Let’s Talk with Nancy J Cohen

January 13, 2022

New Beginnings
by Nancy J. Cohen

January is a time of new beginnings. And so it is for me in writing my next book, #18 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. I’m in the “Discovery” stage of writing. This involves choosing the setting, doing preliminary research, and then identifying the suspects. Since I’m more of a plotter than a pantser, I need to have all this figured out before I begin the story.

It’s not an easy task. For a while, I had a general idea of where the story would take place. But that wasn’t enough. I needed a group of people who knew each other, but why would they be in this place? I lacked the “setting within the setting” and ideas were eluding me. I was clueless.

Meanwhile, I started my preliminary research on the topics that interested me for this story. I knew it would include a battle reenactment, for example, but which battle? Who was fighting whom? I researched wars in Florida and reenactments that are held in our state. This led to other sites and more interesting material until I was in danger of going down the research rabbit hole.

This all stewed in my subconscious, which is why you can’t rush the process. Then one day it happened—the answer to the setting dilemma popped into my brain! It was perfect as a model for my location.

Now I could pinpoint the people who’d be present. Identifying these characters was only the first step. I had to figure out which one would become the victim and why. Meanwhile, what are the other suspects hiding? How do they interrelate to each other?

I’m in this stage now still working on the suspects. Until I get my “web of deceit” at least partially designed, I can’t begin writing. Of course, the story might change direction many times along the way, and I won’t really know these characters until they walk and talk on the page, but it’s a start. And new beginnings are all about a fresh start. Happy New Year!

What about you? Do you get started on research and keep going?

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10 thoughts on “Let’s Talk with Nancy J Cohen

  1. I only have that trouble when I fall in love with a cozy mystery series. Thank you so much for sharing. Have a mwarvelous day.

  2. Nancy, I had a similar problem with the book I’m writing now, the 11th in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. I knew I wanted to incorporate an actual crime that had occurred several decades ago, but how? It took me weeks of pondering before the solution popped into my head. Then I had to figure out a way the past would intrude on Anastasia’s present. I’m a pantser, but with this book I’ve found I really needed to write a fairly detailed outline to make sure it was all going to work. I’m now on my way, having already written nearly 11,000 words.

    1. It’s a wonderful feeling when everything clicks, isn’t it? I had a similar problem in Killer Knots when I decided to introduce a new character. How would she fit into the plot? This led me down a new research trail and I learned some very interesting things about the origins of vanilla.

  3. Thanks for explaining your process. Made me feel better to know that there are times you have the gem of an idea but it still needs to percolate. That’s what is happening with a short story I’ve been working on, but one little tidbit finally clicked and now it is in the true writing process. Can’t wait to read your next book.

  4. I view research rabbit holes as some of the most interesting–and fun–part of writing a book. It is often while wallowing in one of those holes that I find the most interesting details that kick my mind into high gear. However, I do reach a point where I know I have what I need to move forward. But just to make sure I can find the source of my information, I snip the url and the relevant facts I need. Those files are kept digitally in the research folder under each book. It’s a little trickier with a series. If I want to revisit a site from an earlier book, I need to click through my computer files from book to book to look at the research info I clipped. Not a perfect process, but I love how research yields ideas for authors to pounce on! Best of luck with writing the 18th book in your series!

    1. I do the same thing, Maggie. I have a research folder for each book. In there are the different topics specific to that story along with links for more info. These also become blog topics for a blog tour. I keep a separate series list with each book title and what areas of research apply. These can become talking points for a booksigning.

  5. Yesteryear Village is a fun place to visit (it’s at the South Florida Fairgrounds not far from where I live, and I go there each year during the fair). One of the buildings is the haunted Riddle House. I went there on a ghost tour once — they wouldn’t let us into the attic where a worker apparently got hit on the head by an old fry pan wielded by an invisible someone. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture any evidence (I think there were too many people milling about) but on a previous visit my husband’s camera abruptly lost its charge just as he was taking a picture of a creepy baby painting. 🙂

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