Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 33, April 30, 2010

I did something today I don't often do: I wrote a scene within a scene. It's something like a picture within a picture on a TV screen. You know, that feature that lets you watch two different channels at once. I usually like to keep things focused on one moment at a time, but today the story presented itself to me in a different way. So I went with it. I think writers have to trust their instincts, their inner voices. The worst that can happen is you have to go back and rewrite it. As I enjoy rewriting, that prospect doesn't bother me.

In today's first scene, a principal character sets herself up for what she'll consider a big betrayal and being a vengeful person she will inevitably try to strike back for this. In a second scene, two other principal characters learn that a nemesis likely has killed a police detective in his younger days, marking him as a very dangerous guy, but also suggesting a way he might be dealt with. Finally, the protagonist and his spouse celebrate a very special event, highlighting the bond between them, making it clear how one will feel when the other is placed in jeopardy.

I wrote 6.5 pages today.

Day 33 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 32, April 29, 2010

I started writing my new novel and this blog one month ago. In that time, I've written 170.5 pages and 51,750 words. More important than the numbers, I like what I've written. The story will be a grabber for a lot of people; the characters are interesting and the writing flows. All of which is pretty good for a first draft.

Keeping the momentum going in the first three months of May will be very important because in the fourth week of May things are bound to slow down. Home from college comes the next generation of the family's writing tree, a true scholar of the English language. An additional person under the roof is another distraction, albeit a pleasant one. In addition to that the family will be decamping to Florida for ten days where yours truly will be doing some research for a future novel. If you think it's hard to keep one complex story in mind—and you should—it's much harder to keep two stories in mind. You have to compartmentalize. Occasionally, there's seepage and you have to say wait a minute, where does that idea go?

That's why it's obligatory that I keep writing this story without cease, though at a slower rate of 2-3 pages per day.

Today's first scene was one character examining her place in the world and deciding where she wants to go in the future. Taking a look at someone's dreams always raises the question of whether they will be dashed or realized. It's a good kind of a let's-take-a-breather scene between action beats or scenes that ratchet up the tension. A subsequent scene gets back to tightening the screw with the revelation that one principal character who claims that a fire was the result of arson is responsible for the blaze herself.

Today, I wrote five-plus pages.

Day 32 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 31, April 28, 2010

Today's writing involved one of the fiction writer's favored characters: the oracle. In Joseph Wambaugh's work there was a veteran police sergeant at the Hollywood station who was straightforwardly called The Oracle. In John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series the role of the oracle was played by McGee's best friend, the world renowned economist, Meyer. The protagonist in my story has as his oracle a "cousin by adoption," who's an MIT grad and an entrepreneur who's started a material sciences company. She possesses the kind of specialized skills to help the protagonist solve a needle-in-a-haystack problem.

The advantage of having a soothsayer who's close personally to your protagonist is you not only get the objective information out to the reader, you also get to reveal more of your leading character's personal side, making him more accessible and engaging to the reader.

In a second scene, two antagonists—whom I hope are quite engaging—discover the identity of a real creep; see previous post regarding the attempted sexual assault. Their problem is, how do they let the cops know who the bad guy is without taking the chance they'll give themselves away? And in the final scene written today, a supporting character who is a video game maven sees the future of his business being played out in the real world.

I wrote just over six pages today.

Day 31 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 30, April 27, 2010

Very quick post today, which was truly crazy, late, with intrusions. Did two scenes, a police follow-up on an assault which will really ratchet up the tension for a scene to come in the climax sequence, and a scene that will lead to the discovery of the true nature of a character that will also figure in the climax.

Six pages written today.

Day 30 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 29, April 26, 2010

In the past, I've been criticized on occasion for not making my villains three dimensional. My reaction has been: That's the problem with villains, they're not fully formed people. They lack empathy. They're indifferent to the suffering of other people. At their worst, they're piles of poop in search of swarms of flies. I show them without redeeming qualities because they have none.

Nonetheless, they do have internal lives, even if they're creepy and malformed. So today's writing looks at what's going on in the head of a character who set out to reach some noble goals but got way too caught up in building and maintaining a personal base of power. This reflects one of my core beliefs: Institutions that are established for the best of reasons ultimately, and usually quickly, come to exist primarily to serve themselves.

That point of view might be seen as cynical; I welcome rebuttals to offer exceptions to the rule.

Today's examination of personal corruption covered six pages.

Day 29 of writing my new novel is done.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 28, April 25, 2010

I've been working on my new novel, and writing this blog, for four weeks now. Out of the past twenty-eight days, I've written pages on twenty-seven of them. That's a sign, as I see it, that I'm doing what I love. Which is the only reason to become a fiction writer in the first place.

I moved two story lines forward today. In the first one, I'm pushing the possibility that one character is a very creepy guy, but at the same time I'm creating some ambiguity about that possibility. This is known as keeping the reader guessing. Always a good way to get the reader to turn the pages. In the other story line, I've added another character to the pursuit of the story's antagonists. This introduces an element of competition. Who, if anyone, will nab the antagonists? This is another way to pique the reader's interest.

I wrote just short of five pages today, a little less than my daily goal, but, heck, it's Sunday.

Day 28 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 27, April 24, 2010

Today's post was delayed by a tornado warning. The radar picture on my TV showed a bright red band of storms heading right for the town where I live. In case no one ever told you, it's not a good idea to be at the keyboard of a computer that's plugged in to your house's electrical system when there's lightning in the nearby sky. Your machine and you both might get fried.

Dangerous, inclement or even murky weather can, of course, play a major role in any story. I don't think I'll be giving away too much to say one of the three types of weather I just mentioned will play a significant part in the climax of my novel. The thing about severe weather is, you don't want it to appear out of the clear blue, so to speak. You have to build up to it.

In that way, it's like any other story development: It should build, not just appear. If something dramatic happens without any prelude, that's clunky writing. People appreciate foreshadowing. It shows skill. In one of the story lines on which I worked today, there was a dramatic scene, a near miss of a sexual assault. This had been preceded by two other scenes in which this threat had been growing…and if it leads to something still more threatening a third precedent will have been established.

In another story line, it looks like the antagonists might have achieved their goal, but any savvy reader knows they have to suffer a setback or the story is over, and the story is far from over.

I wrote five pages today.

Day 27 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 26, April 23, 2010

Yesterday, the antagonists mocked one of the principal characters; today they attacked the very heart of her power and forced her to yield, at least for the moment. But by doing so they angered the character's main ally to the point where he would consider murder as a means of retribution. The struggle is ratcheting up nicely.

The actions that might mean life or death to those most immediately involved also have consequences for innocent third parties in the wider world, and today we see two examples of this. This ripples-in-a-pond aspect broadens the story and makes it easier for more readers to relate to what's going on.

I wrote six point five pages, making it another productive day. The fun quotient is still high, too.

Day 26 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 25, April 22, 2010

Today's writing involved doing something I've never done before while writing a novel: including another art form within the body of the narrative. One of the things the story's antagonists do is to mock one of the principal characters by lampooning her in a comic strip that is distributed over the Internet by a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed. In order to make clear how ridicule takes place, I have to describe in a panel-by-panel sequence what happens in the comic strip. Using only words to recreate a principally visual means of telling a funny story was a bit of a challenge. But I think I pulled it off. I made myself laugh anyway.

In any case, I kept the story moving forward. I foreshadowed the emotional jeopardy the protagonist will face. I introduced a new potential villain—or maybe a red herring—in one of the storylines. And as mentioned above I showed that the antagonists are highly creative, which makes them all the more dangerous.

I wrote a bit more than seven pages today.

Day 25 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 24, April 21, 2010

Today was one of those days where life intruded, outside obligations pushed their way inside my writer's cocoon. Some things just can't be put off. So the trick is to deal with them as calmly and efficiently as possible. You get ruffled, the muse is likely to say adios. Stay cool, she'll be patient, too. Get back to the story with you.

Novels can be divided in different ways: chapters, sections, books, characters. I'm dividing my novel into days. For this story, it helps to organize the plot for me and for the reader. Today, a Wednesday in real life, I also moved into the Wednesday of the story. Going strictly by the calendar this should be the midpoint of the story, but it's not. I like to ratchet up the action at the end of my stories, pack a lot in, leave the reader breathless, satisfied or both when he or she finishes. So I'm approaching one-third done, not one half.

In today's writing, I hint at the power the antagonists possess. They could screw things up big time for a lot of people. But they're showing restraint for the moment. Inevitably, that restraint will have to be loosened. The story is after all a psychological thriller. I've got to have the tension build.

Despite the interruptions, I managed to write five pages.

Day 24 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 23, April 20, 2010

Today was a nurturing day. Story lines were developed, seeds of new developments were planted and a new supporting character was introduced. Both reader reviews and media reviews have noted that I like to tell multi-layered stories, and I do. They hold my interest as a writer and they seem to please most readers, too. In order to structure a complex story, you've got to have big parts and little parts and fit them all together just so. That's what today was all about.

I got into today's writing, as I get into every day's writing, by reading what I'd written the day before. This does two things for me. It allows me to polish yesterday's writing, and there's always something that can be improved, and it gives me a running start into today's work, reestablishes my connection to my muse. Feel free to try this at home the next time you write a novel.

I completed six pages today.

Day 23 of writing my new novel is done

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 22, April 19, 2010

I wrote five pages today and most of them are devoted to a minor character. Why would I do that? Two reasons. First, by writing the story of this minor character I provide an indirect look at the family atmosphere in which the protagonist was raised. This is more subtle than approaching his upbringing head-on. Second, it provides me, as a writer, the opportunity to fit a neat little short story within the narrative of the novel. Looking at this short story, I could see it being a major story line in another novel or even a novella in its own right.

It was pointed out to me today, by she who points out many things, a/k/a my wife, that I haven't mentioned yet how long I work on average to come up with my daily page quota. I usually work between four to six hours per day, so the average would be five. You might think that doesn't sound like much. But ask yourself: When was the last time you spent five hours telling a story straight out of your head, making up every word as you go along? Then ask yourself when you last spent 35 hours a week doing that. Probably, you haven't. It's not easy, but with practice it is possible, and after you get good at it, it's a lot of fun.

Day 22 of writing my new novel is done.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 21, April 18, 2010

Three scenes, five-and-a-half pages done today. Not bad for a Sunday. The story at this point begins to take on an organic feeling. Each of the several story lines starts sending out shoots. The trick is to know which ones to let develop and which one to snip. All of today's developments feel like keepers, but I won't know for sure until the first draft is completed and I can read through the whole story.

Day 21 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 20, April 17, 2010

Today's two scenes provide a study in contrast. In one, a principal character is presented with 11,000 possible suspects for an offense (which has not yet risen to the level of a crime but certainly contains the implicit threat of one) and in the other scene a specific suspect for the same offense is presented to another principal character.

These divergent views force the reader to consider which of the two scenarios is more likely right. One, of course, is a red herring. But forcing the reader to make a choice engages him or her further and keeps the pages turning.

Speaking of pages, I managed only four today. Lots of distractions, so four wasn't a bad number.

Day 20 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 19, April 16, 2010

Another two scenes and five pages written today, putting the total number of pages at 102. Anticipating a first draft of approximately 400 pages, that means I've completed about 25% of the manuscript in less than three weeks. For some people that might not be an exceptional pace, but for me it's a smoking fast pace.

Beyond the numbers, I'm happy with the writing. Both the exposition and the dialogue are flowing. When I reread the day's work, I can hear the characters' voices in my head. Maybe I should emphasize this. Reading a good story should be as much an auditory experience as a visual one. Your eyes, of course, are what you use to read—unless you're using the Braille system—but between your optic nerves and your brain an audio conversion should occur. The words should come off the page in a voice as clear as someone telling a story around a campfire.

On a nitty-gritty level, plot seeds that were sown earlier are beginning to sprout; a closely held secret is about to become public knowledge. In the ongoing game of cat and mouse, an element of seduction has been introduced. Not in a sexual sense, but in the way one person can admire someone else for what she's accomplished. Problem is, those good feelings might keep another character from doing his job.

Day 19 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 18, April 15, 2010

There's a game of cat and mouse going on in this story, only the mice are taking the action to the cats. Which isn't to say that they're provoking confrontations they can't win. Rather they're misleading the cats about who they really are, and gleaning important information from their formidable foes. There's a natural subversive humor to this situation, but there's also a building sense of tension: Will the cats finally wise up and make quick meals of the mice? The reader will be obliged to turn the page if he or she wants to find out.

Which is ever the task of a good writer. Cat and mouse was one of the scenes I did today.

The other was about a principal character, someone who's driven to succeed but up to this point has not strayed too far over the line dividing right from wrong. She now loses all sense of moral restraint. Even so, this character hasn't lost her wits. She delegates future dirty work to a subordinate, one more than willing to take on the task. Again, the tension—and the momentum—increase.

Five more pages today, closing in on the first one hundred.

Day 18 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 17, April 14, 2010

Today there was no struggle at all to write. My muse was back and speaking generously to me. Seven pages added to the manuscript. Good pages. Well written right out of the box.

Part of this productive streak was one of my favorite parts of writing a novel: the found character. Contrary to characters with extensive bios, found characters simply step onstage and say, "Listen, this is why I'm here and this is what I have to say." Found characters are always among the most interesting in a developing novel.

Lets the writer know he or she is still plugged deeply into a vein of creativity.

The plot lines in today's work continue to develop and interweave smoothly.

Day 17 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 16, April 13, 2010

Today was a day to get back at it, the writing that is. It never fails to amaze me how quickly—in this case one day—a talent I've spent decades honing can start to rust. When I sat down to work this morning the words didn't flow, they moved like sludge and threatened to lock up entirely. But with experience and age and grit come determination. I plowed through the inertia, the overly critical thinking, the temptation to get up and do something else and kept at it.

Persistence is critical to any writer who isn't a savant. If you don't have it, if you're not willing to develop it, you should hang it up.

Anyway, I got six pages in and after a bit of rewriting, and there's always rewriting, it came out pretty well. Today's work dealt with the aftermath of the big plot point scene I mentioned two days ago. Principal characters are starting to move in new directions, new suspicions are being raised and one principal character might have wandered into a dangerous new relationship.

The story moves on and…

Day 16 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 15, April 12, 2010

Today was a housekeeping day for the novel. As I mentioned previously, I did a detailed, forward-looking outline for the novel before I began writing. I also mentioned that in the interests of spontaneity and creativity, I feel free to stray from the outline. After 14 days of writing, I knew I needed to do a backward-looking outline that I call the scene breaks so I can tell at a glance where I've been. In the scene breaks, I include the scene's sequential number, 1,2,3…a succinct description of what happens in the scene, the page numbers the scene covers, e.g. 1-4, and the names of the characters who appear or are heard from, via phone, email, etc., in the scene.

Doing this helps me keep storylines straight and maintain a good rhythm between the storylines. I really should add scenes to the scene break list after each day's writing and probably will from here forward, but when I'm starting out it requires most of my energy and discipline just to do the writing.

Day 15 of writing, and doing housekeeping on, my new novel is done.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 14, April 11, 2010

Today I wrote the first of my novel's major plot points. For those who don't know, a plot point is an event that redirects the action of a story. In the case of my novel, a threat was presented. But there was the question whether the threat was real or simply an attempt to create anxiety. In today's scene, one of the characters who questioned the threat has now decided to claim it is real for reasons of her own and to conceal her own actions.

This development will change the way other characters proceed, how they will act now that they think the threat is real and highly dangerous.

The plot point was also an action scene; lives hung in the balance. And since character is revealed by what people do rather than what they say, we learned more about two principal characters: Both are female, both are fearless, one may even be foolhardy.

The reader isn't the only one who learns more about the characters from these situations. So do I. Even though I wrote extensive bios for the main characters, when I put them in play, I have to be honest about how they react to a situation. Chances are I'll learn something I never suspected about them.

Only three pages written today. But very important ones.

Day 14 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 13, April 10, 2010

This was a day for advancing storylines. Four separate threads of the story moved forward. Creating the idea for a storyline is the art of storytelling. Making a number of storylines weave smoothly past each other, building momentum and suspense, never knotting up and coming to a screeching halt is the craft of storytelling. Gotta have both if you're going to keep people reading and leave them with a smile on their face.

I'll have more about how I manage my craft in a future post. For now, it's a beautiful Saturday, I've done my five pages, and this will be a short post.

Day 13 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Day 12, April 9, 2010

Today was a challenge but great fun. As seems to be the case of late, there were a few interruptions in my writing schedule, and for me continuity is very important to a productive day. But I kept at it and the muse was with me.

If you've ever read a book that's pretty good throughout but has scenes that absolutely rivet you, you have a sense of what I enjoyed today. It's like that but much better. Because the scene is pouring out of your head. As I've told many people, when I'm doing my best work, I'm just taking dictation from my muse.

A soundless voice whispers the story to me and I delight in hearing it; I rejoice in putting the words up on the computer screen in front of me. It's enough to make me giddy. Today, I had a primary character, a person of great intellect and accomplishment, confront the reality that she may be contending with someone even smarter than her, someone, at the very least, who knows her darkest secrets and is able to hint at them to her.


Back on a more pragmatic plane, I got my quota in, and then some, again today.

Day 12 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Day 11, April 8, 2010

Today was a day to get inside the heads of three characters, learn what they were thinking, what they'd done earlier in their lives—material taken from the extensive bios written earlier—and what they hoped to do or preserve in the future. In terms of pacing, some people, readers or editors, might think that three "passive" scenes in a row are two too many, maybe even three too many for those who like their characters thin and their action relentless. I'm not among either of those two groups.

I like to know the characters about whom I'm reading, so I like to provide details, small and large, about the characters I'm writing. In this case, I felt linking relatively quiet—despite the description of two homicides—scenes provides a nice breather, a lull before a critical action scene that I know will be coming up shortly.

As a writer, you have to write the first draft the way you feel is best. When you go back and read the draft later with a semi-dispassionate eye, you can make changes. But if you write a first draft with someone else's expectations—or worse, a formula—in mind, you're sunk.

I got my five pages in again today. The pace has slowed a bit since week one, but I feel good about the writing.

Day 11 of writing my new novel is done.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day 10, April 7, 2010

I've always wondered about writers who drank or did drugs as aids to their writing. Dylan Thomas and Hunter S. Thompson come to mind as two examples. If I had the slightest buzz from anything, I wouldn't be able to write at all.

But that's not to say I don't have my weaknesses, my moments of misjudgment. This week, I started an extreme exercise class, and this morning I learned what an hour of plyometrics can do to a middle-aged body. Exhaust it is what. Which in turn leads to a sluggish state of mind, especially when the class started at 5:45 a.m. and I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep the night before.

Okay, enough whining and moaning. Through sheer stubbornness and frequent breaks, I got through another day's work. Five pages. Some interesting background details on two characters, one primary, one secondary. The purposes of these scenes were twofold: to give the reader an understanding of who the characters are—the dirt on them—and to show that their future actions will be consistent with their personalities.

Day 10 of writing my new novel is done.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Day 9, April 6, 2010

As I said yesterday, sometimes the world intrudes, but when the intrusions come from people who love you and extend themselves at every opportunity to help you, you roll with it. You behave as a good son and brother and offer a hand to others. And do it gladly.

Meanwhile back at the keyboard: A primary character connects with a secondary character to further her aims. This, of course, is a set-up often found in fiction. The user develops unexpected affection for the person being used. But I like to write against convention, so I don't think that's going to happen, at least not in the expected way.

You mean, you may be saying to yourself, I don't know everything that's going to happen in my own story? No, I don't. I have a general idea of what's going to happen, but if I adhered rigidly to my outline, I'd leave no room for creativity or surprise. I like to surprise myself; I love to surprise the reader.

In another part of today's work, speaking of surprises, I wrote a scene that extended the understanding of two primary characters while setting up a scene that will be paid off later. If you're going to spice a story with incidents that are figuratively or literally explosive, you have to show one but not necessarily two booby-traps being built.

Despite the interruptions, my energy was good and my interest remains high. I added another five-and-a-half pages to the story.

Day 9 of writing my new novel is done.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Day 8, April 5, 2010

Sometimes you change your plans; sometimes the world intrudes; sometimes both things happen. Today, I started taking an extreme exercise class at my local health club. It began at 5:45 a.m. Over the next hour, I did more chin-ups, push-ups and dumbbell reps than I care to remember. As my wife, who worked out just as hard, and I were heading home, she said to me, "I hope you're up to using your keyboard."

Turns out I was. A little lactic acid buildup wasn't going to stop me. The main part of today's work was to move the main story line from being a closely held secret to one that is shared with the novel's protagonist, thus burdening him with resolving the problem. To make things more interesting, we see the beginning of mixed feelings in the protagonist's mind. Does he really want to solve this problem or should the people who created it, though inadvertently, be left to deal with it?

In another corner of the story, an important, though secondary, character makes a discovery that could change the course of the action, but for reasons of personal interest he chooses not to.

All of this was accomplished despite having the world intrude in the form of a sudden thunderstorm. The writing was humming along this afternoon when a T-cell, complete with thunder, lightning and torrents of rain swept through. In my area, this means there's a good chance of a power outage and a slim chance a lightning strike could run through my power lines and fry my computer. Not wanting to take any chances on losing either my computer or unsaved writing, I backed up the work I'd done, shut down the computer and pulled its plug.

Then since I was tired, anyway, I lay down and closed my eyes, knowing that my muse might have moved on for the day. But I got lucky. Lightning did not strike, me anyway, and my muse lingered.

I wrote six pages today, still pushing the pace.

Day 8 of writing my new novel is done.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Day 7, April 4, 2010

It's Sunday, but I didn't rest. I did take it easy, though, writing only three pages, bringing the total for the first week to forty-three page. That's eight better than I set for my goal. I'm happy with my productivity and I'm having a very good time writing the story.

Today, I had one of my principal characters make a decision that will kick one story line into a higher gear. In another area, I dropped in a transient character whose fleeting presence provides the reader and a second principal character with a clue to the motivation behind the main action of the novel.

Bits and pieces coming together.

A short post on Sunday.

Day 7 of writing my new novel is done.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day 6, April 3, 2010

Today, I want to mention a couple things about storytelling that are part of most good novels but should rarely if ever call attention to themselves: backstory and plausible convergence. Backstory gets mentioned by non-writers a lot more these days than it did prior to the last few years. Remember, I mentioned in the first post on this blog that I wrote biographies for my principal characters? Biographical information is part of a backstory. So are actions taken by the characters in the story or actions incidental to the character, e.g. Jack robbed a bank or Jack was in a back that got robbed and he saw who did it. Information from the backstory can be crucial to character development, plot development or both. Thing is, backstory should not be delivered by the truckload, especially not at either the beginning or end of the story. That is clunky writing. Backstory should be assembled piece by piece in the fashion of a mosaic, so the reader can see a picture taking shape.

The other thing I want to mention is plausible convergence. One character should not make a sharp left turn just as another is making a sharp right turn. A collision like that in quaint movie vernacular is called a meet cute. Again, it’s just clunky writing. Much better to have characters intersect at the end of two arcs, smooth long lines drawn from believable circumstances. A discerning reader still might see it coming, but he or she won’t object to it, will believe in the inevitably of it.

I was working in backstory and plausible convergence today. Wrote 1,800 words. Not bad for a Saturday with other demands on my time. Up to almost 12,000 words for the past week.

Day 6 of writing my new novel is done.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 5, April 2, 2010

Dialogue is one of my favorite parts of writing, and I wrote a lot of it today. The best way to get good at writing dialogue is to listen, really listen, to the people you meet every day. Listen to people who are just walking by, too. You'll hear the way people really talk, and sometimes you'll hear things that all but stop you in your tracks.

My wife and I were walking in the park near our house one evening, just enjoying the mild air and each other's company. Darkness wasn't far away and the park was mostly empty. Coming our way, though, were two middle-aged, nicely dressed women, and just as my wife and I passed them by one of the women made an extraordinary statement without any regard to our presence.

She said to her companion, "Did I tell you George hired someone to kill me?"

Well, you have now, I thought. I wanted to turn around and follow her to get the details. But that would have been rude. And if George's hitman was lurking nearby he might not want to leave any witnesses.

You rarely get to overhear something that dramatic, but you do learn people's vocal cadences, you pick up on accents, you learn there's a general ignorance of how verbs are conjugated, you tune in on verbal tics, you know. All of these things are useful to novelists, playwrights and screenwriters.

Dialogue, like exposition, must advance the story, but compared to exposition, it is a light lift. Today, I covered the same number of pages I've been doing the past four days, but I needed only 1,700 words to do it.

Day 5 of writing my new novel is done.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 4, April 1, 2010

There's a great rush in writing a story that has you excited. It's a similar feeling to reading a book you can't put down, only better, because you're seeing the story from the inside, and when you're really immersed in the writing, it's all around you like 3D from 360 degrees.

I sometimes criticize my daughter's writing for using overly long sentences, and then I write something like the line above. Oh, well. Sorry, my dear.

The other thing that's different from reading a book you can't put down is writing wears you—or at least me—out a lot sooner. People who don't know better think writing is not hard work. Doesn't look like much, just pecking away at a keyboard. But creating and populating your own little world is hard work. This is certainly in sync with Christian theology, what with God taking a break on the seventh day—and seeing what he had done was good.

I'm pretty happy with what I've accomplished so far, too. Some new story lines were begun today and previous ones are picking up speed. If I'm judging things right, I think readers who have enjoyed my previous books will be well engaged by now. I've kept up my 2,000+ words pace per day and only four days into the work, I estimate that I'm approximately 5% finished with the first draft. Might seem like there's a long way to go, but working at a steady pace—and getting a good night's sleep—makes the project less psychologically daunting.

Right now, everything's well in hand.

Day 4 of writing my new novel is done.