A lot of writers have been commenting lately that they don’t use outlines when they write. Joe R. Lansdale mentioned that today on his Facebook page, and Stephen King admitted the same in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. They also said they know how to use outlines and can write to outline if they absolutely have to. I think it’s great they no longer have to.
In the bad old days when three-book contracts were negotiated based solely on synopsis and outline, I felt obligated to stick close to the original inception. But my writing has become so much better now that I’m writing the story first and then doing the synopsis only after the entire tale has been told from beginning to end. I love the surprises that my subconscious supplies as the characters develop on their own and the plot unfolds naturally. I want to learn what happens as much as readers will. I love experiencing the unexpected twists and turns and all those dangerous and exiting rapid-fire ups and downs that shove your stomach up into your raw-from-screaming throat as the roller coaster picks up speed near the end of a wild ride. I’m completely breathless when the car abruptly slows, stops, and I have to get off. I want to buy another ticket and ride again. And I always do.
I’m a thrill-seeker as much as the next guy.
Three rides is usually enough. By then, I know what’s coming next before it happens. After the third ride, I’m ready to find another roller coaster, one with even more surprises.
Lately, I’ve been writing three slasher novels in a row, then switching to supernatural thrillers for a three-book run, then a stand-alone police-procedural or military/spy/action-adventure novel. Those are the kinds of books I love to read. Those are the kinds of books I write.
I’m prolific, but not fast. I used to be fast, but my fiction suffered for it. Now I write at varying speeds as the action demands.
But once I begin a story, I get caught up in it and pursue the story to the very end. I write six to ten hours a day, every day. Some days I write all in one sitting with time outs only for bathroom breaks and coffee refills. Most days, I write in the morning, do e-mails, social media, marketing, interviews, and write non-fiction in the afternoons, then return to fiction-writing before bed. There are days when I edit as I go along, polishing each paragraph until the words shine like diamonds. I have days when I do no editing at all. I just write. Those are the glory days when I’m living the story. When I finally do take off my writer’s hat and don my editor’s hat, I cut and polish my many-faceted diamonds in the rough.
Bedtime is for reading. That’s when I discover how my colleagues think and write. I prefer hardbounds and paperbacks to read in bed. I read books on my Kindle and computer during the afternoons and early evening when I find time. I usually read a dozen books at the same time. Plus, I have a dozen more waiting to be read. Life is good.
Sometimes family and social obligations require a change to my normal schedule, but I still find time to write six-to-ten hours a day. What suffers most often is my reading, and I absolutely refuse to edit my own work when I’m preoccupied with other things. I can switch realities and re-enter my fictional worlds anytime. What I cannot do is concentrate on editing when I’m in the middle of a family crisis or attending a con. Maybe other writers can. I can’t.
These days I shortchange my family and friends in order to write. Not all of my family or friends want to accept that, but I can only say to them what Martin Luther said to his Bishop when he resigned as a Catholic priest: Ich kann nicht ander. Please understand, this is something I must do. I can do nothing else.
True family and friends unconditionally accept the writer as he or she is.
I have been fortunate to have the support of most of my family and friends. Not everyone appreciates that I prefer to write horror, and that’s okay. If I had to depend on my family and friends to buy my books, I would already have starved to death.
To be continued….