Methods of Madness by Stephanie Black – Review

All right, folks. I don’t care if you’re tired of hearing me blather on about how AMAZING Stephanie Black’s books are, I just can’t stop. She was kind enough to send me a copy of her latest, Methods of Madness. I got it on Saturday (and did a dance of joy), started it on Sunday and finished it on Monday.

Emily Ramsey has spent the last three years putting her life back together after her sister was killed in a hit-and-run and her fiancé disappeared—the same night. But now that she’s engaged to Zach Sullivan, someone doesn’t want her to move on—and someone is trying to steal Zach away from her.

Yeah, it’s all fun and games until someone gets murdered.

I’m proud to say that I suspect the bad guy and/or guys all along. (I’m good like that.) Of course, I suspected everyone. I questioned Emily’s sanity right along with her as her world seemed to conspire against her. So I guess maybe that’s not such a great skill this time. . . .

This book is so intricately plotted, and the characters so well-motivated . . . sigh. I’m ’bout to die of jealousy here, folks. Yes, this is technically an LDS book, but seriously, don’t let that stop you—you don’t have to know anything about the LDS Church to enjoy this book!

What I want to know: how much do you plan ahead, Stephanie? Do you always know most of the turns the story will take in advance (because I doubt we ever know all of them)? How much do you have to go back and add in later—planting clues, lacing in new characters and motivations?

And I need to thank you, too—while I read this book Monday, I also had an idea for a book. Chapter one (2600 words) pretty much tumbled out yesterday. I know what one major plot turn will be, and of course I know the end (Nuclear bomb! Everyone dies! No, wait . . .), and I’m about to sit down and plot from here to there. I usually know my major plot twists—but sometimes the best twists simply present themselves as I’m writing.

How about you? How many layers do you put into your plot? How much plotting do you do before you start?

4 thoughts on “Methods of Madness by Stephanie Black – Review”

  1. This sounds like a great read.
    For me, lately I’ve been writing a one-page synopsis with all the major plot points, but not much more and I do my characterization study, but that’s it. I like the surprises that come along while writing.

  2. Jordan, thank you so much for the fantastic review! I’m so excited that you enjoyed Methods of Madness!

    The answer to the plotting question is that when I start, I only have a very broad outline for the story. I need SOMETHING to work with–I can’t just start writing–and I need to know where the story is going. But I won’t know all the individual twists and turns until I actually write the book–and rewrite, and rewrite. My first drafts are messy and inconsistent, because I’ll change things along the way. For instance in my current work-in-progress, I realized when I was nearing the end of the first draft that I needed another character, so I just threw him in. If anyone read that draft, they’d be boggled–where did HE come from? Then in the second draft, I’m weaving him into the story, along with a new character that I decided I needed. It takes me multiple drafts to get all the twists and clues and connections and layers into a story.

  3. I generally have an outline, but my work now is definitely more intricately planned than my earlier work. Having several plotlines woven together is nice – it means always having something to happen next, plus not winding up with a bunch of disconnected episodes.

  4. @Stephanie—Well, it’s nice to hear these brilliant, intricate plots don’t spring from your head fully formed like Athena from the mind of Zeus! (I have a chance!)

    Personally, I’m becoming more and more of a planner as I go on. With this last WIP, the idea for the first chapter sprang into my mind. Then as I contemplated Methods, I came up with the major twist (asking those “What if?” questions). I wrote out chapter 1 that day, and then sat down and just figured out a way to get from there to the twist and then to solve the crime and save the day. The plot outline was about 3p single spaced.

    I’m so excited to be excited about a story again!

    From here–with the last two, I pulled out a spreadsheet to use as a calendar and plugged in the events (sometimes using different columns for different storylines, or for things that happen off screen), and to make sure I spaced out events and had enough happening, and added word count goals. Each of these has progressively spanned less time—the first covered three months, the second covered 29 days, and this one will cover less than 24 hours. I found (and/or had to come up with) a few new twists and turns in making the calendars.

    But I love discovering new twists and turns as I’m writing!

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