The Writing Process: How Do You Come Up With This Stuff?

How do I come up with the stuff I write about?

Thanks to my friend, Nate Tower, he suggested I answer a few questions to let folks know my writing process. This is where everything begins:

  1. What are you working on?

I just finished my eighth novel, Paradise Lost: Love, Drugs, and War in Panama and now I’m working on two novellas. I’m really excited about this Panama novel because I’ve wanted to tell this story for over 30 years. It is hard for me to work on just one project at a time. In fact, it’s one way of dealing with writer’s block!

  1. How does your work differ from others’ in the same genre?

I guess this is one of those, “does form follow function or function follow form?” questions, so I’ll give it my best shot. I have a story inside my head and I want to tell it. I don’t really think about genre when I sit down and start to write. I just let the story come out naturally the way I would like to hear the story if I were listening to another person tell it. There is one thing to be said about most of my stories, I tend to write about the American Midwest where I grew up, and where I haven’t visited in over seven years, so whether it’s contemporary/literary fiction such as Ice Cream Headache or a thriller, When A Hard Rain Falls,  there is that underpinning nostalgia.

When I was younger and in grad school, I wanted so much to be another John Barth, Don Delillo, or Thomas Pynchon; now, I just want to be Jeffrey Miller.

  1. Why do you write what you do?

It’s the natural storyteller in me, or better yet, it’s Plato’s idea of the need for the examined life.

  1. How does your writing process work?

That’s a good question. With a hectic teaching schedule (this coming semester I have two history classes, two Honor’s English classes, and a reading class) and four kids at home, I write when I can find the time. These days it’s after everyone has gone to bed and early in the morning before everyone gets up. I write every day no matter what. Going a day without writing is like going a day without eating. I have to write.

I have a number of ideas swimming around in my head at the moment and every so often I pluck one out and write out some of the story by hand. I am still old school when it comes to writing, preferring to start every project with pen and paper.


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