Thursday, April 9, 2015

After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing.  He wrote a monthly column for a national magazine for two years. He has had four non-fiction books published.  He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense, with his sixth book releasing in 2014.

Learn more on his Blog and also his Amazon Author Page

Over My Dead Body is now available for pre-orders.   

The challenges in writing are many.  Everyone who sits down and faces that blank sheet of paper knows that.  What do I put on it?  What can I say that anyone will care to read? How will I get anyone to buy this even if I can write it? Self-doubt is a constant companion of the writer.

For me, I find two major obstacles in the writing life.  The first is time.  Writing a novel is a long process.  Because I like to see results quickly, I find I am drawn to chores that can be finished much faster.  Here is a decision to be made: do this short task, perhaps a household chore that can be completed in a few hours, or work on a novel that won’t be finished for eight months? 

The answer seems simple.  Do the household chore, finish it in a few hours, and work on the writing tomorrow.  What is a one day delay in an eight month project?  Finish the chore, get that feeling of accomplishment and get back to the novel.

The problem is that tomorrow there will be another chore that only requires a day. It could be finished, I get that sense of accomplishment, and the eight month project is only delayed two days.  What are two days in an eight month project? 

You can see where this is going.  There is an endless string of “short” projects vying for attention. And each will only delay the novel by a day.  But the few days turn into a few weeks, and before you know it, the weeks have become months.  Before you realize it, the really important project, the book, is delayed a year.

Big problem for those of us who need that sense of accomplishment, of completing a job. 

Let’s assume for a moment that I have managed to avoid some of those “shorter” chores and have actually completed the book. Now comes the second major obstacle: marketing. 

Marketing comes with several problems. First, it is something many writers are not familiar with. Then there is the uncomfortable fact that most writers are not particularly good at it.  And most writers are not interested in becoming good at it. 

Edie Melson, author, and editor, says with careful planning, you can achieve a good, solid social media presence in just thirty minutes a day.  Sound doable.  But I have not managed to do it right.  I can limit my time to thirty minutes a day, but I haven’t managed to get the solid media presence.  So I find the social media time growing and the results not growing.

Obviously I have not mastered this important challenge for the writer.

At this point, I’m batting 0 for 2. 

I am often asked if I am a plotter or a pantser. 

I think I am both.

I do a certain amount of plotting before I begin.   I like to have a direction, an obstacle, and a possible solution.  I don’t need all the details. I probably don’t know the subplots.  But I need the obstacle.  And before I actually begin, I probably have a number of snippets of conversation written.

Now, I’m ready to begin. The characters will help dictate any changes in the direction.  I am perfectly willing to let them do this.  I have tried to get to know my three main characters (protagonist, sidekick, and antagonist) before I begin.  I have visited with them, listened to them, and gained a lot of background information on each of them. If they begin to talk to me, to make suggestions, I am certainly going to listen, and quite likely follow their suggestions.

In this respect, I am a pantser.  The end result is that I employ both methods in the course of writing a book.

In Over My Dead Body, I began with the simple idea of a man dead while in the midst of a dispute with a large corporation over its exercise of eminent domain.  I set up my main characters.  I knew two of them well.  I had several snippets of conversation. I have a dialog signature for each. Generally, if I can hear the characters speak, I’m a long way toward really knowing them. I was ready to begin. And the pantser mode takes over.

Perhaps I am best described as a hybrid writer, ready to tackle those two big obstacles I face in writing.


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