Guest Post by Barry Crowther

I am pleased to introduce to you a passionate Mystery/Suspense novelist who “…grabs you by the throat and never lets you go”. He is presently carving his way through the Self-Publishing world, has been featured on “Pixel of Ink” and was just announced as Indy Author’s “Rockstar of the Month”.

Although Barry Crowther now resides along the beautiful Southern California coast, he is still a true Mancunian at heart. A Mancunian you say? For those of you who are curious, a Mancunian is a demonym for someone who is from Manchester, a city in the Northwest of England.

Apparently Barry has something in common with our previous guest, Colin Falconer. Both are huge fans of Manchester United, an English professional football club based in, where else? None other than Manchester, England of course. According to Barry, that’s part of the reason why Manchester is so sexy.

And according to Barry’s father, “If you can’t be smart or you can’t be funny, then be brief.”
 

Well then, I’ll get straight to the point. Take it away Barry!
 
 
 
 

Thank you Karen.
 

As you know, when writing a good story, especially one that is filled with mystery and suspense, great care goes into the process to keep the reader on the edge of his seat. But what works for one novelist may not work for another. So I ask, “What is your preference?”
 

Organic vs Plotting
 
 
Do you have a system for writing? Do you Plot or Write Organically?

 
This is a great question. I was asked this during a recent interrogation interview. It was a cool question and made me realize that I actually do both.

For the Matt Spears Mysteries I tend to plot in great detail. I use a really cool tool named Scrivener and this lets me see things in a global fashion (pretty much the whole story) and then allows me to switch to a more detailed scene outline. A great writer called David Hewson (he’s currently writing the novels based on the TV show The Killing) is a great example of plotting with Scrivener. I am meticulous in this department and it takes me longer piecing the plot together than actually writing the scenes!

Once I move over to the process of writing the scenes, a character sometimes takes a left turn that wasn’t plotted and this might throw a spanner (wrench) in the works. One interesting example of this was from Missing. I knew who the perpetrator of the crime was before I wrote the first scenes, but by the time I got to the last 10% of the writing I woke up one morning and thought that it made more sense for another character to be the actual bad guy. I was already 80,000 words in but was still happier to go back and change the plot than be stuck with a story where I was unhappy with the ending.

Like my other post about Twisting the Plot, sometimes we even surprise ourselves. If that happens, surely you are going to outwit the reader.

Now, for Nothing, I was frazzled after completing a previous writing assignment and I didn’t want to start plotting again. So as a break I took a pad and sat in the sunshine outside Starbucks each afternoon and just doodled a story. The opening line was something I really liked: “Looking at the spot where my sister was murdered I felt nothing.” From this line I wrote 40,000 words long hand. I then typed the whole thing back into Scrivener and edited it there, then put it out as a Kindle Novella—the reviews (so far) have been stellar.

I am working on the prequel to Nothing using the same system and writing technique**. I write longhand and am into it around 10,000 words. It’s still a great feeling, my hand moves so quickly and I don’t seem to be hitting any sticking points right now. I always conclude a writing session with something dangling (no, not what you’re thinking), I use some form of connecter or cliff hanger like a new character showing up or something being discovered which is a shocker at that point in the story when I sit down next time I don’t have trouble lifting off again. Works for me.

Any ideas on how a novel grows – do we plot or do we dust off an artifact as Stephen King writes? Interesting, but I think the bottom line is – whatever works for you, use it.

**: I also changed my style of writing dramatically for Nothing. It’s written first person present tense. This makes the pace a little breathless with a lot happening in each scene. It’s a Novella, so no one’s had a heart attack yet.
 

I hope this information will help all of you in your writing endeavors.
 

Thank you very much for inviting me Karen.

Barry Crowther
http://barrycrowther.com
 
 

No, thank you Barry Crowther!
 
Good to know that no one has had a heart attack yet!
 
 

So what do you think? Do you write Organically or are you a Plotter? What kind of books do you enjoy writing? Do you like Mystery and Suspense? Or do you prefer a little Romance? Perhaps you like to write for a younger audience, Children or YA. Or maybe non-fiction is your cup of tea.
 
 
If you enjoyed this, I encourage you to follow by email for future posts.

Thank you for your many thoughts and kind comments everyone!
Karen

 
 
 

A big shout out to Kristen Lamb and to all my new WANA classmates and friends. And a big thanks to all others that may grace my presence by visiting this post. Take care and make it a great day!

41 thoughts on “Guest Post by Barry Crowther

  1. Lynn Kelley

    Wonderful post, Barry. Congrats on your success. That’s awesome! I’d never heard the term ‘writing organically.’ I’m more of a pantser, after letting a story brew in my head for long periods of time. I love to hear how other writers work, so I enjoyed this.

    Karen, thanks for hosting Barry. You sure do have some wonderful guest posts!
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  2. Barry Crowther

    Thanks to everyone who commented. It was a great interview with Karen. I will be expanding even further on how I use scrivener and tightly plotting a mystery in another post.

    Apologies for the delay in replies. I was very much under-the-weather this week but feel like my strength is returning so it’s back to the final edits on the next Matt Spears novel.

    Thanks again to Karen for the opportunity and all posters for the comments. I didn’t think this would be such an interesting subject 🙂
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    1. Karen

      Barry, you are welcome back any time! I loved it as apparently so did everyone else I might add! We’ll all look forward to next time with much anticipation! Thanks Barry!!!!!! 🙂

      Reply
    1. Barry Crowther

      Thanks Fabio, Yeah I’m a Red, Spurs are having a great season, Good Luck.

      I think every writer becomes a combination of both plotter and grower even if we consider ourselves 90% one or the other. It’s good if you can keep the book on track and discover the plot as the characters move through the story … that’s probably the most satisfying.

      Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂
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  3. Emma Burcart

    I would say that I am a combonation. I definitely plot, but then the plot changes organically as I get to know the characters and the story. I go back and update my outline as I make changes so that I can use it for a synposis later. I always envy writers who know exactly what is going to happen before they start writing. Even when I do a lot of charter sketching, my characters still surprise me. I’ve learned to come to term with my process because it is mine.
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    1. Barry Crowther

      That’s sort of the way it works for me even though I do have a master plan before I start.

      When I use scrivener the plot is fairly detailed, so I stick to it but then as the drafts progress the characters start to nudge the direction of the story too and I then use the scrivener story board tool to make adjustments. This for me is a satisfying way to work as it covers both the organic and plotting methods. I get the heavy lifting of the plot in shape and then get the characters giving me a few surprises.

      Thanks for commenting. Glad you have a system that works too 🙂
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  4. Diane Capri

    I write complicated mystery/suspense/thriller because as a reader and a writer, I like to figure things out and to be surprised at the end. When I write organically, I have soooooooooo much revision to do that I’m totally sick of the project long before it’s done. When I fully flesh out the plot first, I lose enthusiasm for the writing because it lacks surprises. Over the years, I’ve come to a mix between the two. Now I lay out what I call the Big Five (inciting incident, 1st, 2d, 3d turning points, climax) and write from one to the next. It’s not perfect, but it gives me a little structure and a little freedom. And I dictate the first draft using voice recognition software.
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    1. Barry Crowther

      Voice recognition?? that sounds pretty cool, might give it a try. My plots are pretty complex too and I usually cram a large cast of characters in to make it work, that’s why I have to have a detailed plan for the mystery series.

      Painted myself into too many corners in the past. I’ll check out some of your work sounds interesting and the method you employ sounds good too.
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      1. Diane Capri

        If you haven’t tried voice recognition software in a while, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much better it’s become. Over time, I’ve learned to dictate while looking at the screen so I can make corrections as I go along. With a bluetooth headset, I can walk around the room, which is fun for dictating e-mail and such. Let me know if you try it and what works/doesn’t?
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  5. Julia Indigo

    Thanks for the interview, Karen!

    I’m also mostly a pantser, but i’m realizing thaqt I must do more plotting so my writing flows easier. Barry, I love hearing how you use Scrivener – my main motivation for winning nanowrimo was to be able to purchase it 1/2 price.

    But writing longhand…uff da. Even I have trouble reading my writing!

    Reply
    1. Karen

      Hey there Julia,

      You had a great NaNo month. I am so happy for you! How cool that you’ve heard about Scrivener. How do you like it? Thanks for your comment Julia! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Pat O'Dea Rosen

    Thanks for the peek into your writing process, Barry, and congrats on your “Rockstar of the Month” status. I’m a pantser but may give Scrivener and your method a try. Mancunian? Does knowing that word separate Manchester natives from outsiders?

    Reply
    1. Barry Crowther

      The method I’ve used with Scrivener is a little more refined now also. I will put up a new post on the new developments with Scrivener and let Karen know so she can share some of the ideas for scene development and not letting the story get snarled up.

      Mancunian is a very English term. Not sure where you are but using that expression outside of the UK would give you a little insider nod and wink that you knew what Manchester was about. The expression ‘Manc’ is becoming common too. Just don’t get it mixed up with Manchurian as someone did once … do I look Manchurian? Go figure haha
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      1. Karen

        Barry, that is so funny! I almost wrote something in this post about not getting a Mancunian confused with a Manchurian but was afraid I might offend. I didn’t think you looked much like a Manchurian. Lol

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  7. Shannon Esposito

    OH, hi, Barry…nice to “meet” you. I saw them talking about your rockstar award on the kindleboards, congrats!!

    I was always a panster until I started writing mysteries. In order to get all the red herrings, clues, etc. in place I had to plot.

    Reply
    1. Barry Crowther

      Hi Shannon, nice to “meet” you too. I would find it very difficult to control a 3rd person complex mystery without knowing what was coming up.

      The longhand novellas are first person so I sort of feel the upcoming events but for mysteries I think the clues, bad guys, good guys, backstory, blind alleys, conflicts, conclusion, etc. need some kind of management. My mystery novels are between 65,000 and 85,000 words, not huge tomes but enough words to lose the plot – literally.
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  8. August McLaughlin

    This is the first I’ve heard of Scrivener… I wonder whether I’d like it, seeing as I’m much for of a by-the-seat-of-my-pants-er. I do start with a premise, main characters and direction. Then, as Barry mentioned, I relish the surprises. He’s so right regarding finding and doing what works for us…

    Adding Mr. Crowther to my TBR list. Thanks both of you for the super interview!
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    1. Barry Crowther

      Thanks for the comment August. And Thanks for adding me to the TBR, hope you can’t see the through the plot too much.

      I think when you get round to ‘Missing’ you’ll see why I used Scrivener, there is a large cast of characters and the twists were all timed at specific points. I’m hoping that reading as a writer it doesn’t spoil the enjoyment of the story too much.

      I read as a writer all the time and when I spot a technique that takes me by surprise I write a note into my pad. If I want a similar effect to take place in one of my own works I re-write using the same technique as what I had read. Hopefully this generates the same effect it had on me. Just an idea.

      Using Scrivener for Pantsers I think might be a bridge too far. It takes a little time to learn and there is certainly a shift in the way your work is pieced together. Worth giving a try though.

      Best of luck 🙂
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      1. Karen

        If I didn’t know any better I would have to say that Tim has already downloaded one of your books Barry!
        Enjoy Tim and again, thanks for your comment! 🙂

        Reply
    1. Barry Crowther

      I know ‘writing longhand’ it’s like nobody does it anymore. Funnily enough I write in the same Starbucks each day (where I am writing this and where my bio photo was taken from my laptop) and if I write longhand people are constantly asking me what I’m doing. If I work on my laptop I work uninterrupted day after day. Who would have thought actually writing by hand seems to have virtually died out?? Maybe I’m the only one doing it anymore … so 2011 ha ha ha
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  9. Coleen Patrick

    Great interview Karen!
    For a first draft I am mostly a pantser–I have the idea and a beginning and an end but then I just write. Then I let it sit for a bit before I read it. After than the really hard work starts! 🙂
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