People always ask me about my writing process or how I get the ideas for my books. Some authors seem to swim in an endless supply of plots and characters, effortlessly plucking out one plot twist or character arc after another until they’ve burned through their keyboard. 

Not me. 

So, what’s my writing process? 

Research.

That’s a fancy term for my process. I start by collecting funny anecdotes, interesting people or snatches of overheard conversations. As I go about daily life, I capture notes on my phone. Don’t worry if you know me personally. I change the names and exaggerate the stories to protect the guilty. 

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that I pay much more attention to my surroundings than I ever did. I also have become more willing to approach strangers and ask them questions. Who’d have expected that the solitary life of a writer would make me more social?

Plot.

At some point, I start adding plot ideas. My extensive research into writing clearly highlighted the importance of having a plot. All those other successful authors must be on to something. I try to come up with ideas for problems to throw at Marty (my protagonist). Sometimes ideas hit me on how he’s going to solve the case through his powers of self-delusion, attention to detail, and the inability to leave a coherent voicemail message.

Characters.

Once I developed the concept for a few of my regular characters, I find myself wondering how one of them would react to a specific situation or whether I can make life more difficult for them during the course of the book. Having Uncle and Ants and Chutes and Ladder take place over the course of just one week was a deliberate approach to force myself to increase the pace and make the characters act and react more often.

Jokes, Dad Jokes, Puns, and Lyrics as Humor.

These make me laugh as I’m writing the book. My humor is spontaneous. Sometimes that spontaneity happened months ago and I wrote it down and sometimes it strikes as I’m writing. Typically, the use, or misuse, of parts of music lyrics as dialogue hits me on the spot. Same for most of the puns. Fortunately for the readers, my editor is awesome and she removes the humor attempts that don’t make it across the finish line.

Outline.

Some writers are ‘pantsers’. This means they fly by the seat of their pants, writing without a detailed plan. Not that they wear pants. Some authors probably do wear pants when they write. That’s kind of a personal question best unasked of an author. 

As you can tell by the picture above, I outline. I admit to it. If I didn’t, I’d still be trying to figure out how Uncle and Ants would end, or who gets killed. Creating an outline with each scene on one line of a spreadsheet helps me to look at holes, try to spread out when different side characters show up, and make sure the action keeps moving forward at a good clip. Then I go through all my notes and put most of the notes into the relevant scene so I can include all the right amount of humor as well as balance humor vs tension. Once that’s done, there are no more excuses. It’s time for the next stage.

Sometimes the spreadsheet method fails and I resort to old-fashioned Post-It notes. Hence the revised outline shown above for Chutes and Ladder (A Silicon Valley Mystery, Book 2).

Write and Edit.

This part sounds simple — write, edit, repeat.  Eventually magic makes it good.

What’s Next?

If you haven’t done so, now’s a great time to read Uncle and Ants (available on Amazon and free via Kindle Unlimited) because Chutes and Ladder, book 2 in the Silicon Valley Mystery series, will be released soon. Read the first chapter of either book free by signing up for my newsletter. You’ll also get infrequent emails about new releases, offers, or other news.