Sunday, July 1, 2012

Writing My New Novel, Day 1

As I vowed to the world in my first blog posting on June 9,  2012, today would be the day that I began writing my sixth novel. I'm proud to announce that I indeed kept my word.

I was at the computer around 6:30 this morning, anxious to get going. For weeks, the idea for a mystery novel about human trafficking has been bouncing around in my head. I must say it was kind of exciting to finally start putting it down on paper. And I'm fairly pleased with the draft of my first chapter.

When I began this blog three weeks ago, I had an entirely different writing process in mind. I'd planned to start outlining my novel today, which is how I begin "writing" all of my novels. But something interesting happened that sent me off in a new direction. Yesterday, at the Leimert Park Book Festival in Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel with four esteemed writers: Gary Phillips ("Treacherous"), Attica Locke ("Black Water Rising"), Joel Engel ("L.A. '56") and Gar Haywood ("Assume Nothing"). When I asked them about their writing process, all four stated that they never outline before they start writing, at least not in a formal way (though they all do some variation of a loose outline, such as keeping track of their story on index cards, as Locke does). They all felt that outlining the entire book from beginning to end would restrict their creativity.

Honestly, I never felt restricted when writing from an outline. For me, putting the outline together is a creative process in itself. I "see" each chapter in my mind as a movie scene. I usually spend anywhere from a month to three months piecing my story together in outline form, chapter by chapter.

But after yesterday's panel, I decided to give free-styling a try for two reasons. First, skipping the outlining process means I'll get done faster. Second, I want to see if my writing flows more easily without the crutch of an outline. And after my first day, I have to say, my creative juices definitely flowed this morning.

I also decided yesterday to give myself a writing quota.  Phillips, Locke, Engel and Haywood are all full-time writers. I, however, still have a day job (though I generally have Fridays off). So writing 2,500 words every single day like some of my panel members is not a realistic option for me.  Instead of a daily quota, I decided to give myself a weekly writing goal: 5,000 words a week. Figuring about 250 words per page, that would work out to about 20 pages per week. For me, 20 pages a week is doable.

My previous books have been anywhere from 90,000 to 100,000 words each. If I stick to my 5,000-words-a-week goal, I should have a draft of my novel completed in five months (20,000 words a month x five months = 100,000 words).

So? What is your writing goal? Establish something that's reasonable for you and go for it!

I'll let you know if I achieve my 5,000-word quota this week. If I do, great. But if I don't, I'll still keep writing and you should too.

Happy writing!



  1. My page-a-day goal pales in comparison to your 20 pages a week. I have decided I am going to write along with you. If you can rethink outlining, I can rethink my one page quota. :-)

  2. Enjoyed the article. I'm so used to outlining now as a guideline, that I'm almost fearful not to! But I like the idea of freestyle as well. I will also be waiting to hear if you reach your 5000 word quota! Good luck - I'm cheering you on!