Anne Louise Bannon asks Where to Begin?

Anne Louise Bannon asks Where to Begin?

Anne Louise Bannon is the author of the Old Los Angeles series, set in the 1870s. You can read about her here, see her books here, and read her last post here.

Sigh.

It’s time. Folks have been bugging me about book number four in the Old Los Angeles series, so, it’s time to get it written. My mother-in-law, in particular, made it clear that she’s not getting any younger. I mean, it’s seriously cool that my mother-in-law is one of my biggest fans. She does have a point, however. She’s not that old, but she is not getting any younger.

Book Cover. Death of the Chinese Field Hands by Anne Louise Bannon. Painted symbol with mountains in the background.

Only, see, last summer The Series That Ate My Brain took over, and I just had to write it. That’s the Operation Quickline series, a kind of cozy spy series that’s about the romance as much as it is about the espionage. And the espionage is pretty tame. I technically wrote the books in the early 1980s, when the series is set, and I have been progressively re-writing them, then posting them as a fiction serial on my blog. The current story is These Hallowed Halls, and you can read it here. Or wait until sometime in May, when the book will be available. In the meantime, if you like ebooks, you can pick up the first five in the series here at Smashwords or at Amazon. I put them out as a boxed set and just put them on sale yesterday for $3.99.

The problem is, most of the people who’ve read the Old Los Angeles series really want another book. I am exceedingly grateful that plenty of people want to read more about Maddie Wilcox and the cast of thousands that populate this particular series. I just didn’t expect that they’d be salivating this hard. I’m not used to being popular.

The worst of it is, I know who my victim is. I know who killed her. I even know the title, which is Death of an Heiress. I just don’t know how Maddie is going to figure who that bad person is. Or about anything else that’s going to happen in the 75,000-odd words I have to crank out.

I am getting into my research, looking at photos of L.A. during that time period, reading the newspapers and medical journals from the time. I figure that will help get the rest of the book together. My biggest problem right now is that I don’t know how the story starts.

I know it has to start with Lavina Gaines. She’s the heiress in the title and has appeared in the two most recent titles, Death of the City Marshal and Death of the Chinese Field Hands. If you’ve read those books and liked her, well, sorry about that. If you haven’t, then we have to see what we’re losing here and why it peeves Maddie so deeply that someone bumped her off.

Book Cover. Death of the City Marshal by Anne Louise Bannon. Drawing of a white house with a big porch.

I’m thinking I’m probably going to start it with the scene in which Lavina’s brother uses the courts to cheat her out of her inheritance. That’s something Timothy would do. Actually, something most men in the 19th Century would do. And it’s not really a spoiler that one of the first scenes after Lavina is killed will be Timothy asking Maddie for help finding her killer. Mostly because he’s worried that everyone thinks he did it. Timothy is a bit a of a jerk.

What makes this so frustrating is that I am a straight-through kind of writer. I cannot start in the middle, then go to the beginning, write the ending first. I start at Chapter One, and if I get stuck, I don’t get any further. It’s not that I haven’t changed the beginning of a novel. I do often enough. But just getting something on the screen to get something on the screen seldom gets me further into a story.

But Death of an Heiress will happen. I promise. I’m putting it out here right now so that if another freaking Quickline story grabs a hold of me, I’ll have a really good reason to put it on the back burner. I just have to find where to begin the story.

How do you find your beginning?

Anne Louise Bannon

Anne Louise Bannon is the author of the Freddie and Kathy mystery series, set in the 1920s, the Operation Quickline Series and the Old Los Angeles series, set in the 1870s. You can find out more about her on her website, annelouisebannon.com, or follow her on Twitter, or Facebook.

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan

    Like you, I’m “a straight-through kind of writer.” I don’t find the beginning—it manages to find me.

    1. Mine usually find me, too. I just don’t like it when I’m waiting for them to do so. Thanks.

  2. I’m a “straight-through” writer as well. For some reason, my beginnings seem clear to me from the get-go, which doesn’t mean I never revise them. I do revise, and sometimes I even change the beginning. I think you’ve got a marvelous plan, and as you do your research, your beginning will become clearer and clearer. Best wishes, and may the force be with you!

    1. Thanks, Margaret. I usually get my beginnings pretty quickly. The thing is, I had a horrible beginning for Chinese Field Hands, and that book fought me every step of the way.

  3. saralynrichard

    I think beginnings and endings are the hardest to write. I usually jump in feet first and get started, knowing that I can always revise.

  4. Sharon Lynn

    I am a huge fan of outlines because I have such a straight-forward way of thinking. But still, sometimes I’ll write 4000 words before I get to the first sentence.
    I’m looking forward reading the Old Los Angeles series!

    1. Thanks, Sharon. I don’t usually even start my outline until I’m about a quarter of the way into the book.

  5. Sheila Lowe

    Like our cohort here, I, too, start at the beginning. And for me, the beginning is the title. You already have that, so, you’re on your way! I’m just finishing a “final” (hahaha) edit on my wip, and am already noodling bits of the next one, which has a title. But until the loose outline is done, the beginning will wait.

  6. Christine DeSmet

    Beginnings are always a big deal for mystery writers because we have to figure out where to “drop the body” and in most cases readers don’t want it too late (not after page 100 certainly, most seem to say). I like putting my logline or one-sentence summary of the novel on the screen for the opening chapter, and in that way it seems to tell me: Get serious soon and make stuff happen now! –After that, you can delete the logline. How to start is as varied as writers, certainly. Good luck with your beginning and the entire novel, and enjoy the journey!

  7. I like the logline idea, Christine. That has helped me once in a while. And I have taken my time dropping the body before. In Bring Into Bondage, the second in my 1920s series, I didn’t drop the first one until at least halfway through the book, and the primary body doesn’t drop until three quarters of the way through. But I did make up for it with lots of mayhem and a shotgun wedding.

  8. Sherrill M Joseph

    Like many here, I’m a straight-through kind of writer. I usually know my beginning since my two-word subtitle includes some element of the plot. My problem is that I don’t always know where it’s going to go once I start. A little trick is I try to write a one-paragraph synopsis of the story. Then, I have some, if only a handful of, plot elements from which an outline can emerge. Hope this makes sense!

  9. Joy Ann Ribar

    I’m a straight-through writer, too. I do use notecards of characters, plot, settings, etc. so I can jot down ideas I don’t want to forget. What helps me the most is for my characters to start talking to each other about the crime (yep, I may be slightly crazy!). Once my characters start conversing, things seem to get cooking and the story line falls into place. When I take walks, my characters seem to start talking.

    1. Oh, dear. It sounds like it’s as noisy inside your head as it is in mine. Nothing like when the characters won’t shut up, though.

  10. Tracey Phillips

    I love your voice in this post, Anne. And I can see why so many fans want a new book. Maddie Wilcox is a fiesty and fearless woman who knows her stuff. She’s an inspiration and so are you!

    I cant wait for the next book!

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