Blog Post: Mastering the Art of Juggling Multiple Mystery Novels
I've done a lot of different writing over the years, and have even worked on two different types (mystery and childrens) but I've never written two books in the same series concurrently. This has posed some challenges I didn't expect, as well as some bonuses that actually helped me write faster.
Balancing Plots, Characters, and Timelines
Writing a mystery series is a lot like being a juggler.
You're constantly keeping multiple balls in the air – in this case, plots,
character progression, and timelines. Currently, I'm deep in the creative
process of working on a 'current' entry, "The Lies That Bind," while
simultaneously crafting a prequel, "The First Cut." It's a thrilling
and challenging journey, one that requires meticulous organization and an
intimate understanding of my characters and their world. The two books come from the same fictional universe yet at polar opposites in terms of time. What's great is this creates some opportunities I'd never get if just writing one at a time.
Keeping the Plots Intricate yet Distinct
Each book in a mystery series needs to stand on its own with
a unique plot, while also contributing to the overarching narrative. For
"The Lies That Bind," I'm delving into political intrigue and
personal betrayal, enhancing the complexity with new elements like the intricacies of government operation and the secret lives people live. The deep investigation and team-based approach Keegan uses here are new. Conversely,
"The First Cut" dives into the past, exploring Detective John
Keegan's early career. It presents its own set of challenges, as I have to ensure
that the plot complements what readers already know about Keegan, enriching his
backstory without contradicting future events. Keegan works the case basically alone and this one sets the stage for the rest of his career which makes things interesting for me as the writing. I hope it does the same for readers.
Character Progression Across Timelines
Character development is the heart of any series. My characters, especially John and Pauline Keegan, must evolve in a way that's believable and consistent across different books. In "The Lies That Bind," I show their growth and the nuances in their relationship, shaped by their experiences. Keegan was also become wiser, calmer, and a bit grizzled. He is a bit nostalgic for the pre-tech times of his early career, which inspired the prequels in the first place.
The prequel, "The First Cut," goes back to those times, practically to show they weren't so much better. They also show Keegan's long reluctance for technology, showing that it's not that times have advanced. Keegan just hasn't changed much. In regard to his relationship with Pauline, this book requires
me to peel back layers of their past. It also puts Keegan in a pivotal previous relationship, one that will serve as a major influence on his views about romance. It's a delicate balance, creating a
younger, less experienced Keegan while maintaining the essence of his character
that fans have come to love.
Managing Timelines with Precision
Juggling timelines is perhaps the most intricate part of
writing multiple books. "The Lies That Bind" is set in a
technologically advanced world where digital forensics plays a significant
role. On the other hand, "The First Cut" takes place in a time before
such advancements. This shift demands careful attention to detail to avoid
anachronisms and ensure continuity. It's like painting on two different
canvases, each with its color palette, yet part of the same gallery.
Conclusion: The Reward of the Challenge
Writing multiple books in a series simultaneously is no
small feat. It's a complex dance of keeping the plots compelling, ensuring
character progression feels natural, and managing timelines with precision. But
the reward is immense. Seeing the world of Detective John Keegan expand in both
depth and breadth, and hearing from readers who are as invested in these
characters as I am, makes every moment of this intricate balancing act worth
Join Detective Keegan in his latest adventures, where the past and present intertwine in the most unexpected ways, and the line between right and wrong is often blurred. The Lies That Bind (January 2024) and The First Cut (April 2024) await you. Also, be on the lookout for future books in the prequel series, Second Time Around, Third and Long, Fourth Gear, Bottom of the Fifth, and Six Degrees. A new book in the original series, Ghosts of Days Gone By is also in progress.