Eric Mayer

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As I write this I've just managed to complete chapter 45 of the new Byzantine mystery, or rather what Mary and I hope will eventually become our seventh such mystery from Poisoned Pen Press. Since there are only 52 chapters in the outline, we're approaching the end. At some point we'll push some of the chapters together, slice a few apart after expanding them, maybe add a new chapter or two, but it's still all downhill from here.

So far we haven't run into any roadblocks. We haven't, for example, realized that the timeline is all wrong, necessitating our going back and turning mornings into afternoons and sending characters home to get a bit of sleep or a bite to eat and making all manner of other adjustments. It's happened. (Hmmmm...Did you notice the sun's set three times so far while he's been out interviewing suspects...?)

Probably we've become a little shrewder about the kinds of problems that can crop up and try to avoid them at the outline stage. As co-writers, who are often simultaneously working on different parts of our books, we need an outline. But aside from that, outlines are useful for keeping things straight -- like timelines and who knew what when and whether all the clues are accounted for.

Our outlines are a helpful framework. We wrack our brains over the picky, boring details, do all the bookeeping, all the calculating, beforehand and then we don't need to be distracted with it when we're actually putting the story into words.

So far, we've done pretty well this time. Some error will eventually show up. Something always does. If we're lucky it'll just require a tweak or two. Right now I'm pretty pleased. Not to mention practically incoherent from writing too much.

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