In a continuing series of features from our authors, Nathan Walpow tells us how he approaches writing a new book.
Some writers can envision a book’s plot before they sit down to write it. They can visualize characters and twists and red herrings and dramatic denouements, and arrange them into a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
I envy these people. I can’t do what they do. I start with the first scene and see what happens. Characters show up willy-nilly; plot twists are as big a surprise to me as they are to the reader. I write and write until I think there’s enough good stuff in the amorphous manuscript for a book. What I’ve got is 30-40% longer than the final product.
Only when this “zero draft” is done does my storytelling side come to life. I look at the pages and pages of manuscript and piece together a narrative. I cut and paste sections wholesale, discard storylines, add what needs adding. Only then do I have a reasonable first draft, approximately the length it needs to be.
Is this a good way to write? Heck, no. I spend weeks on stuff that doesn’t make it into the book. Sometimes I toss it without a regret. Sometimes I’m so attached to a chunk that I save it in a separate file, hoping that someday I’ll find another story it fits into.