Exposition is Not My Cup of Tea

I had blocked yesterday off as a HOKBIS (Hands on
Keyboard, Butt in Seat) Writing Day and I felt so excited to get started.
Usually my Muse fills my mind with scenes and dialogue and my fingers fly
across the keyboard, but that didn’t happen yesterday.
Currently, I’m working on a mystery which is a new
genre for me as a writer, but a favorite for me as a

reader. I’m finding that
laying the groundwork for events later in the book takes care and precision in
the exposition of the novel. Because the novel revolves around the house (thus
the working title, The Cavanaugh House)
I need to describe the layout, deterioration and infestation of the house that
my protagonist must deal with.  This also
relates to her mysterious discoveries and her inner growth in the novel.

I think about how carefully Agatha Christie laid out
her settings and characters.  Often some
minute detail mentioned in the first twenty pages later makes you slap your
forehead and say, “Oh, that’s why I had to know that!”  So far I’ve had the plumber, electrician and
exterminator visit.  Each of those scenes
reveals something important about my heroine or foreshadows a later event, but
I keep thinking, “Are my readers going to be bored with these guys?” But each
scene includes dialogue and occurrences that I think are relevant, humorous or
revealing. The writing is good, I just want to get to the juicy parts of the
mystery. Patience has never been a strong virtue of mine.
I remember feeling this way as I began writing Love’s Spirit. I wondered if my story
was going anywhere, but once I got through weaving the backstory into the
exposition, it took on a life of its own. So far, readers have been very
pleased with the result. So I guess I just have to be patient as I slowly build
the story from the beginning.
On the other hand, some of the initial scenes I’ve
written I have loved. My heroine has met a handsome neighbor, has reconnected
with her high school best friend who is now a nun (I love her! Who knew nuns could be so cool? Well, actually I did.)
She has also met, to her dismay, some of the current residents of
aforementioned house.
There is so much I already love about this book. I
guess yesterday was just a ground-laying day and I had to get through it.  And I must remember how the idea for this
book came to me. I reference that in my blog post of June 21, 2012 “Muse Hits
Woman on Highway.” As my friend suggested at coffee today, maybe I just needed
to write all this for myself and then I’ll scrap it later as I revise.
That’s what I love about the writing process—it’s always
a journey A journey I love to take.
What is the hardest aspect of writing for you?

11 thoughts on “Exposition is Not My Cup of Tea

  1. I've been thinking a lot lately about the balance between exposition and dialogue. I tend to write dialogue-heavy scenes, trying to let the character's words hint at what they're thinking or feeling, but I wonder if readers would feel a greater emotional connection to the characters if I gave them a little bit more to go on. You're brave for taking on a mystery. That's what I want to do when I grow up.

  2. Liv, it's a very different process than my pantser approach for my historical romances, but I love mysteries so I thought I'd give it whirl. I really like your observation about giving the reader more to connect with via exposition – I hadn't thought of that. Like you, I love to move plot and character development through dialogue. Thanks for the insight!

  3. Writing the beginning of a novel is always the most difficult phase, because I'm setting up the entire premise and I MUST get it right. lol It can take months of work. I do forge on with the rest of the story, but I find myself going back to the beginning over and over again, adding bits and pieces to make my characters come alive. Thanks for a great post, Betty.

    • It's comforting to know I'm not alone, Deborah 🙂 You're right, I probably rework my first chapters more than any, and as you say, I can go back and rework as much as possible. Since this is a mystery, there are so many details that need to appear early on. I just love these characters so much that I want to get on with the story! Thanks for visiting.

  4. I end up rewriting the first few chapters dozens of times. But I get stuck about 6-8 chapters in. That's as far as pantsing takes me. I recently read the book "Outlining your Novel: Map your way to success" by K.M. Weiland. Downloaded it, made myself read it. And I didn't jump fully on board but she has great pointers about seriously fleshing out your story (she spends 3 months outlining her books and it then becomes a rough draft). But I actually loved her "what if:" questions and now at every chapter in my very spindly outline, I just write a series of "what if" this happens or "what if" he or she does this. It has helped me enormously! Not an outline but a series of ideas in question form I can flip, spin, whatever that pushes me forward. Now I need a HOKBIS mantra, and sign!!! Thanks, Betty, you share wonderfully!

    • I LOVE THIS IDEA! This would work so well as I am writing this mystery, and asking "what if" at each chapter will open up ideas I haven't even thought of before. I'm going to have to get that book because that concept alone is worth it. Thanks, Pam, this really gives me energy, so I know it must be a good idea!

  5. Revising my novel the third, fourth, fifth, etc. time is the hardest part of writing for me. I get to a point where I think I'm going in circles – fixing one thing only to change it back the next time around. Then I know it's time for an editor to help me.
    I don't normally outline, but if the characters and I get stuck, then I write out what has happened, where I want to go, and how to get there. 🙂

    • I don't outline either, Andrea, so this attempt at a mystery is really different from my usual pantser approach. I like your idea about writing out what has happened and where you want to go. That sounds like it really would focus the direction of the novel. Thanks for a great idea!

  6. I'm part pantser, part plotter. I know the beginning, middle and end of the book but not always what holds the three parts together. That's where I sometimes struggle–not the mushy middle but the mushy-on-both-sides-of-the-middle. And now, to complicate things, I've contracted to write a book from a synopsis. Never done that before. It may be the most interesting writing experience yet.

    • Wow! You are brave, Peggy. I hope the Muse is with you and you breeze through the book. When I wrote Love's Destiny and Love's Spirit, I was a total pantser, but with this mystery I really need to plot. Moves me out of my comfort zone – but that's what keeps it exciting, right?

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