Monday, May 30, 2005

Writing Questions

Lee Goldberg asks some questions in the comments below, so I thought I'd just make a post out of them.

How many books do you typically write in a year? And how many words are they, on average?

Over the course of my career, I've averaged about eight books a year. Last year was my most productive year ever, with twelve books and about half of another written. If I keep up my current pace I may beat that by a little this year. The wordage varies a lot. In '04 I wrote several series Westerns that were 50,000 to 55,000 words, but I also did several books that were 80,000 to 95,000 words and one big international thriller that was close to 150,000 words. (Nothing I wrote last year had my name on it, by the way.)

What does you wife do on the books? Is this a book you are writing together or does she proof it for you? Isn't she busy working on books of her own?

Livia already answered this in the comments, and since I can't improve on it, I'll just reprint it:

On this book I did much of the original research and then we plotted the series together. James did most of the writing and we both proofed it. This is one that had both our names on the contract.

I'll add that very few of the things I've written over the years haven't been worked on in one way or another by Livia. She's plotted entire books that she never got any credit for. And her editing generally saves me from at least one stupid mistake on every book.

You mentioned you have a number of outlines to do. How detailed are your outlines? How many pages?

I like a six to eight page outline. That's loose enough to allow for some improvisation but detailed enough so that I rarely write myself into a corner. But I've written plenty of books from outlines that are only a page or two long. Occasionally I'll write one with no outline at all, or maybe just a few lines, more a concept than anything else. I worked for a book packager that required lengthy, detailed outlines (I'm talking 60 to 70 pages). I hated that. On the other hand, one of my favorite writers, Richard S. Prather, supposedly did 75 page outlines for his Shell Scott novels. Whatever works, that's my motto.

1 comment:

Lee Goldberg said...


Thanks for answering my questions.