The simple answer is it depends.
No Remorse, the latest novel, started with an opening line and a luxury residential home as a setting. I knew there would be a trail to follow into Anthony Trimble’s past, but little idea what Kent would uncover. Not much planning.
By contrast, I had at least two Lever Arch files of handwritten notes and a lot on computer for No Accident. This was partly because I wrote the story after No Bodies, which then became the second novel. I needed to dovetail No Accident into the second story, which required a lot of plotting and planning.
You may also have read that in No Accident, Kent couldn’t find the clues to solve the murder, it was so cleverly plotted. I made three attempts to overcome this problem, writing reams of notes, considering different ideas until I lost the will to live. It was only after Penmore Press offered me a contract to publish No Accident that I found the answer.
Similarly, No Bodies was planned in some detail. With two main plots and a number of subplots to deliver, the story could have come off the rails. And, having now written No Accident, a lot of issues in the back story had changed. For instance, in the original No Bodies, Kent was in love with Gemma’s mother, Sarah, the local vet. The tension was Gemma’s antagonism to this and threats to tell her mother what she and Kent had got up to.
Once I dropped this subplot, large parts of the novel needed changing. Every little change had a bigger impact and in the end, I pretty much rewrote the whole of No Bodies to fit in with the legacy left by No Accident. Rather ironic, as it turned out.
No Remorse had no such issues to deal with, which is probably why I didn’t plan it. But, I couldn’t ignore the backstory as I soon came to realise. And it’s the backstory which has occupied most of my thoughts as I prepare to write No More Lies. So, quite a few pages of notes and ideas to consider.
I’ll address the backstory issues as I write the next novel. I’ve found that I often abandon any plans I make, usually because something better comes to mind while I write. And the characters in the story have a habit of doing what they want, which means they have become living, breathing people.
And, as anyone who knows me will tell you, no one knows what I’ll do, including me. That’s what makes writing the Kent Fisher novels so much fun. I hope it shows when you read the stories.