Guest Post – “5 Things I Learned Writing ‘Death By Ice Cream” by Rebecca Douglass

For the next installment in the Out Where the Buses Don’t Run Guest Blog Post Series, we now turn our attention to author and librarian Rebecca Douglass. Rebecca and I met on Goodreads a while back, and we’ve maintained our friend both there and through each others’ blogs.

She’s recently self-published another book, called “Death By Ice Cream.”

DeathByIceCream_FrontOnly

The synopsis of “Death By Ice Cream”:

Pismawallops Island is a quiet place where nothing much happens, even at the High School.  That’s why JJ MacGregor likes it.  When a high-handed new member of the PTA threatens to disrupt the even tenor of life in the middle of Puget Sound, JJ wants someone to take a firm stand against her.  But when Letitia Lemoine shows up very dead in the freezer where there should have been 30 boxes of ice cream bars, JJ worries that someone might have taken her command too seriously.  Not the sort to sit back while someone else solves her problems, JJ just can’t help asking a few questions.  But someone wants her to stop—and an acerbic sense of humor, insatiable curiosity, and carefully hidden dedication to duty lead her into more trouble than she knows how to handle.

Like any good writer, Rebecca looks back at the experience in writing “Death By Ice Cream” and recognizes there are some lessons to be learned. In her guest blog post, “5 Things I Learned Writing ‘Death By Ice Cream’,” Rebecca shares those lessons learned. I think we as writers can take a lot from what she’s learned. Not to mention she’s learned all this while retaining both a great sense of humor and some humility to boot.

Her bio:

Rebecca Douglass was raised on an Island in Puget Sound only a little bigger than Pismawallops.  She now lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area, and can be found on-line at www.ninjalibrarian.com and on Facebook as The Ninja Librarian.  Her books include the tall tales for all ages, The Ninja Librarian and Return to Skunk Corners.   Rebecca likes to spend her time outdoors, when not writing or working to make the schools the best they can be.  She spends her free time bicycling and running, and her vacations hiking, camping and backpacking.

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Blog: http://ninjalibrarian.com

Book purchase links of all kinds: http://www.ninjalibrarian.com/p/blog-page_11.html

At any rate, here’s Rebecca’s guest post. Thanks to Rebecca for writing this and sharing!

________________________________________________________________

5 things I learned writing Death By Ice Cream

  1.  It’s best not to take ten years to draft a novel.
    This is particularly true if you don’t have an outline. I should have learned this with my first, mercifully unpublished, mystery. Often months went by between times I worked on it, and I would forget what had happened, not to mention where I was going. Death By Ice Cream was also originally drafted (though somewhat faster) before I committed to writing daily. Let’s just say it took a lot of work to create the tight, coherent story I wanted. So what I’ve learned, in all seriousness, is to work every day. A writer writes.
  2. If you love something about the story, it’s worth saving.
    I learned this from my editor, Inge Lamboo. I took her a draft resurrected from the files where it had languished since I’d given up shopping it to agents, and told her I wondered if it was worth trying to salvage. I thought about just taking the characters I loved and start over. She told me that if I loved the characters, the book would be worth working on. She was completely right. It wasn’t easy, but I not only loved the main characters but also the setting, so the process was rewarding, and the end product a book to be proud of.
  3. It may not be easier to write your mystery using an outline, but it’ll be a poodle-load easier to edit.
    Actually, I haven’t really tested this, yet (only the writing part, since I’ve drafted the sequel, Death By Trombone, with an outline, mostly). But it can’t make it any worse. And honestly, it was easier to write the first draft knowing who did it and why. But an outline doesn’t have to be a bunch of Roman numerals in a cascade. My “outline” was more a series of questions: who’s dead? Who found him? Who might have done it? Who did do it? Why? And will JJ’s love life ever improve? By the time I had answered most of these questions, I had a whole lot more—and also both a substantial back-story and a good idea where the novel would go and how it would get there.
  4. Everyone’s lying.
    The best advice I ever picked up (wherever I did pick it up, and I don’t remember now) was that everyone’s lying. This is probably true in any kind of novel—everyone has their secrets, and that’s what makes them interesting and complex. It’s doubly true in a mystery, where it’s all those lies about unrelated things that make it so hard for the sleuth to find the important lie. But it was surprisingly hard for me to do. I tend to write in a straight line, and make my characters honest upstanding citizens. Well, most are, but that never stopped them from lying.
  5. Most importantly, I learned I can do it.
    I can write a mystery that completely works. I was never sure I could, up until a reader with an ARC reported back that she read the whole thing in one sitting. That only happens if you’ve done something right. I’m looking forward to doing it again. And again. Because, despite the agony of editing and the gloom of sales and marketing, writing is the best job I can think of, and I’m one lucky lady to be able to do it.
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18 thoughts on “Guest Post – “5 Things I Learned Writing ‘Death By Ice Cream” by Rebecca Douglass

  1. First: Hi again Rebecca! Second: I didn’t know you grew up in the Puget Sound area. We have family property in Sequim and I have another writer friend in Anacortes. And last: I didn’t know this book was out! I’ll have to check it out.

  2. To Rebecca: I love your lessons that you learned. I’m in the process of learning some of them, and some new ones besides. As someone who moved TO the Puget Sound, rather than moved away from it, I am of course nosily wondering which Island you lived on, being an nouveau islander myself (OK, I’ve been here for 25 years, but who’s counting?)
    Gus, I like your blog and I’ll be back. (consider that a promise, as opposed to a warning…I’ll try to leave the pandas at home.)

    • As noted above, it was Vashon. Sounds like you moved there not long after I moved away. I only meant to come south for a few years of Grad school, but you know how stuff happens. . . So which Island are you?

      • I think I now remember it was Vashon. I forgot. I live on Whidbey. I moved there after 10 years in Seattle for grad school, and here I am 25 years later. I do love it here. I’ve never lived anywhere so quiet, and sometimes we have owls.
        I know what you mean about stuff happening. Now I have way too much stuff to even consider going anywhere else. SF is a wonderful city. I don’t get down there enough.

        • I think I only said it “above” in my response to Karen’s comment :). Whidbey is nice, and at least has the option of skipping the ferry! I still love the PNW, but admit I don’t want to go back to the dark winters (of course, down here we get gloomy summers instead, but we try to leave town).

            • I have been to see the panda page! They are much like toddlers. . . or something.

              Summer in Seattle is gorgeous. Those long evenings are the main thing I still miss. I do NOT miss queuing up for the ferry.

              • I hear you there! I never leave the Island from June to September if I can at all help it! We are having 4 days of lovely May weather now. In the 70’s even, Just enough to get our hopes up, till Saturday when it goes back to 50 degrees and raining. :o(

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