Writestyle: A brief look at how I write.

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This week, we’ll be doing something else a little different.

So, your question might be: How do you write such amazing and entertaining books? (Shut up, someone might ask that one day.)

Well, the majority of it takes place either on my laptop (purchased in 2007), or on my desktop (which I built in 2006), and when I’m on the desktop, I’m using a replica of the IBM Model M keyboard. I like the physical feedback and the audio of each key press. The faster I type the cooler it sounds! I don’t need a whole lot to write. People write books by hand, with typewriters, from ideas started on napkins. I do all my writing in VIM, regardless of what I’m writing on. Both of my two computers run Debian Linux, because, really Windows? (They run so much faster than they would otherwise.)

A lot of times, for various stories, I start out by writing stuff on paper. I prefer the yellow legal paper, and I also lately am trying to write more with a fountain pen. But like I said above — I could write on anything, with anything. I also typically carry a small pocket sized notebook with me (and always a pen). It’s part of my every day carry, and it ends up with a lot of my ideas in it.

The problem comes with my drive: I get a lot of my ideas while driving and listening to music. Something about the music in the background engages and distracts part of my brain and lets my creative side take over. Especially if it doesn’t have lyrics (so I don’t try and sing/follow along). So then I get to work with all these great ideas. I’ve come up with a system in my head for keeping up with it, though, and typically the same song can be used with my memories to help suss out the rest of it.

I outline, but I don’t go into detail. I’ve heard of some people outlining, then outlining each chapter individually. I don’t think I’d like that. If I have too much structure I think I’d feel like it was a chore to write to. Typically my ideas come with an end, and I work my way backwards. The Cigars and Legs books are like that in a way; I knew how it was going to end a long time before I had the beginning figured out. (That’s kind of where I got the series name from).

Sometimes, though, the idea comes from just a single scene that I like, and then I need to build a story around that. The first full-length thing I was ever proud enough on to continue was a fantasy series, and that started from one scene that came to me — I can’t remember how or where, it just did. That scene didn’t even make it into the main series, but is now part of the back story that may one day be written out in detail.

That’s the other thing, I’m not really a strict genre writer. I’ve got ideas in a lot of different directions. I started writing the Cigars and Legs books because I wanted to do a detective story set in the 50s. That was convenient as it allowed me to have the super hero fighter pilot coming back from Korea, and it gave me an excuse to learn about 1950s culture. (Before I started, all I knew was the stuff from Back to the Future!)

Typically, I sit down and try to finish at least one chapter in a sitting. I can type pretty fast, faster than I can think sometimes, so my hands end up waiting while my brain figures out how this needs to go. Then I move on to the next chapter, then the next. I’ve sat down and written over ten thousand words a day before. Then I have days where I’m happy to get two.

Seriously, two words. Because sometimes writing comes as easily as flapping my arms and flying to the damn moon.

I don’t like to do a whole lot of re-editing. If I realize something isn’t working I’ll ditch it and try to fix it, but I feel like sitting there polishing my one stone isn’t going to get any other stones built. But I’m cautious and try to get it as correct as I can before sending it off to be edited/proofed. I try not to write crap in the first place. (Writing first person makes this into a bigger challenge; I’m not used to it and tend to be very informal which makes my wife really irritable when she’s reading it.) This is another area a good outline helps with.

Usually, if anything, I have to add something because I’ll rush to get to the end (which is usually my favorite part) and leave serious details out. “Why did the characters kill that guy?” “Oh because of the thing he did.” “What thing?” “Oh, I forgot to write that part?”

I’ll stop here for now. But that’s a basic overview of how I write the Cigars and Legs way. Linux, a good outline in blue fountain pen on yellow paper, with a bit of whisky to sip as I go (never write, drive, or engage in sexual relations drunk: it will all end somewhere between embarrassing and tragically.)