How I Write a Book
For some peculiar reason, people are often interested in how an author writes a book. All authors have to find the process that works best for them.
What sparks the idea for a new book? For me, that's usually a news story or a location that would make a perfect setting, or both. For example, my book Endangered was inspired by watching the interplay of the public and the television media and eventually, even the politicians weighing in on a controversial court case. The plot of Endangered has nothing to do with that court case, by the way, but includes a lot of that media-public-political interaction. My book Borderland (coming October 2019) was inspired by a visit to the sky islands of SE Arizona and the US-Mexico border, as well as by the dramas currently taking place along the southern boundary of the United States.
It amazes and depresses me that the themes and events I’ve included in past books continue to repeat themselves years later.
My romantic suspense Shaken, written many years ago, included an illegal immigration element, and now that topic is woven throughout Borderland. I included a white-supremacist militia element in Bear Bait (also written years ago), and sadly, I again felt it necessary to toss a few of those vigilante types into the mix in Borderland as well. Apparently, humans are a deeply flawed and forgetful species.
People often ask if authors start with an outline. I don’t, for two reasons: 1) various aspects of the story change as I write, so an outline quickly becomes inaccurate, and 2) if I write a detailed outline, I no longer want to write the book because I feel like I’ve already done it. My brain insists that I figure the story out as I go along. When I start writing a book, I know the beginning, the ending, and one or more ‘high points’ during the story. In the beginning, I often don’t have a clue how I will get from Point A to Point B. For this reason, I also don’t always write in a linear fashion. I think my brain has been taught to write in scenes because I used to write for modular multimedia products, and I’ve also studied screenwriting. So, if I know that I want a particular scene, I may write that scene before I know what precedes or follows it.
After I have the plot completely written into a rough draft, then I make a chapter outline, noting how many pages I’ve allotted to a chapter, which characters appear in that chapter, and what clues are provided. At this point, I realize I’ve dropped plot threads, given a character too much or too little ‘stage time,’ or totally screwed up my timeline. Then, after a lot of cursing and a few glasses (or bottles) of wine, I adjust as needed.
I (hopefully) perfect the book by asking a variety of beta readers to read the rough draft and give me feedback. Then I make more changes and finally, I hire a professional editor to read the manuscript and point out all the errors that still remain.
After publication begins the hardest part of being an author—marketing. Arg. Enough said.