Creative Destruction

By Elaine Viets

I’ve been hard at work on my fourth Angela Richman, death investigator mystery. Until last week I was up to schedule. Then I hit a snag at Chapter 11. An important character was being arrested for drug dealing. I thought – after writing 33 mysteries – that I knew the procedure. So I wrote the chapter. Then I got the little niggling doubt that all writers get, and decided I should check with my police procedure adviser, a former homicide detective.

Good thing I did: I not only had the procedure wrong – but the ex-detective suggested a better idea: Why not have the dealer discovered in the cop shop when a drug-sniffing canine “alerts” to the controlled substance?

Beautiful! Except I had to tear up the whole chapter and rewrite it. Now I’m a week behind.
I’m glad I did – the new scene is better.
It’s not the first time I’ve had to kill something, or even bury it. Like many novelists, I have parts of several novels, including an embarrassing serial killer mystery and a lackadaisical modern Sherlock Holmes pastiche, that I’ve buried deep in a file drawer, where I hope they’re never found.

We’re told (on the Internet) that Hindus worship Shiva as a god of contrasts who destroys as well as creates. “Shiva’s role as a destroyer is also constructive,” one source said. “This extends to all things in the world, meaning that Hindus regard Shiva as the source of all good and evil.”
“Shiva is full of passion which leads to extremes in his behaviors,” said another. “Sometimes he removes himself from the material world and abstains from pleasure, at other times he gives in to all desire. Shiva’s wife Pavarti tempers his passion and gives him balance.”
As good a description of writing – and married writers – as any.
Shiva is my new model, and I follow the art of creative destruction.
What about you?

Like forensic mysteries? My first two Angela Richman, Death Investigator mysteries are on sale for $1.99 each:

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About Elaine Viets

Elaine Viets has written 30 mysteries in four series, including 15 Dead-End Job mysteries. BRAIN STORM, her first Angela Richman, Death Investigator mystery, is published as a trade paperback, e-book, and audio book.

17 thoughts on “Creative Destruction

  1. Elaine –
    Painful memories…I can relate.
    In the first book of my suspense-thriller series As I neared completion I became aware that the story and series would be better if based in a different city. Had to do significant amount of revision/rewriting. (Was not happy)
    In the second book in my series I was at about 80,000 words when I recognized that I had too much story for one book. I had to cut back to 12,000 words and re-write on the more refined, and better, trajectory. (This was rough to acknowledge…recovered after period of whimpering while curled in fetal position)
    With book 3, which I released last week, when I sent the book to beta readers I pointedly queried about something related to a character. A significant something that, as you identified I had a “niggling doubt“ about. The doubt was my awareness that there was a problem . Aversion to the work it meant kept me in wishful denial.
    A perceptive beta reader addressed my query and reinforced what I knew to be the truth. Once more Shiva came into play.
    Each of these significant exercises in “creative destruction“ made the resulting books better.
    It hurts like heck to bite the bullet and put significant amounts of work on the chopping block but it is hugely preferable to releasing something that you know isn’t as good as it should be.
    Great post. Thanks Elaine!

  2. it seems that when you have a “niggling doubt” there’s almost always something wrong. You know it, you just don’t want to face it. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I trashed half a novel because of a niggling doubt, so I can relate. Turns out, it was a smart move on my part, but that didn’t make it any easier to do. As Maggie mentioned above, there’s almost always something wrong when our spidey senses chew at our side.

    • So true!
      Through the years I have learned that truth and now react sooner.
      Denying the discordant vibe and delaying the needed creative destruction Elaine describes makes for more work the longer it is not addressed.

  4. I have no problems cutting or trashing my work, the problem comes when I have to rewrite and I don’t know how to fix the problem. Since I have no deadlines right now, I can wait for inspiration, but I don’t know how you guys come up with solutions so fast.

  5. Hi Elaine
    I have just finished the second draft of a novel – for which I only kept Chapter 1 of the first draft! I really liked the premise, but a major character had to go and consequently the rest didn’t work and had to go as well. I’m not sure if I’m even calling it Draft 2, as it’s more of a whole new manuscript!
    There’s still cutting and slashing to go in Draft 3, but only some middle chapters. Really tough, but sometimes it just has to be done. We wouldn’t really be satisfied with less, would we?




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