Let me tell you about my writing process. I start with what the pros call a logline (and what I call “what the story is about”). The logline is a one- or two-sentence statement that describes your story. A good logline has 4 key elements:
Protagonist (the hero)
Antagonist (the bad guy or the big obstacle)
Conflict (something in the hero’s way)
Open-ended question (what’s going to happen)
Once I have the idea captured in a couple of sentences, I outline my story.
I usually settle on ten sections, either ten full chapters or nine chapters with either a prologue or epilogue, or eight chapters with both a prologue and an epilogue. This is the basic format of all my books.
I open a document in Google Docs and type each chapter number on a new page along with a short sentence or two (you can call this a chapter logline if you want) reminding me what needs to happen here. Then I set out to write each chapter.
I actual don’t write in order. Sometimes I just don’t know what to write or I’m not ready for a particular chapter, so I skip it and work on some other part. This is also why I’m usually writing a couple of books at the same time; when the words don’t come, I work on something else.
Generally, my story unfolds like this:
Chapter 1 is the Hook
Chapter 2 is the Catalyst
Chapter 3 is the Journey
Chapter 4 is the Subplot
Chapter 5 is the Rising Action
Chapter 6 is the Midpoint
Chapter 7 is the Twist
Chapter 8 is when All is Lost (or at least the hero)
Chapter 9 is the Climax
And Chapter 10 is the Resolution
I’ll talk about each of these chapters in future podcasts. For each chapter, I shoot for about 2,000 words. This works me toward my roughly 20,000-word goal of a finished book (which in my case has the fancy name of novella, based on word count). When a project really flows, I can have the first draft done in a couple of weeks. But usually I take a about a month to finish.
Then I put the whole thing aside and keep working on other projects. In a couple of weeks, I will return to the story and reread it, making edits and notes as I go. Once I have this revision done, I am usually satisfied enough to send it off to my editor. Here comes another month of waiting and then I sit down (virtually) with my editor on a Google Chat and we go through every single edit. I’m not the kind of writer who necessarily agonizes over every word; if my editor (and later, my Revision Readers) thinks something should be changed, I usually change it.
After this edit, I send it to my Revision Readers (or beta readers, if you prefer). These fine folks (some friends and family, some subscribers to my newsletter) give me their feedback, which leads me to a final edit.
Then I import everything into Atticus, do the formatting dance, and get my ebook and paperback files ready to upload to Amazon KDP and get them out into the world.
Of course, these days I first copy each chapter into my Substack and schedule them for publishing, which involves a bunch of advertising to get more subscribers. But that’s another story.
I started reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 novels in college. James Bond was a huge influence on my immortal commando, Nicolaus Rand. I own two first edition James Bond books (Casino Royale and Octopussy (which is a collection of short stories). Recently, I decided to revisit the literary James Bond and picked up one of the most recent additions to the series, Forever and A Day by Anthony Horowitz. And what a great choice.
The story unfolds as James Bond first earns his Double-0 number (after completing two assassinations) and gets his first mission. He travels to the South of France, meets a CIA agent (who is not Felix Leiter), and gets into all kinds of mischief. The style is true to Fleming and Bond in this iteration follows Fleming’s post-War era perfectly. I actually prefer the 1950s-era Bond in the books to most of the movie production stories. Perhaps the producers will split the post-Daniel Craig James Bond franchise into two separate kinds of films: early Sean Connery/literary/post-World War Two Bond, and contemporary Bond (perhaps with a female or POC lead). That way we can have the retro (cigarette-smoking, hipster) Bond as well as the progressive, gadget-heavy, wisecracking Bond.
Anyway, I would give Forever and A Day a score of 9 out of 10. Overall, it’s a great return to Fleming’s style and timeframe. I always enjoyed this period (and the less cinematic Bond) and this book was super charming from that perspective.
This week I’m going to read from my new Space Force Recondo installment, Unlucky. I plan to have it published by summer. I hope you enjoy it—let me know what you think in the comments.