How do I do this? I really don’t know.


One of the bad–and good–things about teaching other people how to write is that you have to stop and think about the process yourself. I’ve been teaching writing as a professor now for about 20 years, and taught writing workshops before that, so I have a little practice. But even so, I find myself scratching my head sometimes as to what I am doing and why I am doing it.

In the past two years or so, I’ve also been answering questions on Quora.com about writing, and some of them get a bit tedious. Especially when you are talking about tenses, viewpoints and other stuff that I never really studied. I realize that you have to know the rules before you can break them, and I have preached that myself. But there comes a time in your writing when it all becomes something a little more organic. That’s probably why I refuse–so far–to adopt Scrivener and other software helpers for my writing. I have a system that works for me. I’ve using it for close to a thousand years, and I don’t intend to change it, with the exception of when I’m co-authoring with another author in Vermont who shall remain unnamed (starts with C…).

Right now, this week, I’m finishing up National Novel Writing Month, and in the process, in the last 3/4 of my latest book entitled Soul Survivor. It’s the story of Connie Simescu, a 19-year-old college student who also happens to be a language prodigy. She gets kidnapped in an earlier book and rescued. In this book, she’s decided she wants to go back to school at UT Austin despite her parents’ protests. There are two reasons for this: one, because she wants to be out from beneath her sister’s shadow, who is a professor at a local college, and two, because she feels a strong need to find God on her own. Hence the title. She gets caught up with several interesting, risky, dangerous, and somewhat nefarious characters in her travels, which is really what the book is about.

It’s a story that’s more of a character study than most of my books, but I fell in love with Connie in an earlier book, and wanted to start a series for herself. What’s interesting is that this book and this series is actually a spinoff from two other series: one, the Foundation series I wrote with the unnamed author from Vermont mentioned earlier (whose name begins with C), and two, the Champion Trilogy I wrote back several years ago. It’s been a challenge to integrate the two series, fun but challenging. And there have been times when I wondered if the whole thing was going to make sense in the long run.

But here I am, one day away from finishing NaNoWriMo, and five chapters away from finishing the book. There were times–a lot of times–when I looked at my chapter summary and thought, this is never going to make any sense. But it did, and it does. And the nonsense that I see when I write a chapter summary makes a little more sense when I write the first draft. And I know that even that will make more sense when I go through and edit and rewrite sections. It’s not exactly the process of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. You have to start with a good idea. And you have to have talent and determination.

But you also have to have faith that when things aren’t looking quite right when you’re writing the first draft, it’s going to be okay. Just keep writing. It will all work out somehow.

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