Those who have visited this blog previously might notice the change in design. Yeah. It's really green. We get that. The thing is, this is the result of making preparations for the sign-off of DEAD GUY at the end of the year. It's something TypePad did when we downgraded to a free account before we could be billed for next year. So yeah. Green. It's not more ecological or anything, just green. We understand that's what happens when you stop paying. Let's move on.
I honestly don't like to tell people about my writing process. It's not that I think anyone will be stealing my secrets because I really don't have any. It's not that I'm so invested in my ways of doing things that I can't adequately articulate them. It's certainly not because I don't like to talk about myself, because let's be real.
The fact is I don't like to discuss my own process because I'm afraid I'll make it sound like it's too easy and people will resent me.
I have gone on the record at nauseating length about my lack of an outline. I don't like to plan ahead because for me that kills the creativity. If I know what's going to happen all the time there will be no surprises for the writer (guess who) and that leads to boredom. If I'm bored writing it, what are the odds you're going to enthralled reading it?
But that's not the point. I also don't spend the day thinking about the next amazing (one hopes) plot twist or the solution to the mystery. I start with a premise and then sit down at whatever time that day is convenient and start seeing what happens next. Early in the story it's about compiling clues that aspire to entice the reader into turning the next page. My quota each day is at least 1,000 words. That's the goal.
And the fact of the matter is, it usually takes an hour or less to produce those 1,000 words. It's not that I'm such a gifted or talented author. I'm a working writer like everyone else who does this. It's a question of concentrating on where I left the story the day before and setting a plot point--generally the end of the current chapter--that I'll be shooting for. How I get there is anybody's guess, definitely including mine.
So during the average day, I spend most of my time doing things other than writing novels. I take care of the family's finances when necessary. I pay bills. I do the New York Times crossword puzzle because I can't make it through a day without doing that. Sometimes I even go to the gym, or a guitar lesson. I spend part of most days being Professor Cohen and grading papers or emailing with students. And at some point when I have an hour I change gears and write 1,000 words. Hopefully they'll grow into something good.
That's it. I sit down, think about the story and start writing. If I'm stuck I'll get the characters to talk because I can always write dialogue. If I'm not stuck I might get them to talk anyway but either way I'll crank out out those 1,000 words.
I told a writer friend lately that I'm a hack but a good one. He disagreed, but I don't see the word as having a negative meaning. A hack is someone who writes even when there's no amazing inspiration at hand. Someone who sees this as a job and feels it's necessary to keep at it and do it to the best of his ability, but never to not do it. But the key to a hack is writing to get paid. If we don't think there's a possibility of reward for the work, we can find something else to do.
So I think I'm a hack, but I don't think that makes me any less a writer. I'm a pretty good hack, I believe. I hope you think at least that well of my work, even after finding out it doesn't occupy my thoughts for 23 hours out of most days.
P.S. Pitchers and catchers report in 85 days.