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How I’m Building My Own “Conspiracy Table”

On undead mothers and how to pull the trigger on a knife.

As I write this, I am in the middle of working on Episode 26 of Hardwick… and I have been for, like, 2+ months.

There are a few reasons for this. One of them is simply money. I’ve been pivoting my main source of income to ghostwriting, and a lot of my time has been spent building up that aspect of my business.

Now that it is going well, I can start carving out time and attention to continuing my series. Continuous releases have always done well for me, and I enjoy writing the series.

But now I’m stuck.

Episode 26 is in the middle of the fifth season of Hardwick. I’ve taken the overarching storyline of the conspiracy that put Charlie Hardwick in prison to new twists and turns, enjoying each piece of the puzzle as I come up with it.

But much like the writers of the TV show Lost (I assume, I never watched the show), I’m starting to lose track of the threads that I’ve left open and the other details that I’ve slipped in there.

“Hey, I thought his mom was emailing him…”

When I reunited Charlie with his father early in the series, I decided to reveal the conflict that his mom had died while he was in prison and his dad prevented her from visiting.

I thought that was a good way to put a little tension between them and we could explore their relationship a bit. Not only that, but I was interested in how a dad would cope with his son being put away for murder.

Then, my wife read it and asked a simple question that I should’ve had an answer for: “Wasn’t his mom already alive?”

Sure enough, way back in the first episode of the series, I had Charlie’s mom emailing him.


It hasn’t stopped there…

What’s the REAL murder weapon?

In the first episode, I establish that Peter Nolte – Charlie’s former partner on the force – was killed by having his throat cut. I ramp up the drama with Charlie trying to help Peter as his blood is pouring out.

Then, somewhere down the line, I make references to someone “pulling the trigger” on Peter Nolte.

I’m no murder expert, but last I checked, knives don’t have triggers.

Shouldn’t I hire an editor for this?

Short answer: yeah, I should. But I can’t.

Longer answer: a good editor costs money. And there are plenty of writers out there (I know, I interact with quite a few of them) who say a good editor is invaluable and you need one to succeed and blahblahblah.

I get it.

In a perfect world, I’d have a killer editor and a rockstar cover designer and all that.

But some months I’m barely making rent. Dropping hundreds of dollars on these services just isn’t feasible at this point in my life. I have to make do.

Having another set of eyes on my work is important. I brought my wife on as my editor – to at least help me catch typos and any glaring errors. But I didn’t do that until a bunch of episodes in.

So for now, we are going to tag team this stuff.

So what about all those threads and details?

I like to read, and I’m trying to be a better student of great fiction writing moving forward. It will only improve my work – both in the Hardwick series and any series I write for my clients.

But I have to start with my own writing.

I’ve loaded all four seasons of Hardwick onto my Kindle. I’m scanning through them now, carefully reading every chapter that relates to the overall storyline.

Whenever I run across a key detail, plot point, or character that I’ve introduced, I am highlighting them. When I’m done, I’ll export the notes into PDFs and keep them in a special folder on my Google Drive.

Then I can take those notes and build a map of the storyline and all its twists and turns. It will help me better understand the story as I’ve set it up and find new and satisfying ways to address open points, and close them as I go.

Just like Charlie keeps track of everything he finds out on his “Conspiracy Table”, so will I.

This will let me build a better story, faster

Speed is of the essence as I release new episodes moving forward. If I want to realistically go full-time with my publishing career (one – if not the – main goal of 2019 for myself), I need a hefty catalog of books available for readers to peruse.

But I can’t write fast and sacrifice the quality of my work, either.

The key will be to work methodically and consistently. That starts with taking careful notes and keeping track of the story so that I don’t lose it.

Then, I can start typing out some great stories on a regular – and quick – basis.