Posts Tagged ‘the cold ones’

When I first considered changing my process for writing my novel – because, to be completely honest, the other way damn well wasn’t working – I don’t think I had any inking of the surprises that a rather simple change in routine and methodology would have in store for me. And thankfully all were rather good, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have some apprehensions at the onset.


The rules were straightforward:

* Write for a minimum of one hour each weekday (excluding production week at Rue Morgue)

* Write the novel from beginning to end (no jumping around aside from making short notes or sketching out specific flashes of inspiration for later scenes/conversations)

* No going back and tinkering (apart from correcting major continuity errors that can be addressed quickly and succinctly – thankfully, since the whole book is vigorously outlined most of that stuff falls into this category)

* Post daily word counts to the social networks (for accountability, it’s harder to quit when everyone’s watching)


When first embarking on the new routine my biggest fear was writing front to back. I’d tried to write books in sequence before and it had ended terribly each and every time. BUT this time was different for one key reason: I knew the story. I had an eight-page, chapter-by-chapter comprehensive outline. When I thought back to my previous failures – got too busy, writer’s block, got stuck on a plot point, got distracted by a shiny new project – most were not at play this time out. Well, except for the writer’s block one, that was big fear number two.

Now you may be wondering just how I could get writer’s block when I have a rock-solid outline, but the thing is, the big emotional scenes and action sequences are easy, the connective tissue is often not. For instance, the early chapters where it is all-important to set up the world that you will eventually fracture, to introduce the characters that the readers will hopefully root for and loathe, and to drop the first guarded yet delicious hints that something sinister is brewing. This kind of stuff requires finesse – at a time when your characters may not yet have fully formed personalities. (While I certainly knew who my characters were when I started writing, it wasn’t until some time later that I truly understood them, and now more times than not they tell me what they should be doing/thinking/saying.)

While you may personally disagree, for me, first sentences are easy, but first chapters are hard. How many times have I reworked the first chapter of The Cold Ones since I first conceived the story a couple years ago? More than a dozen easily. Will I do it again? Maybe. But hopefully not.

This was another valuable lesson learned here. If something isn’t coming out smooth, get it done as best as possible and then move along with the book. This is a first draft. The story may – hell, it will – evolve as you are telling it. Getting hung up on the minutia at this stage is helping nothing and no one. In fact, it’s impeding progress. It’s surprising how easy it is to keep moving forward when you no longer allow yourself to go back. (Perhaps this could also be a bigger life lesson as well??)

So how do I prevent the writer’s block? Mostly via one handy little trick. At the end of each day of writing I leave myself on a cliffhanger – not necessarily a big one, could be something as simple as a line of dialogue that sets up a heated confrontation – so that when I sit down at my computer the next morning, I know immediately what happens next. I rarely stop writing at the end of chapter, or at any other place in the story that naturally gives pause.

Among the other things I’ve discovered along the way: I’ve really grown to cherish and look forward to that hour of writing each day and I miss it terribly the week my responsibilities lay elsewhere; the further I get into the story the easier it becomes to write; while I’ve had to revise my outline several times (once removing an entire character from the book’s climax) I feel strongly that each change has only made the narrative more potent; the deeper I submerge myself in this novel, the more the plot lines for the next two books in the series continue to develop and solidify; and lastly, that the daily public word counts definitely keep me honest.

I’m at 170 pages now. Yes, that’s right. Twenty pages past the rough halfway mark. And even if I never manage to sell this novel to a publisher, I still consider it one of the best things I’ve ever done. And I’m not even talking about the story here. The sense of fulfillment doing this has given me and the vivid return of my creativity are worth it in and of themselves.

If the series does take wing and fly. Well, it’ll begin with this book, The Cold Ones. And continue with Feral and The Blood Sorceress and perhaps others. But those next two already have functional outlines. That’s surprising too, and so are the different ways the stories are shaping up to intertwine – all things that weren’t there yet just a month ago. Who’d have known? Certainly not me. But I’ll tell you something, I’m absolutely having one helluva great time discovering.

Part of my novel-writing commitment has been to post daily progress updates (excluding weekends, those are for other responsibilities) in the form of status updates to Twitter, Facebook, etc. It discourages shirking, and having friends root you on is great motivation. This is a process, so why not share its success and failures?

Along the way there have been several comments from people admiring my dedication but lamenting that their lives were too busy for their own creative pursuits. I say bollocks. It’s not that I don’t respect other people’s hectic schedules, trust me I do, in the way that only a fellow workaholic can. It’s just that I made that excuse for years, I know what it really means. I used to say I would find time to write, and I did, but as soon as other deadlines loomed large on the horizon all progress would grind to a halt. The problem was in the basic terminology: “find time to write.” Time is not something you ever find. If you wait for that to happen you might just find yourself waiting forever. Life does not work that way. It took me a long time to learn that, even though much of this advice was originally passed on to me by successful, busy novelists with day jobs.

The correct terminology should be: “I will make time to write.” Ask yourself, how important is writing to you? What are you willing to sacrifice to buy yourself an hour a day? Assess your routine. When do your creative juices flow the best? Now, what would it take to clear yourself a 60-minute block sometime during that time? Could you get up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later? Play fewer video games or watch a little less TV? Reduce your online surfing? The decision is yours to make.

If you do decide to make writing a priority for an hour a day, then treat it like a religion. You are making a lifestyle change. Let your loved ones know and ask them to respect your process. Then stick to it, be consistent and only skip days when circumstances are completely beyond your control. Do it even if you’ve got writer’s block or are plagued with interruptions or being haunted by a deadline. The point is to get into a habit and get something – no matter whether it’s ten words or ten pages – done on your project every single day. It may feel like baby steps, but it will add up.

Three weeks into my own personal commitment, I have nearly 50 pages of solid output to show for my efforts. If I keep up this modest pace, in a another month I’ll have roughly 100 pages and by the end of August I’ll be well past 200. By late October, over 300. Meaning I should be hitting completion very near to my Dec. 6th self-imposed deadline. (Xmas holidays will hopefully be spend editing, reworking, tweaking and polishing.) A novel under my belt by the end of the year for the low, low cost of one hour a day, five hours a week.

I have no excuses.

How about you?

Stuff I Wrote