Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 3, March 31, 2010

The new characters keep on coming. Two more supporting roles. With principal characters, I rely on the biographies I've written for them. With supporting characters, I rely on intuition and experience. As I see the supporting characters emerge on the page and listen to them talk, I get a sense of who they are. When I started out as a writer, these spontaneously drawn characters were sometimes—well, quite often—at odds with the principal characters and distorted the story lines they inhabited. I'd have been better off if I'd sketched out who they were in a paragraph or two before I dropped them into the story. But I see that now with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, I muddled through and went back and fixed things in the rewrite(s).

By doing things the hard way, though, it seems I've developed a facility for getting supporting characters right the first time. But the question arises: Why bother having more than a bare minimum of supporting characters in the first place. It's simply a matter of taste. I enjoy reading and writing about principal characters who have personal links—supporting characters—to the world around them. Crazed loners don't do anything for me.

Which raises another point. People often say that writers are solitary workers. Not me. When I sit down to write, I'm surrounded by a cast of characters. In my mind's eye, I can see what they look like. There must be a mind's ear, too, because I can hear them talk. Sometimes, they tell me to turn down the music I have playing in the background.

I wrote another 2,000 words. If writing a novel is comparable to running a marathon, I've started out by running three 4:30-minute miles.

Day 3 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 2, March 30, 2010

I introduced three new characters to the story today, two principal characters and one supporting character. Of the principal characters, one is the protagonist, the other is the antagonist. The supporting character is the antagonist's right-hand bad guy.

Putting new characters into play is something of a song-and-dance routine. Vocally, you have to give each character a distinct voice. You don't want a choir of all basses or sopranos. Then you have to choreograph each character's movements. You want to set them in motion with a purpose in mind and ideally with a sense of grace. It won't do to have them tripping over one another.

There also should be story logic behind a character's introduction: The line of a plot or subplot should begin to unwind.

Today's writing matched yesterday's in word total: 2,000+. Page count is now fifteen, about 50% more than I'd originally expected. A good start, but I know there will be some slow days ahead. Over the course of a three-to-four month project the world is bound to intrude in one way or another.

Day 2 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 1, March 29, 2010

I've been writing fiction for quite a while. Three of my novels have sold, and in one case resold, to New York publishing houses: Signet Books and Bantam Books. A fourth novel sold to a publisher based in Arkansas, Variance Publishing. I've self-published a number of other novels. For the most part, my novels have received good to glowing media reviews and predominantly favorable reader reviews. For example, see The President's Henchman.

I hope to continue to work both sides of the publishing street.

With this blog, I'll be creating a record of how I write the first draft of my new novel, which for the purposes of this blog, I'll call SC. It's a story of psychological suspense, but I won't be giving away specific details. Rather, I'll be describing the preparation I did for this story, and what I accomplish each day in the way of writing.

Sounds like dry stuff, I know. But it might be useful to anyone who is thinking they might like to write their own novel someday. For some would-be writers, it will probably extinguish their ambitions. For others it might provide a framework and a bit of inspiration, i.e. I could do that.

For SC, I did on-site research. That is I visited the setting where the story will occur so I could get a sense of place. I did secondary research, reading books and web postings. I wrote biographies of the major characters and I did an eleven-page outline of the plot.

The more you know about your story before you start writing, the less chance there is you'll get stuck as you write. In fact, the more you know up front, the more you can improvise later without going astray.

The last novel I wrote was 160,000+ words long. Today, I wrote 2,000 words. That includes the prologue in which two of the principal characters are introduced, one by name, the other by name, appearance, and dialogue. I also wrote the first scene of the first chapter in which a third principal character is introduced, also by name, appearance and dialogue.

My goal is to write approximately 2,000 words each day at least six days per week. Doing the math, if this book is about as long as my last book, the first draft will take about eighty days to complete or three months, allowing for occasional days off.

After that, there will be revisions and polishes.

Day 1 of writing my new novel is done.