Tuesday, December 20, 2005

JAMES SCOTT BELL, PT. 2 (OF 3)


Continuing our Q&A with novelist James Scott Bell. He is the author of several thrillers, as well as a columnist for Writer's Digest.

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Q: How many books do you read a month?

JSB: Long ago I read that the famous Western writer Louis L'Amour educated himself by reading 100 books a year. I decided to do the same thing, and took a speed reading course to help me. I used to keep track, and for the last decade have come close to averaging 100 a year. I read fiction, of course, but also many non-fiction titles as well. And I regularly study the Bible, using my good old Thompson Chain Reference.

Q: How many emails do you answer a day?

JSB: Probably a dozen or so.

Q: What are your writing habits?

JSB: I have a weekly quota of words, and divide that up over six days. I usually take Sunday off for a real Sabbath rest. If I don't make my quota one day, I know I can make it up on other days. This is the most important lesson I learned about writing, and fortunately I learned it early. It's about producing words, not sitting in front of the screen for a certain period of time.

Q: Are you an “outline” writer or a “make it up as you go” writer?

JSB: I call these OPs (Outline People) and NOPs (No Outline People) in my book, Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure (Writers Digest Books, 2004). I've done it both ways, and in between. OPs can learn spontaneity from the NOPs; NOPs could benefit from a little of the OPs' discipline.

I tend to outline my first act pretty extensively, and map out the rest of my book. I will add to that map as I go along, but I want to give my story room to breathe as I go. Many of the best things in my books I couldn't have put in at the beginning; they arose naturally out of the writing.

Q: What is a favorite memory from your childhood?

JSB: I loved playing football in front of my house. Our two neighboring houses to the south had big lawns, too, and no fences. So we kids would play on this long, narrow span of grass. I was usually the quarterback, and would make up plays. One of the I called "the old give and go," and it is still whispered about to this day. (That's a little literary license there).

Q: Are you a full-time novelist?

JSB: I am a full-time writer. I write fiction, and I also write a couple of law books. I enjoy the law, so I keep doing that. My law book on California Search and Seizure law is used in courtrooms everyday, by judges, defense lawyers, prosecutors and even law enforcement.

Q: How many books did you have to write before you were able to go full-time? (When did you know you had “made it”?)

JSB: I could have gone to writing fiction alone, full-time, after about five years (My first novel was published in 1995). But I didn't want to give up the law books, so I continue to do both.

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Come back tomorrow for the second part of our Q&A. In the meantime, you can keep up with Mr. Bell at his official website (where he offers tips for writers). He also blogs regularly at his blog, Suspend Your Disbelief, as well as the tag-team author blog Charis Connection.

RELATED LINKS:
James Scott Bell, Pt 1
James Scott Bell, Pt 3

More Christian Suspense Novelists:
Q&A: CRESTON MAPES (Full Tilt)
Q&A: BRANDILYN COLLINS (Web of Lies)
Q&A: RANDY SINGER (Self Incrimination)

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