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A Strategy to Keep Writing in the Time of Virus

A Friday the 13th Mystery in 13 days of plotting with 70 non-writer friends, followed by 13 days of drafting all by myself…my strategy against the ‘Rona virus

By Rolynn Anderson

(Readers: Please scroll to the bottom and track my e-mail messages from #1-#13!)

Thank you so much for joining me on this mystery-writing journey. You’ve helped me get a good start on this story and I hope I’ve offered you a distraction as ‘Rona races across our country.

One last question: Do any of you want to be ‘named’ in my story (especially the ATF agent, retired Ranger, and Defense Analyst characters who are Sable’s pals)? I’d use all fake names normally, but I had to ask, because some people like to ‘live’ in a story. If I don’t hear from you, I won’t use either your first or last name.

Wish me luck. I’m going to write a scene a day for the next 13 days. You’ve given me a great start! Rolynn

Great scary scenes from all of you. I had no idea snakes were such a thing!

Today I present you with two teasers with pretty much the same detail but slightly different format. Pick your favorite format, then tell me how to create more ‘punch’ in the teaser. What works…or doesn’t? What’s missing? Any response is helpful!

#1: A Vacation Nightmare on Friday the 13th

Agent Sable Chisholm’s on-duty brain injury rendered her fearless...and unfit for the FBI. A golf holiday away from San Francisco punches up her healing process, until her swing coach is murdered and she’s tapped as the killer. Sable’s skills kick in, but so does her lack of fear. Can she reboot her brain and snag criminals to restore her career with the FBI?


#2: A Vacation Nightmare on Friday the 13th

No FBI agent in San Francisco will work with Sable Chisholm.

Why? An on-duty brain injury erased her sense of fear.

Boss says: Get therapy. Relax. Head to the Central Coast and golf.


Until: Her swing coach is murdered and she’s a suspect.

Bottom line: Expose killers and control fearlessness, or Sable’s career is over.

I want to write a scary scene in this story, one that frightens you but makes you want to turn the page. What kind of a scenario might that be…for you?

Yikes! No consensus on the best title, but still helpful tips for me in your rationales. Thank you!

Today’s question requires you to brainstorm…whatever comes to your mind will help me, so don’t hold back. Ready?

Our heroine, Sable, suffered a brain injury on duty, compromising her amygdala so she’s lost the emotion of fear. She can’t go back to being an FBI agent (in San Francisco) until she can manage her fearlessness.

In this murder investigation, her fearlessness gets her into trouble and complicates things. How/what/why?

Thanks for your candid answers on what makes a good mystery. You’ve set a high bar for me! Next, the title/cover for the story. Determining a title (and cover concept) early, helps a writer concoct a story that fits/uses the title to enrich the plot. So here are some options for this gritty murder mystery:

Tell me your two favorites and why:

1. MURDER ON THE 13TH (A Sable Chisholm Mystery)

-Cover: 13th Hole. Flag with 13 on it, the flag dripping blood.

2. SHANKED (A Sable Chisholm Mystery)

-Cover: Bent golf club with blood on it lying on green of 13th hole

3. LETHAL HAZARD (A Sable Chisholm Mystery)

-Cover: Picture of a golf ball in a precarious, impossible lie…head of golf club with blood on it, poised to hit the ball.

4. FOREWARNING (A Sable Chisholm Mystery)

-Cover: Cloudy, dark scene on a golf course, at 13th hole or maybe lightening striking

5. TRAPPED (A Sable Chisholm Mystery)

-Cover: Deep sand trap…using the rake as ‘T’ of Trapped…written in the sand

#8 You Rock! You gave me so many options for Sable getting into trouble my mind is spinning…in a good way. Thank you! Today you give me reader preferences…two questions:

  • Do you want to hear the voice (point of view) of the villain, or would you rather remain in the dark about the villain’s motives?

  • What are the elements of your favorite mysteries you hope I include in this story?

#7 You truly met the challenge of fleshing out my crooked golf center. Next big challenge for you: Give me unique extremely perilous situations our heroine, Sable gets into…and where each takes place on the golf course property. And, no, Sable trying to hit a ball out of the trap on #12 does not qualify J

#6 Wow! Superior ideas for how Sable found herself in the arms of a dead man on Friday the 13th. Lots of grist for my mill.

Help me with this plot point: SOMETHING NEFARIOUS IS HAPPENING AT THE BUSY GOLF SCHOOL/CLUB-FITTING CENTER across the street from the Golf Course. Sable and her golf buddies need to figure out what’s going on because it might tie into MD’s murder. What are their guesses?

#5 Great names, team. We’re on the 5th day of 13…building a mystery…in the time of virus! Here’s what I need from you: Our heroine wakes up in the arms of MD-the golf pro-in a golf cart in the dark cart barn…and he’s dead. (You already know he died from blows to the head with a blunt instrument.) Explain why our heroine and our victim ended up in the cart barn.

I know some of you want to refer back to my previous messages, so I put them in a document, attached, and I will attach the document every day.

Thank you for the villain suggestions. Evil now populates my story.

Our heroine, Sable Chisholm, housesitting in a home above the 14th tees, is accused of a horrible crime. Her newly-made friends in the Cypress Crest Golf Club come to her aid…because they have skills! Name these women:

A retired ATF agent, A Retired Ranger, A CrossFit Champion and Defense Analyst

Thanks for the mirror ideas, friends. Now I need a villain. Man? Woman? Motive for murder?

What we know so far: The victim (13 letters in his name) Michael DeLong, nicknamed MD, as in ‘the golf doctor,’ a golf pro at Cypress Crest Golf Course, age 34, was found murdered. In his hand he held a tiny shard of mirror. Forensics determine he died from blows to the head with a blunt instrument.

Get your clever ideas to me by tomorrow a.m. I only have 10 more days to plot this story! Thanks! Roly

Great names everyone. A reminder, this is a dark, scary story for Friday the 13th. Heart-Pounding suspense.

All 13 stories must include a broken mirror found next to golf pro, Michael DeLong’s (‘MD’ is his nickname) body. Explain the broken mirror-make it unique! (and thanks for using reply-to-me, only)

In isolation, we may not be able to come up with the law of gravity, like Isaac Newton did during the bubonic plague (see my note, below), but we might develop a story together-a concept I’ve trotted out before on the 19th hole. A Murder Mystery at a Golf Course. (Title to come…)

13 writers (including me) are each writing our own story following a Friday the 13th theme. 13 chapters, 13,000 words. My murder mystery takes place at Cypress Crest ;-) Golf Course.

If you want to help with the details (I understand this doesn’t appeal to everyone), here’s the first thing I need (other trickier questions to follow):

A 13 letter name for the male murder victim (*An old superstition says if a person has 13 letters in their name, then they are bound to have devil's luck. To get the connection, consider names like Charles Manson, Osama Bin Laden, Jack the Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy, Saddam Hussein and Albert De Salvo)

If you’re game to join me on this adventure, send me a 13 letter name and I’ll pick one from your offerings! I’m going to plot this book in 13 days and write it in the following 13 days. 26 (sheltered) days to write a mystery! (I’m nervous, because I have no experience with this collaborative effort, but it might be a grateful distraction for me…and you!) Stay healthy! Roly

Note: Isaac Newton university closed down as a precaution against the Great Plague (Bubonic), in 1665. Newton's private studies at his home in Woolsthorpe over the next two years saw the development of his theories on calculus, optics and the law of gravitation.

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