I'm hard at work drafting a new novel. I have a plot outline in Excel that would amaze and confound you were I to share it. Why Excel? Mostly because this novel is very plot-driven, being a detective story. I wanted to not only keep track of each scene in the narrative, but also have a detailed timeline of all the events that take place off-screen, which events the detective (and reader) discover over the course of the investigation. So I needed to write down, for example, that in Act 1 somewhere the murderer tells a joke that the detective overhears, and then in Act 3 the murderer tells the joke again within earshot of the detective, but the detective has in Act 2 learned something that gives new and significant meaning to the joke when she hears it again in Act 3. Not that there's actually this joke-telling in my book. But still, there's a lot of stuff like that going on in the story and I needed to keep it all straight. My first thought was to use index cards, and I even wrote out a few this weekend, but I decided that I wanted to be able to see the whole timeline at once, and be able to insert things and keep track of characters and days and places and of course when I am faced with such a task, I turn to Excel with its nice sorting and filtering features. Yes, just like Shakespeare did.
The point of all this is not that I'm using a hated Microsoft product to plot out a novel. The point of all this is that I'm writing a detective story right now. I admit that I'm actually surprised to find myself writing it. It's not what I do, you know?
I have two literary novels with my fabulous and charming agent at this point, but because I don't have a publisher yet breathing down my neck to meet any sort of expectations, I'm pretty free to do what I like as long as it amuses me. My agreeable agent tells me that she'll read anything I write and by gosh, she's a fan of anything as long as it's well-written so that's all cool. BGut mostly, as an unpublished novelist, nobody has heard of me so there are no barriers to my writing a murder mystery and so that's what I'm doing. Possibly I'll have a career like Iain Pears, who wrote a string of mysteries (the "Jonathan Argyle" art mystery books) and also wrote some dandy literature (The Dream of Scipio and An Instance of the Fingerpost).
Never having written a detective story before, I'm having a lot of fun building the plot mechanism. There is certainly an art to crafting a convincing and intriguing mystery and this is my very first attempt, so this book might be awful and I'm prepared for that. As I say, I have the freedom right now to experiment and have fun. A few knowing fans of detective fiction have already told me that I'm playing too fast and loose with the genre conventions and that, too, is perfectly okay by me because, as I say, I'm mostly amusing myself by writing this book. I have no deadlines, nobody is asking for my next manuscript, and so far I'm having a lot of fun. Plus, Excel! I love spreadsheets.
Anyway, how about you? Are you writing a style/genre/whatever that you wouldn't believe you were writing if you weren't doing it?