Methods for writing are as varied as the writers who use them. Two of the primary camps, as it relates to fiction writing, are those who outline and those who don’t. My action-adventures and mysteries are written for middle grade readers. I never outline. How I go about the writing process probably comes from my several decades of dramatic film, video, and television commercial productions.
The first thing that usually happens is a title will pop into my head. That title immediately suggests the main character’s strengths and weaknesses, the setting for the story, and a primary plot thread. This is also how hundreds of stories used to appear as I told them to my children when they were small.
I grab a recorder and tell myself the story, much like I would make them up for my kids in the past. This part of the process gives me the beginning, middle, and end, although I don’t know any other details at the time. Then, while writing, all sorts of characters and situations appear as I go along. These notes are typed, placed in a file, and not consulted again until the first draft is finished. For me, writing the first draft of any story is like watching a feature film playing out right in front of my eyes because I never know what’s going to happen next, or who might show up.
I never begin a chapter that I don’t finish in that writing session. And at the end of each writing session, I scribble a note with the word “next” at the top. Then I write a few lines about what would happen next in the story, if I were to continue on writing the next chapter.
Other elements that go into my writing process may also be helpful. I have a separate writing room where I can go, shut the door, and escape into a world of my own making. I like to have props around that help me to visualize the scene. While writing a book that will be published soon, Forest of Fear, I filled a small cage with redwood chips, went outside, and caught a chipmunk. This isn’t very hard where I live because they run into the drainpipes when someone walks outside. I kept him on my desk for the day, but wasn’t finished with the sequence. Rather than keep him overnight, I let the little guy go. Then, the next morning, I went out and caught another one. Except I think it was the same one because this one acted just like the first. Having him helped me think about the woods.
Also, while writing, I light a candle and keep it burning next to my computer screen. This helps me to focus on the task of writing for some reason I can’t explain. And, because of my film work, I play mood appropriate music in the background. This can only be instrumental because any lyrics totally distract me.
I like to write mostly in the evenings, on weekends, and some holidays. That’s because there are few, if any distractions during those times. I never stop to read what’s already been written, and work until the first draft is finished. Then that is put away for several days before I take it up again and read it. In this way, it feels like reading something for the first time. I have a finished manuscript waiting on my writing desk now. It’s been sitting there for over a week, and I can hardly wait to start reading it, just to find out what’s in there.
About Max Elliot Anderson:
Max Elliot Anderson grew up as a struggling reader. After surveying the market, he sensed the need for action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 – 13, especially boys.
Using his extensive experience in the production of dramatic motion pictures, videos, and television commercials, Mr. Anderson brings that same visual excitement and heart-pounding action to his stories. Each book has different characters, setting, and plot.
Ten books are published, sixteen more are under contract, with several additional manuscripts completed. Young readers have reported that reading one of his books is like actually being in an exciting movie.
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