I am taking a writing break. I took some time out to read my friend, Bob’s second chapter of his third novel. And I thought that I would take another hack at just what constitutes – for me – the craft of writing.

For what it’s worth, here’s my approach.  And this approach is pragmatic – as in real time – as I am getting very close to completing the first draft of my second novel.

Anyway, so what I did was start writing.

That happened about 2 years ago; about two years after I finished book #1. My plan has always been to write a trilogy. I have no real idea of why a trilogy exactly other than the fact that there seems to be some kind of literary completeness to three books that are interconnected and share the same characters.

So as I said, I started writing. I imagined my three primary characters as they would be a short distance out from where book #1 ended. And then I wrote some more.

A chapter on one of the characters, then a chapter on another, until where like maybe a third of the way into the story, all three characters converge. Please keep in mind that all this time I have no idea how the story is going to end. I am just imagining things during this start up writing phase.

And because my story has huge equal helpings of travel, food, and my personal interests, I am able to inject real images and background from my journals. Right now I am drawing on four different travel journals. I am using the ones I wrote in 2000 and 2001 to backfill a sub-story of one of my primary characters as he walks the Inca Trail.

Then I am using a journal that I wrote in 2010 to backfill two different sub-stories for this same and another character as they do separate overland treks through different parts of Peru. Lastly, I am using a journal from 2009 to pick up detail from a long trip that I did through  northern Peru and southern Ecuador to help build out the core of the story.

I now have something like 18 chapters in various states of completion (61,000 words or about 175 pages). Some of the chapters are complete (as in polished). While some of the chapters have only been roughed in. Yesterday I had an epiphany when I decided finally (as in finally) how the whole story was going to end; but only in a very basic sense. More on that later.

So today I started what I know will be the second to the last chapter. In the next couple of days I’ll finish roughing it in. If I get lost, or if the words aren’t coming then I will move back to one of the earlier chapters and either do some polishing or I’ll continue to fill in the blanks spots on some of the other chapters that have only been, so to speak, roughed in. But either way, I am always working at the craft of writing this second book. In the immortal words of Ovid “Add a little to a little and there will be a big pile.”

Next week I’ll start roughing in the last chapter. And again, while I see a vague sort of conclusion to this second book, this last chapter will get revisited many more times as I continue to tighten up the whole story.

In December, I’ll print a copy of it. For me, there is literally nothing like the [printed] written word. And from the printed copy, I’ll read it like I bought it. And it is at this stage where I get truly critical. And from there I intend to drive myself to finish the first draft by Feb. 01.

And then I’ll print it again. It is beginning from the first draft where the final stage of polishing comes in. And by the mid to end of next year I’ll consider the whole thing done.

Mastering the craft of writing is impossible for most us. Personally I never expect to be anything more than a journeyman. But that’s okay. I find writing to be wonderfully compulsive and intend to keep writing up until the day I die.

PS – And I truly believe the literary world needs a doer/maker in the form of a structural engineer as a hero with a taste for travel, great food and booze.

And this for me is where the magic comes in and the craft gets somewhat left behind.  Because at the end of the day when the critical elements come out to lay waste to your plot, to your writing, or to your style – then you better have some remaining refuge in the form of honesty.