Recently, my writing group did a workshop with mystery author Allen Eskens. His talk was incredibly informative and inspired me to read one of his novels. I will likely read more of his work. Read on to discover what made attending Eskens's lecture so worthwhile.
Eskens is a planner. Based on my writing group's workshop with him, it sounds like he does two or more outlines per book. Being a planner myself, I was intrigued.
Eskens starts by creating a detailed plot outline, leaving nothing to chance. Presumably, he does this so that he can concentrate on crafting beautiful prose while writing the draft. Indeed, The Heavens May Fall contains some excellent turns of phrase. I have read critiques that his writing can be too literary for mysteries/thrillers. I did not find this to be the case.
The same is also true for the internal struggles of his characters. He carefully outlines their inner turmoil scene by scene, so he knows exactly what they're thinking and feeling from the get-go. This pays dividends because the characters in The Heavens May Fall are as multifaceted a set of characters I've ever experienced. They are flawed, have terrific backstories, and feel very real.
The plot is amazingly well executed and includes several surprising and satisfying twists. I'm usually impressed if a novel has one delightful twist that doesn't leave me feeling like I've had the wool pulled over my eyes by an author who has purposely withheld vital information. In The Heavens May Fall, Eskens flawlessly executes three twists that surprised me in a good way. I don't know if he could pull off so many without detailed outlining.
I'm an outliner, but I don't hold myself 100% to the outline, which it sounds like Eskens does. After listening to him speak, I think I should adhere more closely to my planning documents. I've often thought many of the flaws in my earlier attempts to craft a marketable novel could've been overcome by better planning.
I'm finishing editing volume three of The Allison Lee Chronicles. Once I'm done with that, I'll move on to the series finale. Then it will be time to begin a new project. It's early days yet, but I might have three outlines for that piece to hit the bull's eye on the plot twists I have in mind. Thank you, Mr. Eskens, for your inspirational words.