Thursday, March 12, 2020

Staring out windows

A lot of time this week has been spent writing and thinking about writing. I’m at the fun stage of a book –– the part where I see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The outline I spent two months creating has been useful as a loose guide, but now I have an ending I like better than the one I thought up while penning the roadmap.


I’m spending a lot of time thinking about the book.

My daughter, when she was six, once said, “You always say you’re writing, but every time I go in the office, you’re just staring out the window.”

“That’s writing,” I told her.

Not much has changed. Which is interesting because the outline was the thing that was going to change it all for me. Do the heavy lifting upfront and write the book any time I have a free moment. Just follow the outline. That was my plan last fall.

Funny how things work out. Or don’t.

I’m still glad I put the time into the outline, but, truth be told, I deviated after the first hundred pages, as I got to know the characters. Jeffrey Deaver gave a keynote address I once attended in which he said he worked 8 months on his outlines and 3 months writing the books. Hell, that still leaves him with a vacation month each year. I wish I had the same systematic approach. But I don’t. And I don’t think I will find it.

I had my 50th birthday in February, and I do believe that you can teach an old dog new tricks –– I use speech-to-text software to put ideas and even (very) rough chapters onto the page occasionally. I use text-to-speech apps to listen to my work when editing. But technological upgrades are not the same as thinking and working through plots and plot problems intellectually. Writing crime novels continues to be and will always be about posing the mystery you, the writer, will have trouble solving and then staring out the window until you find your solution –– no matter how many times your daughter walks in the room.

Or that’s how I think about it. And I didn’t need an outline to land there.

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