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Dear friend,

I hope your summer’s been both ridiculously fun and relaxing. I’ve been enjoying myself—spending half the week in NYC and half in PA--and also staying busy writing my seventh Bailey Weggins mystery. It’s been so rewarding to be in Bailey’s head again (even though she gets cranky at times), and yet I have to confess that a couple of weeks ago, eight chapters in, I found myself stuck.

I had a clear idea of the plot for the book, which I really like, but all of a sudden the only thing coming out of my head were short, choppy sentences like, “Bailey opened the door,” and “Bailey said goodbye.” Jeez.

You’ve been stuck at times, right?  Maybe you were working on a project and all of sudden your battery ran down and your brain went dead.
A delicious summer writing break - caprese salad!
To kickstart my writing this summer, I tried jotting down notes and questions on a legal pad, which generally works for me, but this time it didn’t really help. So out of desperation I used another tactic. I started doing more research, digging deep for info. During the course of one week, I spoke to a former chief of police, a death row attorney, and a top forensics expert, who taught me everything I needed to know about stab wounds.  Of course, I wasn’t able to eat for about four hours after that last interview, but still it was fascinating stuff. And before long I was back to writing at full steam. I felt like a total baller. 

Though mega star author Harlan Coben once told me that he thought research was often a way to avoid writing, this was a reminder that for me, gathering info is generally a productive enterprise. It doesn’t just supply answers, it also sparks all sorts of ideas. 

And information gathering doesn’t just work for mystery writing. It can help no matter where you’re stuck in life. I’ve found these guidelines especially helpful.  
  • If you’re looking for pure inspiration, don’t be afraid to go to crazy, offbeat sources. When I’m researching a book, I like to sometimes fall down the rabbit hole of the Internet and just see where I land and what’s there. I found a great plot twist lately on page 2 of a Google search.
  • But when it’s time for the rubber to hit the road and you need rock solid advice, talk to people who are as expert as possible in that arena. That sounds like such a no-brainer but when you’re working on a project, many people will tell you what to do despite the fact that they’re clueless. I found this so true when I was at Cosmo. Everyone had ideas about who should be on the cover, and yet their opinions were often based on nothing worthwhile, like they saw Gwyneth Paltrow in a movie and liked her.
  • Be willing to face information that may sting a little. Research shows that when something bad happens—like we don’t get a raise we thought we deserved—we sometimes prescribe less blame to ourselves than we should, and then the people who care about us rally around and take our side. They say things like, "Your boss is a jerk,” or “She’s just threatened by you.” Step back. Take an objective look. (Even ask your boss, politely, to explain.) Then use that info to your advantage.
  • When the data you’ve gathered doesn’t tell you enough, get even more information. This is advice from my pal Jane Buckingham, president of Trendera, and it’s saved my butt many times.

Have you ever gone on an information-gathering mission that saved your butt or provided the direction you needed to move forward on an idea? Hit reply and let me know. I’d love to hear.

All the best,
Kate
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Copyright © 2016, Kate White, All rights reserved.

255 Cabrini Blvd. #1F
New York, NY 10040

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