I've recently added a new part of the website with a collection of my favorite scenes. Most of these include a short description of the scene to include what I like about it. The scenes are literally literary life experiences, snapshots of moments I like, dislike or simply can't forget. For me, some of these moments correspond to real experiences while others are simply serendipitous.
Every writer has their own methods. I heard Mary Higgins-Clark give a talk where she described how she story-boarded the entire novel before writing it. I'm on the other end of the spectrum, not for being lazy, but because every time I outline a book I end up deviating from that outline before I get done with the first page. My best writing comes from these unplanned excursions from the plot.
Take my present project, Alexander Galaxus 6: Alexander the Destroyer as an example. Every novel begins with a direction or a loose idea of what might happen. Obviously, Destroyer is the final installment of the Methuselan Invasions Trilogy so it has to wrap everything up. Beyond that, I have to depend on clues from the previous books as well as my original ideas for how Alexander was going to win this 'suicidal' venture. That puts extra pressure on me to come up with something that works. I try to do it on the fly; spontaneous ideas come when I'm rolling on the story, that is, writing regularly with the story always in the back of my mind. I believe this spontaneity makes for a more entertaining novel. For one thing, that style allows me to discover twists and turns in the plot instead of manufacturing them after the fact. Again that makes it more entertaining for the reader-hopefully-and that's the ultimate purpose of the novel.
My greatest strength as a novelist is certainly my imagination. Fortunately for me, that is also the reason I enjoy writing. For me writing a novel is like reading one; that is, I have no idea what's going to happen. I'm always interested to see how I'm going to get my protagonist out of the jam I've stuck him in. I approach such scenes with a certain amount of anxiety because I really have no idea how I'm going to solve the problem. I enjoy it; it remains only for you, the reader, to decide whether or not it works for you.
Of course, the novel has to be grounded in something we're familiar with. That's why I fold present day politics and cultural debate into the fabric of my worlds. I have no interest in writing about something none of us, myself included, can relate to. That being said, not all the subjects we deal with today are pleasant ones. My last novel, the Flint Wolfe Thriller The Mahdi is a case in point. There are very contentious or controversial parts to the novel, especially concerning Flint's running battle with Islamists and their jihad against the West. Sure it's an unpleasant reality of our world but hey, it's real. I did take care in that novel, and in that series, to only ascribe acts to the Islamists that they had actually committed and I narrowed their plot-lines to what they had actually stated as their goals. Still, it's generated a lot of comments concerning the subject matter, even my 'conservatism,' of some of the plots or sub-plots going on in my novels. I have to tell you there is a reason behind it all; it's not to preach or lecture, it's to make the novel relevant to our lives. Why shouldn't my characters have to deal with the same problems you and I deal with? I'm certainly not going to give Alexander, Flint Wolfe or Tarion a free pass--that would make for a dull novel. So if you run into something you don't agree with, hey that's the real world creeping into the fantasy. If you're reading the novel for escapism then don't be too worried, these are novels; the hero always wins in the end.
Christopher L. Anderson is a husband and a proud father of two kids. With everything else he’s done in his life, being a rocket scientist–literally, a USAF Officer, B-52 Commander, Research Pilot, working for NASA, flying for the airlines, being active in the Church and during all that becoming an established Author, well, it all comes back to the basics, to the foundation of being a husband and a father.