How to Write Good


books 4



I’ve had a few PMs asking why I don’t blog about my own personal “writing process”, the way other authors do.


Apparently, there’s an audience for that. Who knew? I’m not sure anyone will find this even remotely interesting or useful, and there seems to be some variation on the definition of “writing process”, but what the heck: the one thing about blogging is that it’s here today and gone tomorrow, and really, who cares? In a hundred years, we’ll all be dead.


The first definition of the writing process seems to be much concerned with the physical aspects. I have (no, really, I actually have) read a lot of lyrical descriptions of that perfectly organized, inspirationally coordinated and haute-couture designed office that some writers apparently need in order to make room for the Muse.

And then there’s me.

Back in grad school, the amount of space I had to call my own was miniscule. I mean it: I could hang up my jacket on my bedroom door without leaving my lumpy bed*.

I had one of those really narrow, just barely fits a PC, wheelie table that was, conveniently, just the right height that it pulled over my lap when lying supine against a mound of pillows, and then I just put my laptop on the pull-out meant for the keyboard, piled all the books and papers I thought I might need onto the part meant for the monitor (plus every other available square inch on the bed) and got on with it.

Habits die hard. I don’t have the wheelie table now. I have one of those lap-boards for laptops, and a bedside table for the mouse and mousepad (and the emergency chocolate) but I have more pillows, and frankly, not only do I not have to get dressed –I don’t even have to get out of bed, except for coffee.

I just type away. Give me my laptop and a horizontal space, and I’m fine. The Muse can bring her own chair.


The second definition is, I suspect, just a more erudite version of “Where do you get your ideas?”

I don’t precisely know how I write.

Well, let me qualify that. I don’t know how I write fiction. Non-fiction of the academic kind is easy – there’s actually a formula, and you just kind of plug and play for that.

But for the fantasy novels, well, it’s a bit murky.

I used to think I was a “pantser” – that I just winged it: I was just putting down whatever occurred to me at any given moment and by some magical and arcane trick, it turned itself into a book. Apparently, I was wrong.

The stories I tell…they’ve usually lived in my head for a while. The characters have shown up in my imagination and I’ve explored what they like, what they hate, what they fear, what they love – for years.

And then I throw little adventures at them (I’ve worked at some incredibly dull jobs, and this is how you get through the days, kids: you go someplace else in your head) and eventually something larger crosses my path, and I realize that I have the four things necessary for me to write a novel.

First: I have characters I love/hate and I find interesting enough to pursue further.

Second: I have a beginning, a way into some larger story.

Three: I have a mid-point: an “Aha!” moment, a turning point, a place where the wide open spaces contract into the inevitable.

And lastly, I have an ending. Usually, it’s a potentially happy one, because I torment my main characters a lot and I feel that I owe them something at least marginally less than eternal torment.

Once I have those things, I can write…except that it is never that easy. Things change – some character does something that throws the middle into contention, or something so delicious occurs to me that I just have to try it and then the ending is back on the auction block…but that’s what makes it interesting. That’s what makes it fun.

It also makes it frustrating, which might explain why I am so cruel to the characters along the way.

The bare fact is, of course, that there isn’t really a “process”.

There’s a lot of forcing myself to pull the laptop closer and shut off Facebook, and just write the damned thing. There’s a lot of writing 5000 words one day and ripping out 7000 words the day after, and then maybe, if I’m lucky, salvaging 2000 of those later on.

There are a lot of long walks in the park, trying to clear out the psyche enough so that the ideas will come.

There’s a lot of emergency chocolate consumed.

The only thing I know is that this all, eventually works – For Me.

It probably would drive any other writer completely bonkers.



*It was the UK. In my experience, all the beds in the UK (including those in posh hotels) fit this description.



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