My Modus Operandi

I’m making great progress on my trilogy and after several months of intense study and research, I’ve honed my method of writing. As I’ve said in a previous post, Using What I’ve Learned, writing does not simply mean sitting down and putting words to paper. It includes research, reading, interviewing, etc.

The Where of It

I have a great room on the second floor of my house all to myself. My desk and laptop face a window where I have a view of the street below. What I see are mostly the college students, who live all around my home. They walk down the block to downtown in groups chatting, or coming back home from partying, the blue glow from their cell phones lighting up the street and their howls of drunken laughter echo in the night air. My cat keeps me company, snoring soundly on my nearby easy chair and my husband roams the house doing chores or heading into his office to work on his website, checking with me now and again to see how I’m faring.

The Beginning 

Ideas are skittish things. They can come and go so quickly. If you don’t catch it quick and get it on paper, it might never come to mind again. This is the reason I carry a notebook everywhere…even to bed. The most ordinary things prompt my imagination for ideas – a wacky thing one of my grandkids said or did; sitting in front of Walmart, in a restaurant or a park people-watching; books, movies and songs; or an event or person in history. 

Once my idea is on paper (or stored on my computer), it’s safe. I, then, begin asking myself ‘what if’ questions about my idea. For example, what if that man wearing dirty overalls and a mile-long gray beard was secretly wealthy and was someone’s long-lost dad, or what if he’s a serial killer and stores bodies in his plow shed? Did you ever listen to the lyrics of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance? Now there’s food for thought! What if a woman was so desperate, she would attach herself to any man, just to have a man? And what if the man she ended up with treated her like dirt? What would cause her to take this path? Okay, so I begin to expand on the original idea and create a theme.

Character development and setting come next. I write a complete, and I mean complete, biography on each primary character. Secondary characters don’t need quite so much detail, but I still have to know them well. I do something similar for setting. I write a detailed description of the main setting including the year, what time of year and weather, city, streets, neighborhood, homes of the characters, and anything else pertinent to the story. The better you know your characters, the better you’ll know what they are capable of and how they’ll react in various situations, though they can surprise you sometimes. As for your setting, you should know it well enough to feel as though you’ve been there, whether you have or not.

The Middle 

I’m an outliner and a timeliner. I keep both open on my laptop for reference purposes as I write. I write them simultaneously. Beginning with the timeline first, I create the dates of birth, marriage, death, moving to another place, first meetings between characters and any other major events I want to include in the story. At the same time, I’m filling in my outline. For example, Timeline entry: main character born – July 1, 1960. Outline entry: Mary Smith is born to her unwed mother, Susan. Timeline: July 2, 1960 Susan’s death; Outline: Susan dies due to complications of pregnancy, Mary is taken in by grandparents.

The timeline and outline help me pull events and people together to create a scene. I learned early on to write in scenes. They have an opening hook, action and an ending that transitions to the next scene. Writing in scenes makes it easier to monitor the flow between paragraphs and chapters, one moving seamlessly into another. 

I write almost daily, but do allow for regular intervals of exercise, spending time with my family, and fun activities. I allow approximately four hours a day for writing my novel and the ongoing research I may need. I take breaks for exercise and time with my husband…oh, and I do break for food, too.

The End

The ongoing process of learning this craft, keeping up with social media marketing, reading what other authors are doing, are responding to commenters makes up another few hours weekly. When I get stuck during writing, I take a break, get out in the world, breathe the fresh air and do anything but write. When I comeback to my desk, my mind is clear. I reread my last paragraphs and the creative juices begin to flow again.

By no means will I suggest you write the way I do. This is the process of a newbie, but I have learned what works for me. it will evolve over time as i reach the coming landmarks…preparing for publishing, being published, more marketing, appearances, writing the next book, etc. Schedules must remain flexible, as nothing ever stays the same.

What is your writing process? Did you find any of these ideas helpful? Have any suggestions for me?

Nathan Bransford, author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow, wrote a similar blog today. Please click here and read about how he writes. As a former literary agent, his blog is always a great read, funny and filled to the brim with helpful information.

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Thanks for visiting



6 thoughts on “My Modus Operandi

  1. Pingback: How To Create An Outline For All of Your Article « Djfupdates's Blog

  2. Wow. Although I knew writing was not easy, the succinct way you outlined it made me realize what a full time job it can be. Keep up the good work, you are on a great path!

  3. Since I have not embarked on the writing path towards a novel, my method stays pretty open…as ideas come I too write them down…when I find quotes or other ideas that might add to a post I write it down and transfer it to the draft post…I guess though I start with broad ideas and topics as titles and build from there…pictures come last…

    • With blogs, I think the process is much easier, since generally you’re writing about something you know quite well. Oftentimes it’s more of a conversation with your readers as well. Plus fewer rules involved, which is why I have no trouble writing a blog and a novel simultaneously. I love readingyour blog-it’s a great break for me from writing the book. Thanks for commenting!

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