A Writer’s Quiet Time is Quite Important.

James R. Callan
James R. Callan

Sit down at the computer and type.  Glue your buns to the chair and write. Face the blank page and put something on it.

Writers are told these things over and over.  The way to success is to write.  I completely agree with that.  A famous author, I believe it was Hemingway, said, “Writing is easy.  All you have to do is slit your wrists and let you blood flow onto the page.”  And because it’s tough, you must sit at the computer, face the blank page, and write.

However, I believe quiet time is quite important and often overlooked. No computer. No blank screen. Just you and quiet.


You need to let the disconnected plot pieces that are rattling around in your mind percolate, mix, settle.  As you do this, other loosely related points surface.  Then some seemingly unrelated ideas put their hands up to be recognized. Give it enough quiet time, no distractions, and these pieces will coalesce into a smoothly flowing plot, perhaps with one or more subplots.

The same thing is true in developing your main characters.  Yes, it absolutely helps to make up character bios. But in my book Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel, I recommend taking time to sit on the porch swing and visit with your characters.  Preferably one at a time, because they may reveal things that wouldn’t come out if the other characters are around. Get to be a friend with your protagonist.  Find out things about her that won’t make it into the manuscript, but will help shape the character. When she becomes a friend, she becomes a real person. Now she has a chance to be real to your readers. They have the opportunity to care about her.

cover-character-smallDon’t forget the protagonist’s sidekick. You may even get a surprise and find that this character is worthy of the lead in another book. At the very least, you will make this character more real to the reader, and improve your book.

You may not choose to become a friend of the antagonist, but he is still worth some face time, just the two of you. There is a trap that many manuscripts get caught in where the antagonist is 100% bad.  Rarely is this the best approach. Spend some time with him and you may find that small saving grace, that bit of good in him that makes him more human, more three dimensional, that makes him real to the reader, that improves your book.

I know some excellent writers who get a small germ of an idea and run with it.  And turn out a bestselling manuscript. Most of us can’t do that. For the majority, the best way to capture the reader’s interest, to keep her involved for 400 pages, to get her to demand another book, is for you, the author, to spend a little quiet time before you glue yourself to a chair in front of your computer.

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