Monday, August 12, 2013

What it's Like When You Have Author ADD by James L. Rubart



James L. Rubart
Hey, writers! Annette here. Have you ever read an author's novels and wondered if their technique is similar to yours? Even if they don't write in your genre, you might wonder about their method, especially if their finished product impresses you. 

I've recently finished reading James Rubart's latest book, Memory's Door, which is the second in his "Well Spring" series (following Soul's Gate). I enjoy his books and find myself wondering about his method while I read. And, quite honestly, I've used this same technique over the years (though my current method has morphed over time). Read on to learn how he pens his novels, and see if you can relate.

What it’s Like When You Have Author ADD
by James L. Rubart

Are you a plotter or a seat-of-the-pants writer (a “pantster”)?  

Me? I think I’ve taken the pants, ripped them to shreds, and tossed them in the air like confetti with no idea where the pieces will land. 

Why? Here’s how I write my novels: 

1. Come up with a premise that intrigues me. What if you could walk into the rooms of your soul? (Rooms) What if you could find God’s book of days where the future is recorded? (Book of Days). What if Jesus made a chair that lasted until today and had healing powers? (The Chair) What if we could send our spirits into other people’s souls? (Soul’s Gate)

2. Start writing. Anything that pops into my mind is fine.

3. Shift direction like a cheetah chasing a gazelle. If a new idea appears in the middle of writing a description or smattering of dialogue, drop said scene and start writing the new scene.

4. Repeat step three over and over again.

That can be a Problem

I never finish a scene or a snatch of dialogue or a description because I can’t focus on it long enough to get it finished. So I end up with bits and pieces of unfinished prose strewn all over my Word document in no chronological order, no coherent thread, and I have no idea where the novel is headed.

I write by simply watching the movie playing in my head and transcribe the visuals. The problem is, my movies cut from one unfinished scene to the next without warning.

Bringing Order to the Chaos

When I reached 60,000 words in my third novel, The Chair, I hit a wall. Why? I had no idea what the story was about. I had my premise, but I didn’t know my theme, the heart of the story.

So I stopped. I grabbed a handful of 3 x 5 note cards and wrote a headline describing each scene (or start of a scene) and pasted them to the wall of my writing room. Then I arranged and rearranged the cards till they started making sense. I tore up cards, rewrote them, and added additional cards as more scenes came to mind.

Finally I moved all the scenes around in my laptop till they matched the cards on my wall. (I have serious doubts I’d be published if I lived in the age of typewriters.)

It’s the way I’ve written all my novels.

What you Already Know but is Worth Repeating


Part of me wishes I could start from the beginning of a story and write straight through. Or outline the whole thing before I start. But that’s not me. It’s not the way I’m wired, and it would stifle my creativity. I’ve given myself permission to have ADD when I write.

And I’d encourage you to give yourself permission to write how you write. Whatever method that is, it’s okay. Plotters can be passionate about the pros of outlining. Pantsters often believe writing off the cuff will bring surprises you can’t get any other way. Both are right and neither are right.

Allow yourself to be you.

And if you don’t mind, could you hand me another stack of 3 x 5 cards?

~~~~~ 
Memory's Door


The prophecy brought them together. But the Wolf has risen, and now their greatest battle begins.

The four members of Warriors Riding have learned to wage war in the supernatural, to send their spirits inside people’s souls, to battle demonic forces, and to bring deep healing to those around them.

But their leader Reece is struggling with the loss of his sight. Brandon is being stalked at his concerts by a man in the shadows. Dana’s career is threatening to bury her. And Marcus questions his sanity as he seems to be slipping in and out of alternate realities.

And now the second part of the prophecy has come true. The Wolf is hunting them and has set his trap. He circles, feeding on his supernatural hate of all they stand for. And he won’t stop until he brings utter destruction to their bodies . . . and their souls.

James L. Rubart is the best-selling, Christy award winning author of five novels, including his latest release, Memory’s Door, the second book in his acclaimed Well Spring series. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps authors make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife and two sons in the Pacific Northwest and loves to dirt bike, hike, golf, takes photos, and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at www.jameslrubart.com

Visit James at:






(Amazon link for various formats)

11 comments:

  1. I know EXACTLY what he's talking about. It's a much different process writing with ADD. There's nothing we can really do but embrace it. My critique partners, as well as my agent, have no idea how I somehow pull my books together. And neither do I when I'm in the midst of writing them!

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    1. Whew, so it's not just me? Good to hear it, Dawn.

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  2. Jim, You stole my writing method! Or maybe I stole yours. Anyway, I've put aside the "seat-of-the-pants" designation, preferring Donald Westlake's more elegant, "push fiction." He said, "If I don't know what's coming next, how can the reader?"

    Nice work, Jim. And thanks, Annette, for this glimpse into the mind and methodology of a great writer.

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    1. You too, Doc! Yes! I think we need to form a club.

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  3. I've done it this way, too, and I've also tried the 'outline the snot out of it' method. My novels end up changing either way. Having said that, the notecard method is a good one - I use 'Scrivener' which basically does just that - sets up 'notecards' on your manuscript as you write and then you can rearrange them later. Love it!

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    1. I love Scrivener, Tracy! Great program for either plotters or pantsters.

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    2. Tracy,

      I've been tempted to try Scrivener ... sounds like I should give it a shot!

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  4. I'm one of those plantsers--a hybrid--but lean more toward plotting.

    I'm curious about writing proposals in this ADD fashion, Jim. How do you sell a book on a proposal without knowing more of the story beforehand?

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    1. Great question, Sandra.

      With my first novel, ROOMS it was finished before I tried to sell it. (The ol' have to have your first novel done before you pitch rule.)

      With my second novel (Book of Days) I sold it on a one page synopsis which CHANGED as I started writing it. I was worried my publisher was going to say, "Huh? What is this?" But my agent told me as long as it was close to the overall premise I'd be fine. (I was.)

      With The Chair, I sold it based on a one sentence pitch, and with Well Spring series (Soul's Gate, Memory's Door, and The Spirit Bridge) it was on a half page each.

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  5. So I'm not crazy after all--writing by the seat of my pants, refusing to outline, allowing the story to unfold in a series of surprises, and hoping I end us somewhere near the target I aimed for when I started out??? Thanks for the humorous/serious article. It's nice to meet a fellow "panster."

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  6. I tied my brain into a knot trying to learn the plotting thing. Now, I go with the flow. Usually, I have the beginning and end of a book, but the middle is a mystery.

    Why mess with what works?

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