One Indie Author’s Writing Process
by Robert Germaux
When I created the character of Jeremy Barnes, my Pittsburgh private detective, I wasn’t sure if I’d actually be able to write an entire book about him. But after spending the better part of a year thinking, writing and rewriting, I completed my first full-length novel.
Three books later, I’ve developed some ways to make the actual writing process easier and to improve my productivity as a writer. It’s my hope that these tips will help other writers as well.
Keep Track of Chapters with a Calendar
Early on, I decided to keep a calendar of the chapters in my book. I just went online and printed out several blank block-style calendar pages. I began Jeremy’s first case on a Monday in September, so I simply wrote “Chap. 1” in a Monday block on the calendar page I’d designated September. Sometimes I’d have two or even three chapters take place on the same day, and sometimes I’d have a gap of several days between chapters. Since I often referenced a specific day of the week or a holiday or that something would happen over a weekend, it was a great help. I didn’t want to end up having Jeremy conduct business at his local post office on a Sunday afternoon.
Jot Down Chapter Summaries
About one-third of the way through my first book, I began keeping what I called Chapter Summaries. These are just a few words reminding me of what took place in each chapter. Sometimes it was as simple as writing Jeremy visits local police chief or Jeremy and Laura have lunch at Dunning’s Grill. I discovered that it helped me to have some way to jog my memory, especially later in the book, if I wanted to check on what I’d had a character say or do earlier in the story. And occasionally, it helped when I realized that I should have had a character say or do something in that chapter at Dunning’s Grill.
Jeremy’s a sharp dresser, and Laura, the love of his life, always looks great, so another thing I did was keep an Outfits Page for each of them and any other recurring characters, detailing what was worn and when. If you’re writing a novel in which you frequently describe your characters’ ensembles, Outfits Pages can be helpful. I mean, I couldn’t have Laura wearing the same dress on three consecutive occasions. How gauche!
Experiment with the Writing Process
In terms of the actual writing process, everyone has his or her own way of doing things, of course. I write each chapter in longhand on a yellow legal-size tablet, with lots of scratching out, scribbling and margin notes. I then type the chapter and print it out for my wife to read. Then it’s on to the beta reading phase.
Find a Beta Reader
My wife and beta reader, Cynthia, usually makes a couple of suggestions, which I incorporate before saving and printing the final copy of the chapter. It’s important to find someone whose opinion you trust to act as your beta reader. Someone who eventually will come to know your characters almost as well as you do, so that person feels comfortable saying, “I’m not sure Jeremy would say that.” Often just confirming a nagging doubt you already had about that bit of dialogue in the first place is all you need.
These are just some of the methods I use when writing my novels. It’s what I’ve found works for me, and I hope they’ll work for you. I’d love to hear about your writing process, so feel free to get in touch.
Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.
About the Author
Both my parents were readers. I’m talking stacks-of-books-on-their-nightstands readers. So it’s no surprise that at an early age, I, too, became an avid reader. Everything from sports books (especially baseball) to Nancy Drew to the Hardy Boys to almost anything about distant and exotic places.
Although I’ve always enjoyed putting words on paper, the writer in me didn’t fully emerge until I retired after three decades of teaching high school English. I quickly wrote two books aimed at middle school readers, at which point my wife urged me to try a novel for adults. As is usually the case, Cynthia’s idea was a good one.
Over the next few years, I wrote several books about Pittsburgh private eye Jeremy Barnes. I took a brief hiatus from the detective genre to write Small Talk and The Backup Husband. Now I’m back and will be releasing my first Jeremy Barnes novel, Hard Court, on April 11.
In our spare time, Cynthia and I enjoy reading (of course), going to live theater productions, watching reruns of favorite TV shows such as “Sports Night” and “Gilmore Girls,” and traveling to some of those distant and exotic places I used to read about as a child. So far, we’ve been fortunate enough to walk in the sands of Waikiki, swim in the warm waters of the South Pacific and share a romantic dinner in Paris. I love interacting with my readers and getting their input on my characters and stories. Please feel free to contact me via my website.