A Tale of Two Jeffries

So I’m up on the roof. The breeze is cool and a little stiff. The temperature is moderating some, still hot in the day, but cooler at night. We are wearing long sleeves in the morning. Turkeys crowd the freezer bins at the supermarkets and occasionally one can find cranberry sauce. We do celebrate Thanksgiving here, although there’s not much uplifting about the stories of interaction between the Spaniards and the indigenous Taino people.


As I continue my writer’s journey, I’ve been thinking about different approaches to writing. I listen to podcasts and take online courses, hopefully to improve my craft. Lately I listened to two mega-bestselling thriller writers, Jeffery Deaver and Jeffrey Archer. They have wildly different methodologies.


Deaver is a dedicated plotter. For each book, he spends eight months producing a 150 page outline. Then he sits down and writes the story in two months.


Archer is a pantser. His goal is for the reader to not know what is going to happen next. His thinking is that, if he doesn’t know what is going to happen, then how can the reader? So he just writes the story.


It is comforting than no matter how you go about it, you can be successful. The common denominator is: You have to put in the work. Deaver’s tedious plotting leads to a quick first draft and, I suspect, a short editing phase. Archer spends maybe 300 hours on the first draft, then three times that editing. He normally produces fourteen drafts before he sends it to his editor. His comment is that, until you find yourself changing only a word or two every ten pages or so, it’s not ready.


I am a pantser. I enjoy finding out who my characters are along the way and watching them do things that surprise me. I don’t really care if I have to do a big rewrite, because that will be fun too. For me, the journey is the thing. If the goal is the only thing that matters, then 99% of your time is a missed opportunity to have joyful fun. As much as I want to be published, the reality is that the odds are quite steep. Still, I will do the work. The craft building, the research, the writing, the agent research, the query letters, the cursed synopsis. All of it is challenging and fun.


Who knows?


Cobb Out




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