Write While Your Car is Being Towed: The Fishing for Fiction Method

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Today The Readdicts, who have been quite generous in featuring my work in the past, ran an interview as part of the Angel Virtual Book Tour.  To read the full interview, follow the link above.  In the interview, I talk about the inspiration for the novel Angel, the character Ian (you can also find a link to a character interview of Ian that I did earlier with Readdicts), my decision not to publish a sequel and my attraction to British literature.  Here is one question and response to whet your appetite:

Can you tell us a little about your writing schedule?

(how often you write, any specifications you follow, a particular writing area you have, etc.)

The folksinger Arlo Guthrie tells this story about inspiration being like fishing.  You sit by the river and you put your rod or your net in the water, but the fish has to come to you.  (The punchline is that he is downstream from Bob Dylan and so he can only catch the ones Dylan throws back.)  

My process is that I simply write a lot.  I don’t let ideas keep swimming downstream.  I keep pens and paper around and I get out of the shower and I write down what came to me in there.  I honor writer’s block as a message that I need to stop working consciously and go away and let my subconscious do its thing for a while.  

Even when I have an assignment for something like a corporate speech, the process is essentially the same.  I write down my initial thoughts and ideas and then I go away and do something else and at some point while I’m taking a nap or driving I’ll have that lightbulb moment.  I think of it like the subconscious oven timer going off.  It delivers up the thing that brings my disconnected ideas together and then I write very quickly after that.  

With a novel, I never write in order, I just write scenes and dialogue and bits as they come to me, and then later when it seems there are enough pieces I put them together.  I guess I learned the technique of writing earlier to the point that it is highly internalized and so the key at this point is just catching the fish.

I am on tour with a ballet project five months of the year and spend a lot of time driving.  A lot of ideas come to me then, and I scrawl them in little notebooks.  Most of Angel was written this way.  Part of it was scrawled in notebooks as my car was being towed, broken down in West Virginia.

I am a full time writer when I am not on tour with the ballet project, so I write pretty much constantly.  Whenever I can.  I never have a problem making myself write.  I have the problem of way more text than I will have enough years of life to develop.
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