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THE FIRST STEPS IN WRITING A NOVEL

by David Chill

With the publication of my sixth book, Nickel Package, I wanted to jot down some thoughts on my writing process. I’ve been helped by some terrific writers over the years, and I hope this essay can help others who share an interest in fiction. Now that Nickel Package has been published, and is doing well, I am hard at work on my seventh book. But getting to this point has not been easy.

Many people want to write the Great American Novel. If you like reading great books, the thought of writing one yourself is something that’s always on the horizon. I love reading murder mysteries, and the possibility of creating a memorable whodunit propelled me into this field. Coming up with story ideas is the easy part. Putting these ideas into a full-length novel however, is another issue altogether.

The best place for a new writer to start is to focus on something you feel passionate about. While you can’t ignore the old adage to write about what you know, there are limits to that approach. We only know so much! New authors should concentrate their writing on those things they feel strongly about. It’s important to remember that when writing a book, you will be living with the story in a very intimate way for many months — or possibly years. Having passionate feelings about your subject matter will get you through those dark days when you are troubled by the self-doubt and writer’s block that most writers have to endure at some point.

For me, I have always been fascinated with the subject of siblings, and that is deeply personal. A long time ago, my older brother passed away in a car accident when he was just 24 years old and that left an indelible mark on my life and on my writing. Oddly, I did not intentionally set out to write about my brother in my first novel, Post Pattern. And it wasn’t until I was finished with the first draft did I fully comprehend the personal implications of the story. In many ways, the exploration of sibling relationships in my novels is an opportunity for me to better come to grips with my brother’s death. And as Joan Didion described it in The Year of Magical Thinking, a goal of understanding a loved one’s death is sometimes our way of trying to bring them back to life.

Before I begin writing a novel, I create a 24 point outline. This details the 24 important events that occur during the story. If you go back and review many great literary works, there are often 24 events which push they story forward. This is helpful to me because I am a writer who needs a certain amount of structure. I can’t sit down to write and just let the story go where it goes. My 24 point outline normally starts out at 3 or 4 pages and is a living, breathing document. By the time the novel is finished, I’ve added lots of details and nuance, and the outline often mushrooms to 15 or 20 pages. This outline gives me the detail I need to soldier on through the story, and provides a trail that leads me out of the “second act wilderness” and into the climax of the plot.

I typically don’t sketch out character descriptions; I simply think a lot about who they are and what makes them do what they do. My protagonist, Burnside, lives by a code which is very clear as to what is right and what is wrong. Burnside has a particular distaste for lies and injustice, and is willing to take the necessary steps to make amends for that which is unfair. He recognizes that you may not be able to change the world but you can change your corner of it. The events in my books present some of the randomness and unfairness that are inherent in everyday life. Some people seem to have everything go their way and others appear to get the short end of the stick. And yet the world frequently take steps to invoke a balance, which often — but not always — can even the score. What Burnside does is help this process move along a little quicker.

Regarding the actual writing, I am one of those people who gets easily distracted and has trouble concentrating. I follow the guideline Oscar Wilde once employed, which is to say that the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. I realize I may need to spend six hours procrastinating just so I can get in one or two solid hours of writing. But those one or two hours produce some extremely good work. And whether it takes combing through the internet for bits of trivia or simply daydreaming before I can ease into the actual writing, I know this is simply part of my process. Forcing myself to sit and stare at the screen does not yield great results.

So that’s the basics of how to start writing a novel, at least from my perspective. Every writer finds their own path and the method in which they feel most comfortable. For me, this is the system that has worked best. And I’ll leave you with a final thought that has served me well as I sit down each day to work. A writer is nothing more than a reader who sits down at a keyboard.

About the author:
David Chill writes classic hard-boiled mysteries with a contemporary edge. Post Pattern was a finalist in the St. Martin’s Press contest for new private eye mystery writers, and is David Chill’s first work of fiction. Post Pattern has been highly praised for the intriguing plot, memorable characters and crackling dialogue. David Chill has written six novels in the Burnside Mystery series (with a seventh book coming soon!) and all are available in e-book form through Amazon.com. The first four novels in the series are available in paperback. The most recent work is Nickel Package.

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NICKEL PACKAGE — The 6th Burnside Novel Has Arrived!

Nickel Package Cover Art 7a

I am very happy to announce that my 6th novel has been published and is now available on Amazon. As I’m sure you know, this is part of a mystery series featuring Burnside, the former football star and LAPD officer, who has become a wise-cracking private investigator.

The new novel is called NICKEL PACKAGE, and the story begins with Burnside brought in to do a simple background check on a rising, corporate star. As you might imagine, things are not what they first appear to be! Everything starts to go very wrong and, following a stunning daylight murder, Burnside’s own life is placed in mortal jeopardy.

As Burnside probes deeper, he discovers yet another puzzle. There is a cold case that the authorities have never pursued, but one that seems to play a role in unraveling the mystery. And as he enters into the thick of this increasingly treacherous assignment, Burnside is once again faced with the jagged memories from his past, the nasty demons that will just not rest, and continue to haunt him to this day.

NICKEL PACKAGE is once again set in the heart of the eclectic world that is Los Angeles. The reader is taken through a journey into both the best and the worst that L.A. has to offer. From the tony corporate boardrooms to the seemingly peaceful middle-class suburbs to the mean streets of downtown, the novel whisks readers on an exciting ride, loaded with twists, turns and jarring surprises.

Please click on the link below to purchase:

http://tinyurl.com/njwslth

Corner Blitz Honored For Outstanding Cover Art

CZ Cover Art 7a

Very happy to report CORNER BLITZ was 1 of 15 books selected by Shelf Buzz today for outstanding Cover Art.

Big shout out to Jennifer Nicolaisen for a gorgeous photograph….

http://shelfbuzz.com/

Get notified about the next Burnside Mystery!

Click on the link below and sign up.

http://eepurl.com/PMvlP

 

NP Cover 1b

My 24-Point Writing Process

by David Chill

Many years ago, my older brother was killed in a car accident when he was just 24 years old. Obviously, that left an indelible mark on my life. It also had a profound effect on my writing.

I did not intentionally set out to write about my brother in my first novel, Post Pattern. It wasn’t until I was finished with the first draft did I fully comprehend the personal implications of the story. In many ways, the exploration of sibling relationships in my novels is an opportunity for me to better come to grips with my brother’s accident. And as Joan Didion described it in The Year of Magical Thinking, a goal of understanding a loved one’s death is sometimes our way of trying to bring them back to life.

The topics I choose to explore in my writing are deeply personal. I have written four additional novels since Post Pattern, and a number of them so focus on sibling relationships. Fortunately, I have been able to move past this subject to tackle other issues I care about. While one can’t ignore the old adage to write about what you know, there are limits to that approach. We only know so much. I write about those subjects with which I feel a certain level of passion. It’s important to recognize that when writing a book, the author will be living with the story in a very intimate way for many months — or possibly years. Having strong feelings about the subject matter will provide the path to move through those dark days when the inevitable self-doubt and writer’s block emerge and can feel overwhelming..

There are some writers who tell their stories by simply creating characters and following them around. I am not one of those writers. Prior to beginning any novel, I create a 24 point outline before I start doing any actual writing. This 24 point plan details the 24 most important events that happen during the story. When I was first trying to understand plot structure, I discovered that many stories, often dating back to Shakespeare, could be summarized using this 24 point outline. And within this outline are a number of key juncture points, usually coming at points 6, 12 and 18. These are the critical events, which should take the reader by surprise, and propel the story forward.

I am an author who needs a certain amount of structure. My 24 point outline is done on a Word document and normally runs about 5 or 6 pages before I start writing the first chapter. Over the course of the novel writing, this may balloon to 30 pages or more, as I add depth and texture to the story — and fill the inevitable holes that occur as the plot advances.

For better or worse, I am afflicted with a certain amount of Attention Deficit Disorder. Obviously, this means I am easily distracted and have trouble concentrating. So I follow the guideline Oscar Wilde once employed, which is to say that the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. I realize I may need to spend six hours procrastinating, just so I can get in one or two solid hours of writing. But those one or two hours produce some extremely good work. And whether it takes combing through the internet for bits of trivia or simply daydreaming before I can ease into the actual writing, I know this is simply part of my process. Forcing myself to sit and stare at the screen does not yield good work.

My writing process is such that it takes me five months to write a novel. I spend the first month thinking deeply about the topic and the characters, and the second month developing the 24 point outline. This is my favorite part of the process because it allows me to dream and explore, and build scenes in my mind. Once that is in place, the writing itself becomes relatively easy, and it only takes about two months to write the first draft, which is typically 50,000 words. The last month is spent re-writing, working with beta readers, and then using a few editors to help me proofread and polish the final draft. I often go through as many as ten drafts, because I want the story to be as good as possible; the final draft often extends to 60,000 words or more. And yet, no matter how many times I review and edit the final draft, there will always be a couple of minor typos that slip through. I know this because a few of my readers take delight in emailing me when they catch something.

I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped me become a successful writer, and this includes family, friends, promotional partners and Amazon. But I most indebted to my readers who have sent countless emails, letting me know how much they appreciate my writing, and asking when I will be publishing my next book. As much as my brother inadvertently started off as my inspiration for writing, it is my readers who motivate me to keep moving forward. Without them there would be no reason to sit down in front of keyboard each morning.

About the author:
David Chill writes classic hard-boiled mysteries with a contemporary edge. Post Pattern was a finalist in the St. Martin’s Press contest for new private eye mystery writers, and is David Chill’s first work of fiction. The novel has been highly praised for the intriguing plot, memorable characters and crackling dialogue. In addition to Post Pattern, the other novels in the Burnside Mystery series includes: Fade Route, Bubble Screen, Safety Valve and Corner Blitz. All have received critical acclaim and are available in both e-book and paperback through Amazon.com.

Post Pattern Is Now In Paperback

I am thrilled to let you know that my first novel, Post Pattern, is now available in paperback.

Since not everyone likes to read books on newfangled devices like kindles, tablets or smartphones (oh my!), we now have the option to go old school.

To order a paperback copy of Post Pattern, please click on the link below. It is indeed more expensive then ordering a digital copy; the higher price simply reflects the cost of paper, printing, binding and the guilt of not sparing a tree!

In the next month or so I hope to have my other books out in paperback as well.  Stay tuned!

https://tinyurl.com/n7bynnq

 

Post Pattern (Burnside Mysteries)

POST PATTERN HITS THE AMAZON TOP 100 !

This past weekend I made Post Pattern available for a limited time at 99 cents. The response has been remarkable!

On Saturday May 3, Post Pattern cracked the Amazon Top 100 best seller list. Out of about 2 million books available on Amazon, Post Pattern was ranked # 74 in sales yesterday. It’s stunning to see what a cut in price, coupled with a good promotional partner can do. The special price runs through next Thursday, May 8.

By Sunday, sales had slowed a bit, but as of 5:00pm PDT, it was still ranked # 99 out of all of the books in the Amazon store. And I’m also seeing some activity for Fade Route and Bubble Screen. Hopefully, people will like what they read in Post Pattern and look into reading the rest of the series!

This past Thursday, the Wall Street Journal ran a story on BookBub, the agency I’ve been working with. This weekend they sent out a promotional email featuring Post Pattern to nearly one million mystery readers. For those interested, here is the article link. If you have a Kindle, getting onto BookBub’s mailing list is a must, they have some great free and discounted books.

http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/2014/05/01/bookbub-raises-3-8m-to-help-readers-find-e-book-deals-online/?mod=WSJ_TechWSJD_venture

I am hard at work on the 4th Burnside novel. I finished the outline last week and have started to put hands to keyboard. I’m 15 pages in and things are going well.

I just wanted to share this good news with everyone. It’s been a roller coaster of a weekend!

David