The Method Is Imprecise

I write novels. Here’s how I do it.

It doesn’t necessarily work for anyone other than me, and it doesn’t work for me enough yet that I would be so presumptuous as to declare it a success. I’m not recommending the way I do it. I’m just describing.

I’m a bit of a rambler. I like wiggle room. I start with an idea, typically while I’m driving, appreciating the scenery, and listening to music. As soon as I can, which is to say, after I’m home, or in a motel room, or anywhere where the opening of this laptop is convenient, I cobble together a basic outline that basically sets a beginning, an ending and a sketchy path in between

Then I start writing. At the end of each chapter, I add detail to the outline and highlight important details. This is basically a reference tool, lest I inadvertently change the spelling of a name or turn a green Buick in Chapter Five into a white Ford in Chapter Twelve.

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           The writing is then interspersed with the same sort of brainstorming that got the project off the ground in the first place. It’s not uncommon for this rumination to occur early in the morning, often when I’m still half-asleep. I get up and go about my affairs, sipping coffee, catching up on social media, processing emails, and, yet, all at the same time, considering the value and plausibility of what I am considering.

I call this “mulling time.” It’s as time-consuming as the actual writing. At certain points, I may retreat a bit into a chapter earlier completed because it occurs to me that a character would logically have additional issues to address. As a general rule, though, I just forge ahead until a first draft is completed. Then I have someone I trust read it, while I go back and work my way back through it, sometimes adding, always subtracting, polishing and correcting. My third draft involves working with an editor and responding to his or her suggestions. There may wind up being more, but I try to hold the drafts down to three. I’m sure it’s possible for the writing of a novel to go on forever, but at some point, it becomes counterproductive and overly fussy.

One novel is at the point of near completion. It’s just sitting aside now. I’m writing a crime novel, now, and it’s close to the halfway point of its first draft. I was working on a modern western (set after World War II) for a while – it’s actually further along than the crime novel – but I’ve decided to set it aside while I concentrate on the crime novel, which is a contemporary yarn involving an honest cop and an unscrupulous prosecutor with political aspirations.

My first novel was published a little over two years ago. My second was released late last year and is now available for Kindles. I’m trying to make a living doing this, which is difficult. I’m just pushing on, staying busy and trying to make my fortune.


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