Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Writing Process by Marilyn Meredith

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over twenty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest "Dispel the Mist" from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, "An Axe to Grind" is the latest from Oak Tree Press and "No Sanctuary" is a finalist in the mystery/suspense category of the Epic best in e-books contest .

She is a member of EPIC, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She was an instructor for Writer’s Digest School for ten years, served as an instructor at the Maui Writer’s Retreat and many other writer’s conferences. She makes her home in Springville CA, much like Bear Creek where Deputy Tempe Crabtree lives. Visit her at
Stiletto Gang:


My Writing Process by Marilyn Meredith

Every time I begin a new book, it’s a tad different. I write two different series, the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series–the latest is An Axe to Grind–and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series with Dispel the Mist being the last one out.

I collect newspaper articles, notes I’ve taken at Sisters in Crime meetings when a police officer or detective or anyone with interesting stories is the speaker. I also print things out for the Internet that pique my interest. Usually when I’m finishing one book, I go from one series to the next, I have a seed of an idea growing about the next book I want to write.

My research for an earlier Tempe Crabtree book led me to learn more about a legendary creature who lives or lived on the Tule River Indian reservation and I knew had I had to find out more and actually visit the place where he and his family are picture on the walls of a rock shelter–and from there came Dispel the Mist.

While finishing up the edits on An Axe to Grind my grandson posted photos of bears and stories about the bears he and his fellow officers were chasing out of people’s homes in Aspen, CO. The more I read I knew that bears had to be in my next Tempe Crabtree. I had no idea what I was going to do with the bears or what kind of part they would play, I only knew bears would carry a major part of the story.

Bear Creek, the fictional place where Tempe is the resident deputy, has a large resemblance to the little town I live in though I’ve moved up in the mountains another thousand feet. One of my friends called to tell me about a bear sighting in someone’s back yard only a few miles from my house. Great, this would make my story in more believable to those who know I’m writing about where I live.

Anytime I start a new book I start thinking about the characters I want to inhabit that story. Of course the main characters will always be Tempe and her pastor husband Hutch, along with Nick Two John, the enigmatic Indian who often leads Tempe to the way to solve some of her problems. Next comes the person who will be the murder victim and why someone, usually more than one someone, would like to see this person dead. Often the one I think will be the killer is not the one I begin with. Nearly every author I know admits to having this surprising turn of events no matter how well they might have plotted the mystery beforehand.

As I begin to plan even more, there is always some research I have to do along the way whether it be about the actual murder or perhaps some side plot I want to introduce. 

Finally it’s time to begin. That first sentence is important–I want it to be something that will make the reader continue on. 

Once I’m going good I have to think about writing character descriptions, believable dialogue that’s going to move the plot along, what places look like, setting the mood with weather and smells. Of course some of that I may plug in when I go back to rewrite.

I write on the computer, however, I have a notebook nearby to write notes on as ideas occur to me that I want to include later. Piled around me are other sheets of paper with research notes, some that I’ve printed from the Internet.

When I’m writing, I try to stop in a middle of a scene so I’ll know exactly what comes next when I sit back down at the computer. Any questions about guns and cars I ask my husband. I never get technical like some people do, even in my Rocky Bluff P.D. books–since they are more about the old-fashioned way of solving a crime and the relationships and personal problems of the police officers and their families. Those stories never move past the arrest of the guilty party.
Each chapter is read to my critique group. They are absolutely wonderful at not only catching things like typos and grammar errors, but inconsistencies and they question why I have characters doing certain things. I may not always agree with what someone has said, but if he or she had a problem, then I probably need to rework the writing.

When I have finished–think I have, anyway, I got back over the whole thing, reading it with a critical eye. Once I’ve got it where I think it’s really finished, I sent it off to a reader or editor. I have a couple who are really good at catching things I didn’t even see. When it comes back to me, I’ll fix and/or rework sentences and other things they’ve marked on the manuscript.

When I’m done, off it goes to my publisher. After what seems an awfully long time, I’ll hear that the manuscript has been assigned to an editor. That editor will go through the manuscript and make even more corrections and suggestions–sort of a fine tuning. Then it comes back to me and I can agree with her suggestions or not and I send it back. When it’s formatted for the book, it returns to me once again in galley form and I have one last chance to check for errors and corrections.

Once I know when the book will be out, I begin fleshing out my promotional plan. Of course, along with writing, this is something I do on a regular basis anyway. At the same time, I’ll be starting the process all over for the next Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel.
I know every author has his or her own way of writing a book–this is mine and so far it’s working for me. Why don’t you tell me how you set about writing your book?
Marilyn Meredith


WS Gager said...

Great post Marilyn. It's always interesting to see how it all comes together for other authors.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Marilyn:
Always glad to hear what you have to say! Wish I were going to EpiCon with you but it's too far and I'm too decrepit. (: Have fun. Congratulations on the success of your new books.
Hugs to you and your handsome hubby.
Pat Browning

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I've been traveling all day and tried to get back here to comment, but somrthing kept happening. Kaye, thanks for hosting me today.


Cheryl said...

Great to catch up with you here today, Marilyn. I hope your trip is going well.


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Marilyn. You amaze me. Your energy is a thing to behold.

As always - it has been a pleasure having you here.