My Writing Process

People often ask me how I write, so I’ve decided to include a quick description of the basic process I engage in when writing. The first thing I typically do when I want to write is to put on my running shoes and take my dog for a run. That’s because I need to clear my head and forget all about my laundry, errands and all the other things I could be doing. While I’m running, I don’t necessarily try to think. Rather, I just try to take in the scenery and let the ideas come, because ideas almost always come obliquely for me, when I least expect them. I’ve also learned that ideas come from so many sources, so being open to them is really important. Since I can’t usually write the moment I get home, I usually jot down my ideas in a notebook or on little stickies and stick these in my notebook. Later, when an idea really takes hold of me, I sit and brainstorm using webs or lists and I talk to myself about all the what ifs. Eventually, after much brainstorming, some research and a great deal of internal and external discussion, my story takes shape and I’m ready to write. That process can take many months or just a few days, depending on what I’m writing.

When I compose, I try to write for as many hours as possible in a day and just get my ideas down. My motto at this point is “I’ll fix it later” and I rarely stop to revise. With my schedule, it isn’t always possible to write for hours each day, so I write when I can, even if that’s in twenty minute blocks. When the manuscript is “complete”, I go back and read it again and make any obvious changes. Then I put it in a drawer and walk away from it for at least a few weeks, usually more than a month. A funny thing happens in that month. When I put the manuscript in that drawer, it is the best thing I’ve ever written, but when I take it out, it’s generally pretty mediocre. I can now be objective about my writing and the story. At this point, I start to revise, often rewriting almost the entire manuscript three, four, five, six, seven, eight times.

When I think it is ready, I send it off to the publisher, who may accept or reject it. Inevitably, either process will require more changes and so it’s back to the revision stage. When the manuscript is accepted and the revisions are finished, it goes to the printers where it is type-set and then returns to me and the publishing house for a final proofread. That’s my last chance to catch any errors and I always read the manuscript aloud at this point.

The next time I see the book, it looks like the book you’d find on a bookstore shelf. Then comes the best part of all – touring and presenting to students and readers.