my 2 pack-a-day habit

Would be a ridiculous title for this blog post about writing, but I was a little stumped for a better one.

So today, I was going to do a real Debbie Downer post about how greed has brought our country to its knees – but a friend suggested I write instead about how I manage to put forth 2 novels a year. And I realized that, while no one’s going to care much, it’s at least nicer than what I was planning to say 😀

How to Write Two Novels Per Month:

Step 1: Sit down.

Step 2: Write

Step 3: Finish

Step 4: Repeat.

More clarity, you say? Well, what the hell, I have time.

Before you can write TWO novels in a year, you have to write ONE. Typically, for me, that means I’ll come up with a character I’m really curious about or interested in, then spend a few days thinking about him/her and what’s so interesting about him/her that I want to explore. And who are we kidding – I don’t like to write lead females, so for the sake of all that him/her, I’ll just tell it how it is. I find a character I really want to explore, and I’ll start to ask myself what is it he does – what makes him so interesting, and what do I want to know about him? What made him who he is, how will he change in the course of my story, and what will it take to change him?

More often than not, I’ll find myself doing something utterly unrelated, like washing the dishes, driving home from work, or working in the garage, and a scene will suddenly appear in my head. Then I have my starting point. Now I just have to explore that scene and build it up, and ask IT questions. What’s going on? Why is it happening? Who started it, how can it be stopped/altered/prevented? How does this scene relate to my new character? How is he affected?

And the novel starts to take shape. Then it’s a few more days of pondering the scene, the scene before and after it, the character, all the other characters he’s going to meet/interact with along the way – what exactly IS the way. If I can see the scenes playing out, adding up and shaping into something interesting, then I’ll declare (unto myself) that I have a new novel idea.

Immediately following that, I’ll spend a day or two contemplating titles, mostly because I’m OCD about having a great title before I start writing. I don’t recommend this, it’ll drive you bonkers. After I finally get one, though, I go through a brief period I like to call SHEER AND UTTER PANIC, wherein I realize I can’t possible write this novel, I don’t have the skill required.

That’ll last a day, sometimes a week if I’m out of rum and my friends aren’t around to smack me.

At this point, if the novel really is a bit complex, I’ll go ahead and take notes. Jotting down some character traits, background for the leads at least, get to know them really well. Most of what I make notes about doesn’t come out in the story, but by knowing all these intimate details about the characters, I’m able to write them in a way that suggest I really do know these people. If a writer isn’t familiar with the minutia of each character’s lives, he or she won’t be familiar enough to write them well.

When it comes to notes – I suk. I’ll start off with grand intentions. I’ll even get a little notebook devoted to this particular novel, and start out with page 1 really neatly hand written, starting off with names and places and events and dates . . . after a couple of days, I couldn’t even tell you where the little notebook is. But if you could find it, you’d probably find scene details scribbled out of order, suggestions for stuff I really don’t want to forget to include, important facts and more than one quote I’m desperately determined to use IN the novel.

Some day, after I’m dead and buried and strangers are going through my belongings looking for loose change, they’ll find these notebooks.

Anyway, now I’m ready to start writing, and the OCD comes back into play. I have to start from page 1, scene 1, and can only write in linear progression until I’ve reached The End. Loads of writers can do scenes here and there, then stitch them together. Some write an ending first, to make sure they have one, others like to pop about as the “mood” strikes. I say moods are why God made Midol, and you can only strike a match.

But that’s just me.

Once I’ve started a novel, I’m right into my writing routine – which is Monday through Friday, during the day, and weekends off. It’s just a quirk of mine, but it produces anywhere from 2-5 thousand words a day, five days a week (sometimes four days, if I’m feeling those mood things). Occasionally – and I have to admit I really enjoy this – I’ll get into a “writing contest” for a month at a time with two friends of mine, Lori Basiewicz  and Pete Tzinski. We’ll challenge each other to a word duel for a month long period, then try to outdo each other daily. It keeps me working every day, and keeps me from sitting here staring at the screen or jetting off to play solitaire for “just a few hands” that seem to take eight hours. It also keeps me from wasting time wandering around the internet when I really need to be writing.

After that, I just keep going, and going, and going on until I’ve reached the end of the novel. A process that typically takes 3 – 4 months, start to finish. I write a clean first draft, not a rough, write-crap-then-fix-it style. After that, a month or two go by where I’m planning that novel’s future, dreaming of making the big time, realizing I won’t, then thinking about another character to take my mind off it all, and it all spirals into a second novel that will be thought of, started, worked on, and finished well before the end of the year.

And then I do it all over again.

That may sound a little pathetic, but if you’re thinking I’m a mushroom growing on a keyboard in front of a computer screen, I actually do have a day job. And hobbies. And a house, and pets, and a yard that needs working in, a lapidary business, and a habit of walking on beaches for hours at a time. I also create and sell a line of shirts, and run my own little indie publishing world.

And I don’t like mushrooms.

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