No, I mean that literally! At 3:00 A.M. one winter night I awoke from a disturbing dream that was so vivid I could actually smell and feel parts of the scenes. It was one of those chasing-type dreams, although n this case I was more an observer than one of the actors. I could not get back to sleep, so I got up and went downstairs. I felt I had the makings of a story.
By 7:00 A.M. I had outlined the entire novel, a first for me since I usually struggle for weeks with my outlines. And once the writing began, the story just flowed. Amazing, really.
Since I was born and spent my first 19 years in New York City, I felt that I had that part of the research pretty well sewn up. However, I still hard to research certain facts and also visited a few locales to add realism and descriptive elements to the scenes.
It was the West Virginia segments that required extensive research. I live in Maryland, so I made several trips to the western Maryland region that borders West Virginia and decided to center the action there.
The actual writing took place in about four months of intensive writing, although that was a rare exception. Most of my books took far longer to write. People often ask me about the mechanics of my writing, so here’s a quick description.
I’m a pretty disciplined writer. I get up fairly early, have breakfast and read the papers, then get online to catch up on late-breaking news, read and answer emails, and other minor tasks. By 10:00 I am writing and do so until lunch. After lunch I do other stuff until my post-lunch glucose plunge is over and then I write again. After dinner, I usually do some editing and get organized for the next day. Real life events all too often interfere with this schedule. If I can do this 3-4 days a week I’m happy.
Once I complete the first draft of the manuscript I let it sit for a minimum of a week. Then the painful revision process begins. I typically go through at least 3 or 4 revisions, although my historical fiction novel, The First Pharaoh, took 9! I edit to add more descriptive details, to improve the dialogue, to catch inconsistencies and to add plot elements that I think might add drama, intrigue or conflict. Sometimes I’ll scrap an entire chapter or remove a piece of the story that was spread out throughout the book.
Once that process is done, I reluctantly hand off my manuscript to my first-line editor, my wife. She is a grammarian and eagle-eyed editor. Best of all, she gives me a woman’s perspective on what works (or, more likely, what doesn’t).
After my wife comes my long-time friend and writing buddy, Terry, who reads the manuscript and gives me lots of feedback. Usually my manuscript looks like it’s been through a war when he returns it. Every other page seems to bleed red ink.
At this point I’ll make final revisions and then it’s ready for you!