One Writer Connection
March 13, 2013
You pick a time and place that works for you. Some can write in a warehouse, aboard a small sailboat, a table at the library, a phone booth, swinging from a chandelier. Some write at night, others early in the morning, everything between. I need routine, the same place and time every day. I learned that in the Navy. As a young man, when I lived with roommates, they called me ‘routine man’ because of my schedule. In the Navy, routine became tradition and established how things got done.
Soon after my discharge, I found myself with a wife and two small children. I had learned that I am a morning person; my alertness begins to fade with the sun. And I had a job to go to. My decision out of the Navy was that I would write. Not that I’d be famous or rich, just that I would write, and I’d be serious about it. My job started at seven in the morning. I got up at four so I could get in two hours of writing before the job. After the job, I tried to get in two more hours. That was not always successful with a wife and two small children. In the morning, I wrote in the kitchen of our small duplex. After work, I wrote in the bedroom. When that time and place became too inconvenient for others, I converted an outside broom/storage closet to a writing room, and I wrote there, before and after work. These were the days before computers and writing was done on a Sears Tower manual typewriter.
I wrote short stories for the men’s magazines. I wrote a story a week. I sent them out, they immediately came back. I did this, week after week for a year before I sold my first story to The Men’s Digest. After that, I sold to Adam, Male, Nugget, Best for Men, and a few others. I worked on percentages, starting at twenty percent sold of stories written, then fifty percent. The zenith of my short story writing was a sale to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. I never sold them another. But, I wangled and worked and changed that one story and with different titles, sold it three more times for a total of $900.
I sold more stories to The Men’s Digest than any other. After a time, the editor contacted me and said he had a deal going with a publisher in Las Vegas who put out mystery novels under the imprint, Neva Paperbacks, and how would I like to write a novel for them? A novel seemed like a lot of words, more than I had ever written before. But then I figured it would be just a string of short stories pushed out end to end, only all of it one story. I was never interested in daily word count. My writing was in time. I had a block of writing time. I might put out a paragraph or ten pages depending on how it went. My general goal was about five pages and most of the time I could hit that. When ‘The Surfer Killers’ was finished and sent, they published it as ‘Surfside Sex.’ I was proud of my first novel, mainly because I got it done and they published it.
These days I don’t have a job to go to. The wife and children are off living different lives. I do my writing on a small sloop. I don’t have to get up at four anymore, I sleep in until five because my inner clock tells me to get up then. I haven’t used an alarm clock in years. I write from five until about ten. There is still enough energy to do other things, but along about late afternoon I feel myself fading.
I don’t write short stories anymore. There’s not much market for them. But neither is there much market for the kind of novels I write, hardboiled noir crime. It doesn’t matter. I keep writing them and somebody somewhere keeps publishing them. The goal remains the same, not necessarily to be famous and rich, but to write.