of rewrites, to finally realize I was trying too hard to include something that was no longer relevant. Once that storyline was no longer in the picture, it also made figuring out the rest of the book very easy.
As I wrote new scenes and revised scenes I had previously written, I was able to quickly power through the first draft. A lot of it was already written, and just needed some small changes to fit the new book. Some scenes needed more revision than others, but the majority of the book was already written.
The first few weeks of redoing the second Carrie Shatner Mystery were stressful, frustrating, and made me question my sanity on an almost daily basis. But once I figured it out, the fog cleared and all of the puzzle pieces fell into place. Melding the two ideas has resulted in a much stronger and compelling story. It wasn't a conventional process that I went through to write the second Carrie Shatner Mystery, but, in the end, it worked.