Monday, August 8, 2011

A Novel Approach

I attended and presented at the Virginia Writers Club’s “Navigating Your Writing Life” – A Symposium for Writers of All Ages & All Stage this past weekend. What an inspiring and informative day! All writers discussing the craft and art of writing…and the business.

Thriller writer and author of the new James Bond novel Jeffery Deaver presented the keynote. He talked about how he writes a novel a year, used to write two a year when he “was younger.”

I’ve had some distractions and paid work that have kept me from the new novel. Jeff Deaver has convinced me incorporate his processes.

First, he said that writing is a BUSINESS. A writer needs to keep a product in front of his customers. This means I need to get my ass in the chair and write this novel.

His second rule was that since writing is a business, a writer needs a business plan. He used the example of mint toothpaste versus liver toothpaste. Know your readers and what they want to read and what you like to write. Pâté may be popular, but no one wants it as a toothpaste flavor.

Next comes the idea – an idea that “grabs the reader and drags him through the book to the last page.” That’s a page-turner.

Jeff Deaver spends eight months of his 12 month schedule working out a detailed outline of the structure and plots of the story. This is the time he tests and confirms that he has a great idea (not a liver-flavored toothpaste idea) and that the structure and plan are sound.

After this, he writers and re-writes the book.

And finally after the book is out, like all good business people, writers need to gather feedback. He doesn’t rely too much on critics, but more on sales, reader e-mails, and fan comments at events.

Some of this I have done over the years, but the outlining is a tale of two camps in the writing world. Creatives usually rally against outlines because we recall the high school English teachers making us use Roman numerals and hierarchies of indention. Other writers, usually non-fiction writers, outline heavily and see it as the only way to finish a book that is worth reading.

I always tell my writing classes that I know where I want to start and where I want to end and then let the characters take me there.

Well, it ain’t a-working this time.

I think I’m going to try outlining the structure of the new novel, not as extensively as Jeffery Deaver, but enough to know that I have a firm architecture in which my characters can live and interact.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


Keith Pyeatt, author of paranormal thrillers said...

Good luck. I'll be looking to see how it works. I'm somewhere in the middle as far as outlines. Like you, I know the ending but not all the twists along the way. Too detailed an outline kills the creative process for me. I learned that the hard way. But I do have a rough outline. I revise continually as I write the first draft, so it doesn't limit me from going where the novel takes me.

Greg Lilly said...

Yes, I'm trying a hybrid of the outlining method. Just exploring how it may work for me. I have a high level outline now and have discovered one of my POV characters might be demoted.