I’m inspired, intrigued, and aggravated when I listen to other writers discuss how they draft a novel. This is especially true–on all counts–if they’re really experienced and well-published. Somehow, it seems they may hold the keys to the Kingdom of Demystifcation, the magic place writers go to learn how most efficiently to do this whole novel writing thing.
Today, I felt those feelings whip around inside me, a tornado of uncertainty, as I sat and tried to keep an open mind while listening to Simon Wood speak about how he drafts his mystery/suspense/horror novels. He’s a prolific writer, mind you, and in the time it’s taken me to move one novel into the “publisher shopping” phase and start writing a second, he’s published God knows how many books (I’ve lost track), written numerous short stories, has audio books out, you name it. He’s a busy guy and he obviously has some secrets I need to know.
With a mechanical engineering background, he thinks in terms of design which means more of a laid out approach up front. Good idea, I think. Spreadsheets. I need spreadsheets. He gave great techniques, like color-coding scenes to balance protagonist, antagonist and subplot, and identify that you are keeping scene length consistent. Brilliant, I thought (with a charming English accent because that’s how he talks). I must do that straight away.
By the time he was done, I had a whole new approach laid out in my mind. But wait! I tried this last time! I was so organized on my first novel. I had a big master plan and acts and scenes–the whole shebang. In the redraft, I dumped it all on its head completely. The end product didn’t even look like a distant cousin of the first draft.
On my current novel, I have no poster board because I decided I’d just watch the movie unfold. This is more fun for me than the other way and I know the main story well so I figured this wouldn’t be a problem. I like the way my characters evolve and come into themselves in a way I couldn’t have forecasted in an outline. However, detail-wise, I’m floundering, and wishing I had a spreadsheet.
After listening to Simon’s process, I’m inspired to make a few tweaks. I’m grateful it came at this point in my suspense thriller because that’s his genre and he clearly knows his stuff. Hopefully, at some point, I’ll figure out some trade secrets I can share to make the writing process a little less mystifying for other writers.