Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Welcome to Day 2 -The Writer's Life with Author Pat McCarthy
Day 2- The Writer's Life with Children's Author Pat McCarthy
Since all my published books have been nonfiction, a great deal of my time is spent on research. That can include reading books and taking notes, surfing the Internet, or going places to check on information. The research takes a lot more time than the writing.
I do all my note-taking on the computer. I open a folder for each chapter and take notes directly into it from books or computer printouts. It's much easier to find reliable information on the computer than it was ten years ago. When I was writing the pioneer book, I found all kinds of primary material online-material that was generated during the time period I was writing about. There are any number of journals available. You can find the full text of Lewis & Clark's journals online, including journals written by several other members of the expedition. I also found lots of journals and diaries written by pioneer children, which makes my book much more interesting for kids. There are also copies of many letters written back home by pioneers.
It's hard to know when to stop researching, but when you start seeing the same information over and over and not coming across anything new, the time has probably come to stop. I do a very complete outline before I start writing a chapter. Yes, I hated doing outlines when I was in school, but now they're my best friend. Because my material is all organized in a logical order before I start writing, I seldom have to do any revision on the structure of a chapter. In fact, once I have the outline in place, I can usually write a chapter in a couple of hours. Because of the outline, my revisions usually consist of cutting something that's too long, proofreading, finding a better way to say something, replacing a repeated word, etc. I always read it out loud. That's the best way to make sure the writing flows and that the reader won't stumble.
I try to work all morning on days when I'm writing. I'm definitely NOT an afternoon person. I just run out of steam about 2:00 (all those years of teaching took their toll!) so I take a nap in the afternoon. I often write in the evening, sometimes as late as midnight. I'm a night owl.