“How do you write your novels?”

I imagine this is a question all authors are eventually asked. Why do you write? Where do your ideas come from? What types of novels do you write? Do you write about more than one subject?

The ‘how’ is a straightforward question with no right or wrong answer. Every writer has a system that works for them. In my case, an idea takes shape and I make handwritten notes on a legal pad (a pen moves at Captain Kirk’s warp speed compared to my typing!). I also keep note cards or a notebook handy to jot down random ideas, dialogue, etc. as they pop into my brain. If they don’t make it onto paper, about 50% fade will vanish into the ether.

From this motley collection of paper and scribbled notes, I create a beginning-to-end outline (I’m an outliner, some writers aren’t). I roughly summarize the projected chapters, map paths of conflict, flesh out characters and even create snippets of dialogue as characters take shape. In most instances I see the ending before I put down the first word.

When I then sit down at the keyboard I write toward that conclusion⸺unless a better ending suddenly rears its head. It’s a somewhat chaotic but fluid “system” that works for me, allowing new inserts and revisions that strengthen the flow. My major weakness is revising as I write. I have a phobia about continuing to write if something just doesn’t ring true, or there’s weak verb or description. After completion, it’s more revising with the help of my editor, critique group, and Beta readers.

When I’m not writing I spend a lot of time with my favorite authors: James Salter, Pat Conroy, Frederick Busch, Henry James, Ray Bradbury, Robert Parker and Elmore Leonard. I’m also a fan of contemporary writers such as Tom Rob Smith, Pat Barker, Cormac McCarthy, Dennis Lehane and Martin Cruz Smith. I also have to mention Howard Bahr’s beautifully written novels, and I couldn’t resist including his Uncle Howard’s Ten Commandments for His Students Wandering in the Wilderness in the Blog. These writers and others are augmented by my muse, Gus, a red tabby who sits at my elbow, fascinated by the cursor, whispering ideas that make it onto paper.

In the real world, my wife Sandra and I sneak away to fly fish every chance we get. We both find fly fishing a pristine stream of river cleanses our minds and souls, washing away every day cares and fears, while honing our Anglo-Saxon language skills when a large rainbow breaks off.

I enjoy writing and when I occasionally dread it as labor, I sit down at the keyboard anyway and another world quickly opens up. As a reader I hope you enjoy these worlds as much as I do.

A Season for Ravens was simply a treat… fantastic historical fiction. Five stars!
Amazon Reader
The flow was excellent and attention to historical accuracy impressive… extremely pleasant read … didn’t want to put it down. Will Ottinger paints a brilliant picture
NetGallery Review
The Last Van Gogh is an exciting mystery… excellent novel.
Readers’ Favorites Review
… takes the reader on an exciting adventure that spans two continents and two centuries. The action-packed plot develops with rising tension and sporadic looks into Van Gogh’s troubled life from the artist’s perspective. A fascinating read.
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