Header Image - Getting the words out by any means possible.

How Published Authors Write


Gettin' the job done.

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I’ve toiled along for the past 9+ months learning what works for me in terms of productivity. I’m feeling pretty good about that part of my writing process as I near the end of my second draft of my novel.

I also know that I’ve got so much more to learn.

I feel like I’m at the point where I can look beyond the basics of how to get my words on paper and delve into concepts that can help my writing become richer.

I want to know more about how individual writers do what they do.

There are two resources that I’ve come across in the last two weeks that have been particularly helpful: Jeff VanderMeer’s recent blog posts and Albert Zuckerman’s Writing the Blockbuster Novel. In both, authors break down their process as it relates to a particular work.

Visit Jeff VanderMeer’s site Ecstatic Days, where he has provided a look at  how he decided to open Finch and the thought process that went in not only choosing when and where to begin the novel, but also where to place characters and why.

Is a lot of this “business”, like stage directions? Yes, and it’s important to get that “business” right if you want to achieve more complex effects in a novel.

Jeff VanderMeer on his blog, Ecstatic Days

If nothing else, this illustrates how much outstanding writers put into their work. While daunting, the prospect of refining and bringing out the story through more subtle techniques is exciting.

I mentioned Writing the Blockbuster Novel in a previous post, but I’m more interested in Follet’s outline process than I am in Zuckeman’s tips for writing blockbusters.

Follet’s four outlines of his book The Man from St. Petersburg show the changes he made from version to version. Instead of trying to rework the story after his first draft, he works through the story until he’s satisfied with it and then fleshes it out. His “outlines” are really summaries or synopses of the three acts of his novel. The value in this is that you minimize major reworkings after your first draft because the story has been developed to a high degree of satisfaction.

Check these guys out, if you haven’t already. What authors have inspired you as you’ve glimpsed their process?

Click here for a podcast of an interview with Albert Zuckerman that came out when an updated edition of his book was released in 2002.

4 Things to do When Writing Gets You Down

Everyone who writes finds themselves lacking motivation at one time or another, probably more than we’d like. But there is hope. Even though most of us can’t afford to employ Mr. T (even at his advanced age, I’ll bet he can still whip most of our asses) here are some pretty obvious ways to rejuvenate your zeal.


So often, it is we non-writing writers that he pities.

1. Listen to music that makes your soul shine.


2. Read books that make your heart sing.

I likes me some LOTR. Good v. Evil (Read: You v. flagging desire).


Tolkien always brings me up. Note: Avoid doing this in one sitting, or you'll never get anything done and your spine will look like a question mark.

3. Do something physical to get a boost of positivity.

A quick walk or run, some push ups, squat thrusts… er, maybe skip those. Get those endorphins rolling and channel all that dopamine right into your keyboard.


I live 5 Minutes from the trails of the New River Gorge. If I don't get out and enjoy it, I'm crazy.

4. Watch a movie that gets you going.

Maybe you like the Bonzo flicks with Ronald Reagan or you go for She-Devil with Roseanne and Meryl – better you than me. I go for this:


What we do in life echoes in eternity.

Usually doing any of these things serve to keep me going, to fortify my desire. What have I missed here? Do you have any special ways of kicking yourself in the pants when you’re dragging butt at the keyboard?

A little inspiration on a dreary day

by Jonathan 1 Comment

I love this guy. No matter how I’m feeling, Patrick Sweany always brings me up. He’s the effin’ best, not to mention nice as hell. Go out and buy his stuff. Now.


This post is inspired by author Robert K. Lewis, known poster of great traditional blues. I’ll be posting more blues in the future, both traditional and contemporary. There is so much great music out there that never hits the airwaves, so hopefully you can pick up a little through this blog and Robert’s Blog Needle City.

Don't Let Them Eat (Rice) Cake

by Jonathan 7 Comments



Today I’m participating in a mass blogging! WOW! Women On Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about family relationships. Why family relationships? We’re celebrating the release of Therese Walsh’s debut novel today. The Last Will of Moira Leahy, (Random House, October 13, 2009) is about a mysterious journey that helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost when they were teenagers. Visit The Muffin to read what Therese has to say about family relationships and view the list of all my blogging buddies. And make sure you visit Therese’s website to find out more about the author.


Anyone in the world is shaped by their family (or lack thereof). Seeing a person’s interactions with their family can give you get a glimpse into why they behave the way they do. The more people in the family, the more complex these relationships can be.

As a writer, it is almost impossible NOT to mine your insights, whether conscious or subconscious, when creating characters. Should you have the guts to look into your own, family relationships are fascinating. I like to think I’m most knowledgeable about my own family relationships because I’ve been in them all my life. Whether or not this is true, you can be sure that I draw on this knowledge when exploring relationships in the fiction I write. Let’s face it, writing cardboard characters is as unsatisfying as eating a rice cake.

Viewing family relationships from the outside can also be instructional. For me, it helps that my wife is a mental health professional. She is a wealth of knowledge on how relationships work that are useful in our real lives, as well as on paper. Her insights into the give and take of relationships, self awareness and growth go a long way to better understanding myself. I think that is key for understanding others and writing believable characters.