Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Process of Writing a Novel.

(Niels Noordhoek, Wiki.)

“Bang-bang, three shots rang out, a woman screamed and her guts fell out, and there on the floor, with his asshole tore, lay terrible Dan McGrew…” – my old man.

Writing a novel is a process. It doesn’t all happen at once, like you just add water and stir.

My twelfth novel is up to 26,000 words out of a projected 60,000+.

So what do we have so far?

We have a murder, a woman screaming, we have an initial crime scene investigation, we have interviews with those closest to the victim. In other words, we have Inspector Gilles Maintenon of the Surete, and the trusty, broad-shouldered Detective-Sergeant Andre Levain, along with some new people, doing their jobs. They’re gathering evidence and investigating the murder of Muriel Ducharme, a rich old lady with four sons of disparate characters, tempers, and prior histories. Also, her beautiful niece Sophie was staying with her at the time. She had a cook and a couple of servants and according to all accounts not an enemy in the world, in fact you’d have a hard time finding anyone with a bad thing to say about her.

As any good cop will tell you, prior history is the best indicator of future behaviour.

(In other words, Louis seems pretty likely to finish this story? – ed.)

Something like that, — ed.

(My number one heckler, ladies and gentlemen.)

While the first chapter seems pretty long on description, at this point in the process, (there’s that word again,) I’m laying in sufficient groundwork to support a desired ending. That means that there is a fair degree of going back and forth in a manuscript of about 65 pages so far, with no chapter titles for reference, just trying to find some person and throwing in a necessary bit of ‘groundwork.’

This can included clues, something they said, saw, or noticed, something about their previous experiences—I just discovered one of my characters studied economics in London, U.K. for example, and at some point you will lose track. Even more interesting, in a series, information in one book can support some plot point in another book. For example, Maintenon was a widower in a previous book. In this book, he’s still a widower, or I would have to account for why he isn’t. Simple, really. Also, guys in a previous book can’t refer to events in a subsequent book—it’s a paradox because it hasn’t happened in their world yet.

(“Fuck, he’ll work in Schrodinger’s Cat before he’s done.” –ed.)

(Hey, — ed., Shrodinger’s Cat walks into a bar. And doesn’t.)

(And don’t be giving away plot points, either, ya son of a bitch.)

Approximately 30,000 words would be halfway to a complete first draft. Now is a very good time to go right back to page one and just start reading the story, keeping a good pen and some blank paper beside the keyboard.

Bear in mind, ladies and gentlemen, I already know who committed the crime, how it was done, why it was done, why it was done in such and such a way. I know these people intimately, because I created them and breathed life into them and then they started to act like real people…perfectly normal, rational, everyday people with hopes and dreams and desires of their own. Right?


If I end up cutting a book, it’s like I wasted time in the writing of that material. Why not write just exactly what I need in order to get from Point A to Point B, and nothing more? Why not skip what some lady’s dress looked like, or what the wallpaper in the parlor looks like. I can add that in during the re-reading and re-writing process. The structure is only important right up to the point when the book is finished. After that no one cares, least of all I, because it is invisible to the reader.

They just got sucked into the story and can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

At that point it is no longer structure. It becomes full, complete, and a coherent whole. Each stated fact or event in the book contributes to the ‘truthiness’ of the outcomes in the book.

If it rings true to life, if people can see it happening inside their heads, then it has become a work of art, whether an author chooses or not, (and it could be a girl, too,) to express it in those terms is their own decision. (Or hers.)

Prior history is the best indicator of future behavior. Anyway, the books are all free for a little while longer.


If you're still with me, thanks for reading my story.

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