Guest Post: Writing Day by Paul McCracken
Today on the blog, speculative fiction author Paul McCracken describes his writing day and gives us insight into how he approaches storytelling. He also has a new release called Equinox.
A Day in the Writing Life of Paul McCracken
I think it would be kind of hard to describe an average writing day for me as they
are vastly different depending on what stage of the story I am at.
I write mostly at night and almost always with music. Music helps set the tone for
me and I would identify certain songs or instrumentals that I feel fit the book I am
writing, the soundtrack in a way.
I set up my laptop on the kitchen table and open up a playlist of songs on youtube
before opening the MS word document with the book I would be working on. When I
find a rhythm, I could write for about 2-3 hours with time just slipping by without me
noticing. If I am really entranced, I would find myself writing long after silence have
replaced the music in my earphones.
The way I approach writing a story is to think of it as a film. A film with an
enormous number of scenes. I always like to grab the readers attention right away.
After all, you are hoping for readers to invest their time in reading your book from
cover to cover so you have to give them something that will compel them to become
I treat sections of the book as scenes. The start of the book, which I would see as
the opening scene, is by far the most important. The idea for the opening would be
one of the first (not always the first) ideas that I would get for the book before writing.
I would ask myself, how do I establish the tone, the threat and the character/story
right away to let people know what kind of story this is going to be?
I like to start in a fast or exciting way. For example, in my last crime book
(Disturbed Waters), I opened with a woman fleeing the captivity of the main
antagonist of the story. I felt it was an exciting opening that would grab people’s
attention. It set the tone and the pace for the rest of the book to follow, as well as
introducing the antagonist.
One of my pet hates in writing is dialogue. Some writers get it but those who don’t,
I feel, really sink their characters with it. When its bad, its really bad. Coming from a
screenwriting background, I know just how important dialogue is to establish
character, unearth traits and personalities and to drive the story forward. It’s a very
difficult aspect to learn as I remember how cringey it was to write in my first few
attempts at short stories. The best thing about learning how to write good dialogue is
that you don’t have to just read it to learn and understand it. Films are just as good (if
not, better) at dialogue than books. You can also just focus and study how people
around you talk. From small talk to philosophical discussions.
I’ve been writing for just over ten years now. In that time, I have written three full
length screenplays and six novels. I have plans for at least three more books that I
have started but I plan on taking a short break from writing to focus on my career
outside of writing as well as my young family.