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January 30, 2017


Hank Phillippi Ryan

Welcome Micki! and this is so fascinating… I bet you have a wonderful and frightening stories to tell. And there's someone, I keep thinking it's Stephen King, who says the hardest part of writing is deciding what to leave out.
Or that may have been one of my news directors--wait, I remember! The news director said "you don't have to empty your notebook into every story. "

But I have to admit, the serial number on handcuffs is pretty intriguing…

Laura DiSilverio

Thanks for this great post, Micki! You are so right that deciding what to leave out is key. You write about a scuba diver--how much technical scuba info do you include in the books?

Micki Browning

Thank you, Hank! I did find a way to use it in a story without it being extraneous, but it took a while for me to figure out the angle!

Micki Browning

Great question Laura.
Neither of my two primary crit partners are divers, and they let me know if a passage I wrote was too technical. Most people are familiar with the concept of scuba diving, so the key was to capitalize on the known and only explain the technical if it pertained to the story. I concentrated on recreating the experience of being underwater, but the majority of the novel takes place topside.

cj petterson

Oh, yeah. Those novels with info dumps that break up the story. Don't remember the correct attribution, but to paraphrase a saying for playwrights “don't put a gun on the wall in Act I, unless you're going to do something with it in Act 3.” And congrats again on "Adrift." Marilyn Johnston (aka cj)

Terry Shames

Fascinating post--both the "extraneous" info and how you learned to pare it down. Makes me want to write a book in which serial numbers on handcuffs is important--but I probably won't!

Micki Browning

And what mystery doesn't need a gun? ; )
Thanks for the well wishes, Marilyn!

Micki Browning

It was a painful--but necessary lesson, Terry. Now that you know about the serial numbers, plot away!

Vicki Batman

So interesting to meet you and learn about your career and how it influenced your writing.


You are exactly right. I only care about all that information if it pertains to the plot. Yet the fact that you know it means the details I need to know will be accurate.

Your books sounds great. It's definitely on my wish list.

Joanna Campbell Slan

Micki, I stayed up WAY too late last night reading ADRIFT. Knowing your background, I was thrilled as a reader that you didn't bog down the story with too much detail. It's totally credible, but unlike some books I've read by LEO, you didn't sink the ship with all you know! (I was thinking that when I see you next I would congratulate you for being so smart!)

Micki Browning

Thank you, Vicki. The pleasure is mine!

Mark, I love revision. If it doesn't move the story, it doesn't belong. I hope you enjoy Adrift!

Micki Browning

Oh, Joanna. I'm not even going to pretend to be upset at your loss of sleep! My work here is done. Lol. Thank you for sharing that with me. I'm so glad you enjoyed the tale!

Hank Phillippi Ryan

I'm in revisions right now, which I adore..(usually)..and I always ask: How does this advance the story? If I can't say how, it goes.

Sometimes the writer has to know things--that's research. Even though it makes a difference to know them, the knowledge can emerge indirectly.

Laura DiSilverio

I usually do most of my research AFTER I write the book. I put brackets in the text where I need to learn something or look something up. I've found that if I research extensively before starting, I'm tempted to put in the really cool stuff I learn, even if it's not necessary. Doing the bulk of my research afterwards helps me control that tendency. Obviously, that sometimes means I have to do some re-writing, but I still feel I'm better off.

Micki Browning

Exactly, Hank. One can enjoy the flavor of a meal without knowing every ingredient. The grocery list isn't what's important, it's the taste that one savors. If the author does his or her job right, the reader isn't scrutinizing the parts, so much as enjoying the whole. But, add too much of something, and now you've ruined the dish... or the story world.

Micki Browning

Wow, Laura. AFTER writing? How do you know what you don't know?

That said, I'd probably draft faster if I postponed my research. I'm a medievalist by education, and I LOVE to research. Maybe a bit too much....

E. B. Davis

I have to laugh. In one of my first short stories published, the editor had a police procedure specialist review our stories. My cop didn't follow procedure, but then that was the point--he wanted to give the kid a break. Making sure the facts, legal and procedural, are true doesn't necessarily make the story better. Not if the characters are treated like cookie cutters, without humanity. They may not always go by the book, but then humans are known to break the rules!

Good luck with the book, Micki. I enjoyed reading it.

Laura DiSilverio

I do enough research to get started before drafting the novel, but I don't get into details or nitty-gritty until after. Of course, how much I have to do depends on the book. I did a lot more up front for my dystopian Incubation trilogy than for most of my books, for instance, since my base knowledge of genetic manipulation was pretty thin!


E.B., It was an a-Ha moment when I realized that accuracy shouldn't get in the way of a story. If the author can convince me the sky is green, and then doesn't violate those story parameters, I have no problem deviating from what I know to be "true."

Micki  Browning

I would probably have to earn my doctorate before feeling bold enough to write about genetic manipulation.
: )

Elaine Viets

Welcome, Micki. Writing is like sculpting -- you take that block of knowledge and remove everything that doesn't create the art you want. Looking forward to your new book.

Micki  Browning

Thank you Elaine. It is very much like sculpting. I hope you enjoy Adrift!

Tammy Euliano

I so live what you are saying. I'm a physician with my first novel going through rejections and hearing everything from "great immersion into the medical world!" to "more details!" to "Way too much medical stuff". So difficult to figure out the happy medium.
The level of detail in Andromeda Strain is CRAZY! granted it's an old book. But even The Martian went into great detail about chemical reactions. I know I can't please everyone but I need to please at least one agent!
Thanks for letting me know I might figure it out eventually...

Micki Browning

Tammy, I promise you it gets easier. In the end, it's all subjective and you have to satisfy yourself first. For me that took a little perspective. I enrolled in a LOT of Guppy classes (I want to say 14 and counting) over the past several years. Without exception, they were fabulous and I learned something from every one. If you have the chance to take Kris Neri's plotting course, run to sign up. As I improved my craft, the balance I sought became easier to identify. Good luck, you're surrounded by an amazing community.

Lori L. Robinett

So very true - realism CAN get in the way of good fiction. My new novel involves nanotechnology. The research I did is fascinating, and it took a lot of editing to whittle the overexplaining to expose the story. BTW - loved your info on handcuffs!

Micki  Browning

Thanks Lori. Nanotechnology. Wow. I'll be looking for your story!

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