Sunday, December 12, 2010

Writing in my Car... with D.E. Sievers

I don't know about you, but I am always eager to learn about another writer's process. What inspires them. What they find interesting. Legal pad or straight to the computer. And so, I've reached out to writer-friends across the galaxy and they will be sharing their writing lives with you and me.

Let's welcome D.E. Sievers, the author of The Trees in Winter.

What is this novel about, you ask? The Trees in Winter tells the story of Blake Thomas, aspiring jazz musician, who wants only to compose and play music--until he falls in love with Penny D'Arcy. As Blake settles down with Penny and the years unfurl, he comes to appreciate how choices made as a young man determine the kind of life he can have--and the kind he cannot. In sharp contrast to Blake's life is the life of his college friend, Benson Munro, a successful unmarried author whose interest in Blake's life--and wife--may exceed anything Blake could have imagined. The Trees in Winter is at once family saga, bildungsroman, and meditation on the restless nature of the creative impulse.

Here's D.E.!

Having the passion to write was never a problem for me. Making the time to write, however, was a challenge—but only until I made it a priority!

About three years ago, I began writing a novel. It was clear to me that, without committing myself to a daily writing regimen, I would never achieve my goal. So I began going to my regular job at 6:30 a.m. and leaving at 3:30 p.m. Fortunately, my job allowed me this flexibility. Between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., my time was devoted to writing. And has been ever since.

I finished the novel. Then wrote a novella. And have now begun a non-fiction book about the remarkable artist who painted the cover art for my novel. Writing every day is important. It is what gets books written. It is what magnifies one's capabilities. It is what makes somebody a writer.

My writing method is this: I sit with a 9½ x 5⅜, 80-page, Cambridge notebook in my hand and, using a cheap ballpoint pen, scrawl nearly illegible words onto the yellow pages. I have done this in parks, hotel lobbies and lounges, coffee shops, my backyard—anyplace where I am free from people I know and other distractions—places where I can retreat into the private solitude of my own thoughts. Some days yield pages filled with words, other days a single sentence, and on the occasional unlucky day, a single word or not even that. What's important is that, for three hours every day, the pad and pen are in my hands, and the time is entirely theirs. I have learned that if I feed my writing passion the time it craves, it will pay me back with words, pages, books.

At some point, I face the necessary evil of transcribing my words from paper and ink to bits and bytes. I detest this chore, and sometimes defer it longer than is prudent.

When writing the novel, I began by writing no more than two or three chapters before transcribing; at some point, I switched to transcribing after I'd written ten chapters (my novel contains eighty chapters). When I wrote the novella, I didn't transcribe until I'd written the entire thing. When I have a good momentum going, all I want is to remain deeply submerged in the world of my story, and just keep on writing. At such times, I am more than happy to defer the transcribing. And because I am writing in a notebook, I can take my notebook and pen with me everywhere I go. I do not require a battery or a power source. I can whip out my notebook inconspicuously in mixed company, whether on a bus or in a department store or even during a boring lecture, and I can instantly transport my thoughts onto the page. Who knows when that flash of inspiration may come? Should I risk losing a valuable line of inspired dialogue because I chose to depend upon a machine, which may prove unreliable or inconvenient, or because I have allowed myself to believe that I can write in no other way than by means of a machine?

No, I say! I will depend upon nothing and no one but myself as I strive to perform this magical and capricious process known as writing. Nothing except my little notebook and my pen. And the machine that is my brain, which I carry with me wherever I go. And when I can no longer depend on that machine ... well, friends, that will be all she wrote.

Thanks for sharing! D.E. Sievers authors a blog called Enamored of Fiction. There, you can read more about the mechanics of writing (i.e., pen vs. keyboard), as well as view a series of author Lit-Vids and enjoy various fiction-related blog entries.


  1. I'm with you on finding / making the time to write. I admire your ability to write longhand and then transcribe as well as some who use an old fashion typewriter. In the end, I guess whatever works for us, is what we go with. Best of luck with the novel, D.E.

  2. Hey, Sean. Yeah, I've tried the new-fangled way of writing -- straight to the computer but I get all bashful and stupid.