I wish I could say there’s a formula, Victor. For all my years of writing, only one thing has worked (Hemingway: You learn to write by writing). Maybe I can add something, though (besides Hemingway). You have to live in a book, knowing everything about the people, places, etc. Once you can turn them on at will in your mind, writing becomes a type of reporting and transcription. You follow your characters, you watch, you listen. You allow them their own lives. Never, ever, make people do things. In a sense, this is Chekhovian. He always let his characters play in his mind, sort of like a movie that starts as soon as you sit down at your computer (okay, he didn’t have a computer). Look up instead of down. Let the movie form around you. When your characters feel comfortable, when they feel you’re reporting honestly and not imposing yourself, then they come to life. They do the work for you. They go about like a reality show, with you following like a cameraman. If this seems undisciplined, believe me, it’s not. It’s very hard work building trust with your characters, but until you do that, until they’re relaxed, your book will be stiff, stilted and boring. All writers learn this eventually, Victor. It’s the only way to write if you’re writing believably.

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I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

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