Thursday, October 4, 2018


I was once asked “How long does it take you to write a novel?” My mind went blank. I tried to think about, but all I could come up with was “I don’t know.”

Really, I don’t know. I have a day job. And a life. It’s all kinda crazy.

I don’t come up with an idea, rush to the computer, bang away for a few days, weeks, or months, and turn out a novel. It’s more like I get an idea, let it rattle around with all the other stuff that’s seething in brain, and maybe, just maybe in a few years, I’ll get started. Sometimes I’ll make some jangled notes, write some fragments, file them away. 

Right now, I have at least four novels in the works. Then there are the ones that are just peculiar notions.

We won’t get into the brainstorm I had the other day while on a cross-Phoenix El Bravo/Chino Bandido run, when enchilada sauce leaked onto my shirt like an old-time spaghetti western gunshot wound . . .

For a while, I tried to work on several novels at once, but it didn’t work. Early on, my wife, Emily Devenport (author of Medusa Uploaded) and I noticed that while short stories can be like a bout of the flu, novels are closer to demonic possession in the way they hijack your brain. Too much of this could crash your jellyware hard drive.

So a year or so ago, I decided that I’d concentrate on Zyx; or, Bring Me the Brain of Victor Theremin. (I prefer Bring Me the Brain . . ., but publishers and editors like short one-word titles, and I do try to please--honest, I really do!) I thought I’d be done by now.

People who’ve never written, much less published anything, keep talking about how someday they’re going to take a month or so off, rent a cabin in some quiet, isolated place, and squeeze out a bestseller. Pardon me while I choke down some vicious laughter. Has anybody ever come close to writing anything that way?  Peace, quiet, and especially isolation (inspiration comes from going mano a mano with reality) are all overrated, and don’t help you write.

Get used to being interrupted. We just live in that kind of world. If a simple thing like life can knock a novel out of your head, you may not be cut out to be a writer.

If you want to write, learn the fine art of running the day job gauntlet. I’ve found that a job where you’re doing grunt work with your hands, leaving the brain to chew on the literary cud, works better. They often give you break time--take it.

Become an expert at stealing time. Be on the lookout for opportunities, and pounce! Don’t be afraid to get predatory.

Learn to write on the run.

Way back in the twentieth century, I used to carry around little memo pads and stubby ballpoint pens. They fit in my pocket as I mopped floors and cleaned toilets. A lot of High Aztech and Smoking Mirror Blues were written that way.

Nowadays, I carry an iTouch, and write a lot with one finger on a tiny screen, using Google Drive.

I’m finishing up a detailed outline of Zyx, the first time I’ve done that with a novel. It’s taking shape, coming alive. 

We may be coming close to the demonic possession phase, which is also difficult, but keeps life interesting . . .

In the immortal words of Super Chicken, “You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.”

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