When you read the work of a fine author, what you see, generally speaking, appears flawless and flowing, as if it came naturally and without a lot of struggle.  Don’t you believe it.  Every author battles to get a work from their imagination onto the page.

I’m working on a novel right now.  When completed, it will be the eleventh in the Cork O’Connor series.  The title is Northwest Angle.  The book is set in one of the most remote areas of Minnesota, and the story, as I’ve conceived it, is a convoluted situation of misunderstanding, mostly as the result of prejudice.  People die and the where the finger of guilt points—with support of the evidence—is at the wrong man.  Even Cork buys into the local prejudices.  Add to the pot(boiler) some ruthless smugglers and a foundling child whom death follows like a shadow and you have the general ingredients of the story.

So I have a notion of what’s going to occur.  I know, more or less, the A, B, C of things.  What I’m struggling with is the information and occurrences that will naturally connect the plot points.  And therein lies the struggle.

In the past, I’ve usually outlined a book, or at least thought the plot through significantly, so I’m almost never worried about the dreaded question that keeps many mystery writers up at night: What happens next? But I’ll admit that in this manuscript I’m flying by the seat of my pants.  I struggle with chronology, structure, characters (way too many in this one, I fear), motivation.  In essence, everything.

I admit there are moments when I’m not sure I can pull it all together.  I think to myself, Every author is allowed a book now and then that falls short.  So maybe this is going to be the one.

I hate myself for even thinking this.  I don’t ever want to let myself or my readers down with an effort I didn’t put my full heart into.  So I struggle and lie awake at night and live with the fear of failure and every morning I get up and go to the coffee shop and give it my best effort.

I remember reading a note John Steinbeck sent to his editor along with the manuscript of The Grapes of Wrath. In the note, he apologized for the book he was delivering, feeling he’d somehow fallen short.  Even the greats have struggled.

4 thoughts on “Stumbling”

  1. Hi Kent,
    I am a grad student on a small break from school and was on the hunt for a novel that would give me a rest but entertain my brain. I have not read ‘for fun’ for nearly a year and was hoping to find something in a series that I could get into right now…and could carry me through my 2nd (and final) year of grad studies. Lo and behold, I was at Borders in Oregon and saw what must have been all of your books on an endcap. I was immediately excited b/c the covers look so wonderful – maybe that is flaky of me but my goodness, it worked!

    That’s when I started reading your bio and the background of Cork O’Connor – Chicago, Pacific NW, Minnesota, Iowa – I couldn’t believe it. I have lived many years in each of those places [when someone asks where I’m from I end up telling them Minnesota, though I haven’t lived there in 15+ years].

    Though I’m now in Oregon, I called my mom (back in MN) to ask about the locations in Thunder Bay (where myself and my family have gone fishing) and she started excitedly looking things up, getting excited about the storyline I was sharing with her…and then she stopped me b/c she wants to read it for herself. 🙂 She has always recommended books to me and now I get to return the favor. What a gift. Thank you. [sorry if overenthusiastic – I love grad school but the reading is nowhere NEAR as compelling as the content of your books]

  2. I’m glad to hear you are writing another book, of course you are. I am anxious for you to complete it and get it out there. Ever since I discoverd your books, starting with Heavens Keep, because I liked the title and cover. Then I read the first sentence and bought it right away. The rest of the books I found at my library out in Brooklyn, MI.
    I didn’t read them in order but finally got my hands on the final one.
    Please don’t doubt yourself or your writing for a second. I wish I had about 20 more to read instead of waiting on your new one. But wait I will, it will be well worth it. You are a terrific person and I love Cork. I wish I had a Cork in my life for real but I’ll settle for the guy you thought up. I guess I need to get out there and open my eyes and maybe, just maybe I might find him.

  3. I too picked your book “Heavens Keep” strictly because of the cover and upon reading the first sentence was hooked. Now I have to do my home work and find the rest of your books starting at the beginning. I am totally enthralled with your main man Cork O’Connor and your story line in this book.

    I have been a total Patricia Cornwell groupie – have read every single Kay Scarpetta book in print. Have to admit that I put her newest book down when I got to the last chapter to read your book and have been smitten ever since……can’t wait to start with the first and read all the way thru.

    Without a doubt you are one fantastic author!!!! Can’t wait to start down the road of your Cork O’Connor books (or any other ones you might write in the future!) I am SO glad I found you on that book shelf and found something so wonderful…

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