It varies a good deal, but on the average, I’d say around 2,000. I have a science/skeptical thinking blog that I post to every day, and I’m always working on some fiction project or another. I’m a bit of a compulsive writer, really.
As far as where I write, that never varies – my computer, in our den. Usually with a cup of coffee at my side, the space heater on, and a snoring dog at my feet. I always type rather than writing long-hand – for one thing, I’m a fast and fairly accurate typist, and for another, my handwriting looks a little like the Elvish script from Lord of the Rings. As written by a rather dimwitted Elf with a severe disorder of the central nervous system. I can barely read my own handwriting – what anyone else would do with it, I don’t know.
Do you think that people judge a book by its cover? Who makes yours?
Absolutely. It’s the first thing anyone sees about a book. I’ve been known to buy books solely because the cover intrigued me (which has, on occasion, prompted me to buy a book that was truly atrocious). I tend to like intriguing, eye-grabbing covers, so mine also tend in that direction. I have thus far designed my own covers, with the help of my wife, who is a computer whiz, and several friends who are photographers.
What do you do when you get writers block?
It doesn’t happen often, but when it has, I’ve found that working on something other than the bit I’m stuck on often frees the stuck part. When I’ve become stymied, it’s usually over some twisty plot point that I can’t make work – so I go on to something else, either a different scene from the same story, or something else entirely. And because of the byzantine way my brain works, I often find that a solution will pop into my head suddenly, while I’m doing something unrelated, like taking a shower. When I’m having trouble writing, I take lots of showers.
How much time do you spend on social media per day? What do you concentrate on?
I’m on Twitter and Facebook, and maybe spend an hour or so a day on it. Self-promotion is one of my weaknesses, and I find it awkward at best to bombard my friends and contacts with messages saying, “Oh please oh please buy my book!” I know that there are a lot of indie writers who have made social media work for them – I’m just beginning to figure it all out.
Which narrative form and tense do you think is the most difficult and why?
I’ve written in both first and third person, and used a variety of different approaches to point of view. In my experience, first person is the hardest, because you can only show what your main character sees/hears/thinks – anything outside of that realm literally doesn’t exist. The character becomes a lens through which the entire story has to be viewed. That said, if you can make it work, it works brilliantly, because the reader in some sense becomes the character. I’ve only written two novels in first person – the Icelandic historical fiction Kári the Lucky, and a paranormal story set during the Black Death in England during the 14th century, We All Fall Down.
One point-of-view technique I never use is omniscient – where the reader is literally inside everyone’s, and no one’s, head. For me, stories are all about characters, and having a couple of characters whose thoughts you witness is plenty. Both my most recently released book, Signal to Noise, and my current work-in-progress, Poison the Well, have three point of view characters, and chapters alternate between them. I find this an intriguing way to write a story, because in both cases the point of view characters are extremely different from each other, and the reader gets to see the same events as witnessed, and interpreted, by radically different minds.
Do you use a professional editor, critique partners, or beta readers? What is your process?
I belong to a writers’ group, and it’s been invaluable. Several of the members of my group have incredibly sharp eyes for detail, and have caught things I never would have. I have also used beta readers, and have found the same thing. It’s hard, when you’re up close to a story, to see the problems – a set of fresh eyes can discern the parts that don’t work.
I haven’t used professional editors for the simple reason that I can’t afford them. I think that if you can, however, they can be wonderful. However, it’s a fine line – letting someone edit your work for structure and consistency can easily slip into letting someone else alter your own voice as a writer, and that’s a pity when it happens. If you use an editor, or even if you just rely on critique partners and beta readers – make sure to retain your authentic voice. It may be the most important thing of all.
How long does it take you to create a book from start to finish?
It has varied a lot, largely because I’ve put some books aside for a while. I wrote the first few chapters of House of Mirrors, and then it vanished into my desk drawer (a.k.a. the Black Hole of Calcutta) for ten years. I was digging through my old papers, and found it, and thought, “Oh, yeah, that!” And I reworked the old chapters, kept going, and had the whole thing done about eight months later. But if I write through – I think my record, for “starting word to final edit” was six months, with Adam’s Fall. But that’s also one of my shortest novels, so bear that in mind.
Please list three unique blogs or web sites for writers that you read on a regular basis.
Here are three of my favorites:
These are all sites maintained by writer friends of mine, and I find them to be unfailingly inspirational, funny, and provocative.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Just my personal view: I write because I have to, because it is my truest way to express who I am. If you’d like to know me better, read what I write – then you’ll know me.
Here are links to my sites:
Skeptophilia (my science/skeptical thinking blog): http://skeptophilia.blogspot.com
Tales of Whoa (my fiction blog): http://gbfiction.blogspot.com