In more or less words, I’ve been asked the question at most book signings I’ve been to. And basically, it boils down to plot. I’ve been writing book-length manuscripts since I was a teenager. Storm Surge was my fifth… but only the first of publishable quality. After four manuscripts, I realized that my writing lacked forward momentum. And as I remember being told during my schooling, if you as a writer are bored reading what you’ve written, you’re guaranteed that any reader will be bored, also. (This is one of the most valuable lessons I learned in my MFA program. That and that a professor’s stuffed rooster makes a fascinating focal point during lectures. Why oh why did I give away my stuffed bobcat as a wedding present?) I digress.
When I was preparing to write Storm Surge, thinking back on my past writing, I realized that my problem was that my plot – well, I didn’t have a plot in many of my manuscripts. That was my problem. So I set out to write a genre cozy mystery, which in its very nature must have a plot with twists and turns, a story line that spirals up into a definitive climax. Based on reviews, I achieved a fast-paced plot. Of course, the need for a plot wasn’t the only reason I wrote a mystery novel. But having a plot in mind before I started writing (even though that plot dramatically changed during the writing process) helped my writing move.