At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Monday, March 11, 2013

When Do You Have the Time?

I began writing fiction in the fall of 2010, a path that has produced four finished novels and a contract to publish the first one. Since I launched into what I can only hope will be a writing "career", the question "When do you have the time to write?" has peppered more conversations than I care to count. The query shoots from the mouths of many who know me, mainly because they know my schedule doesn't have a lot of down time. We homeschool our son Joshua while sending our daughter Lindsay to Covenant Christian School. Both of them have a fair bit of homework that requires the oversight of a vigilant Anglican bishop. I teach full-time at Westminster Christian Academy here in St. Louis, with a full slate of Ethics and New Testament classes. So what's the magic formula? When do I write?

The answer is that I don't have the first clue. I have a writer friend (my seminary roommate, in fact) who sets aside 2-3 hour blocks of time to do nothing but write. My father will write in the morning (although 3:30 am feels more like the dead of night than the morning). Which is the right method? I'm convinced there is no correct mode. All I know is that I rarely can string three hours together to write. But what I do know is that my mind is always thinking about the next scene, the next dialogue, the next chapter, how the arrest scene will look, how the evidence will slowly but definitively come together, and how the detective will bring about a redemptive conclusion to the case. When I drive in to school at  6:15 in the morning, I'm working my story out in my head. I'm voicing the conversations. That way when I sit down to do any amount of writing, there's a flow that has been building for some time and I can unroll everything. It might not even come out in even bursts. Sometimes I'll get eighty words written in a day; other times, I'll get eight hundred. Believe it or not, one day I hit eight thousand! And believe it or not, since Lent started, I haven't written anything toward my next book. I haven't even touched editing my previous ones. Like the Hebrew land in the Year of Jubilee, I'm letting my brain lie fallow, filling it with reading (I chew up about six books a month) because if you want to write well, you need to read voraciously.

The truth is, you have to find the pattern that works. And by "works", I mean a method that not only produces volume but also depth. A pattern that not only builds the word count, but one that ultimately builds a credible, engaging story. Because it's not merely about constructing a mere house, but about putting together a dwelling in which people want to live.

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