Thanks for having me Reena! Before I write about how to create a novel from scratch, I’d like to tell your followers that I’m giving away a FREE Kindle on May 15th. For details about the book and the Kindle giveaway rules, go to jeffbennington.com. Good luck!
Building a Book from Scratch
I’ve always taken pride in knowing that I can explain things clearly. In 1989, I was a junior high cross-country coach, and I coached that group of boys to a county championship. A few years later, I advanced to a crew leader at the heating and cooling company I worked for and trained the guys on how to install furnaces and air conditioning units. Those were both occupations that required good communication. But when it comes to teaching someone how to write a novel, I am absolutely clueless!
Writing a novel, to me, seems impossible. It’s unexplainable. It’s beyond words. To be honest with you, I don’t really know how I do it. To think that I could adequately educate someone on the process is simply unrealistic. That is to say, I know what I do, but I don’t know how it works.
Some people say that in order to be a good writer, you have to be well read. I agree with that because the more I read, the better my writing is. But I don’t think that’s the key to creating a fully engaging and captivating story. Some people believe one must be trained through a bachelor or master’s degree in creative writing, but I don’t think that’s true either. You can learn style and grammar and how to plot and all the technical rules until you’re blue in the face, but no one can teach you how to dream up a plot, a twist, or a cleverly sketched character. That is pure imagination, pure creativity, and if you want to make your characters believable, it takes an understanding of human nature, which is hardly quantifiable.
Now that I’ve told you what I think is not the key to creating a book from scratch, I’ll tell you what I do, a process guaranteed not to work for anyone else. I say that because I think creating literature out of an eight-pound ball of cells inside a brain is just too magical and too mysterious, fused into the blood of the writer like strands of DNA.
When I think of an idea, or when an idea picks me to be the writer, it usually springs to life out of thin air. In fact, I’d say that I have never sat down and tried to think of a book idea. I don’t think that would work for me, because I’m more of a live in the moment kind of guy. Once the idea hits me, I write a brief summary much like what you’d find on the back of a book, on anything I can find. Later, I’ll transpose that idea into my black book of ideas, not to be confused with my black book of spells, primarily because I don’t have one, but also because if I did, I’d screw things up so badly that I’d probably be a frog by now!
Later, when I’m ready to start a new book, I sit down with a cup of coffee and just think, as if I were running the scenes of a good movie through my head. I think about my protagonist, what he wants, what problems he might have and how I can disrupt his life. Now that’s a tricky concept because that is usually the crux of the initial idea, but at this point I take it further. I begin to jot down ideas from one scene to the next, making quick notes of the general action that takes place, no major details, just a sentence or two to get me started. I’ll do this over and over, staring into space as the theatrical trailer plays in my mind’s eye, forming the characters, motivations, conflicts and resolution. I don’t really know how it happens, but I’ll have a basic list of scenes, enough to start writing, in about an hour. Of course many scenes get added, and the thousands of details build up as I go along.
After I’ve written the scenes down, I make a detailed list of the cast, like I’m copying down the credits from the movie I just watched. I spend more time on the main character, thinking about what is buried in his or her soul than any other. I think of their past and what they want for their future, but spend lots of time creating a really good way to keep them from getting it. This is the phase when the twists and turns usually smack me across the head. I’ll try to pencil in any extra ideas and twisty-turnys as I go, but my plot outline and character sketches are pretty crowded and messy at this point. That’s when I know I’m ready to write. All in all, if I can’t get a book idea out of my mind, I’ll spend about two hours preparing to write and then start at it hard and heavy. Research comes later, or as needed.
Will Smith, the popular film star said, “You don’t build a wall; you lay one brick at a time, and after laying each brick as perfectly as you can, you will have a wall.” And that’s pretty much what writing a book is like to me. I don’t think about the ending or middle as I write. I use my outline as a guide as I progress, leaving lots of room for changes and surprises, and just write what I see, word by word. It’s not as easy as transposing a pre-recorded message. For me, writing a scene at a time, is like mining for gold. I spend one hour writing and ten minutes cleaning up the mess, and then I move forward another hour and repeat the clean up process over and over until I eventually come to the end. That’s where the real work begins, one brick at a time, lifting, setting, tapping, mortaring, lifting, setting, tapping, mortaring, lifting……
Well that’s my writing process. Feel free to share yours! Don’t forget to follow Reena’s blog and then go out and get your copy of REUNION, my supernatural thriller. Peace.