By BRUCE DENNILL
Author Rick Pontz recently released his new book titled 103 Pilgrims, the first of a series of mystery and thriller novels based on unsolved mysteries from the pilgrims who founded America. The series takes place in the Plymouth and Cape Cod area of Massachusetts, a region full of history. This year marks the 400-year celebration of the landing of the pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. The historical event attracts a lot of attention, news, and media coverage to this area and to the Dutch city of Leiden, from which the Pilgrims originally departed.
How do you know when an idea is worthy of developing into a book? With songs or other shorter formats, you can get to a point of knowing if something will work relatively soon, but getting several thousand words into a manuscript and then deciding it’s a waste of time is far more frustrating.
I start with the following questions, “What would happen if…? How did it or could it happen? Why did it happen?” If those questions are intriguing, I believe it’s worth spending the time to start the project.
When you do decide that a theme or story is worth exploring, how do you go about unpacking that?
After I answer the above questions, I figure out how the story should start and how it should end. Then I start from the beginning and fill in the rest.
Research: how much do you do, and how detailed is it?
Starting with basic research to get the feel of the locale and characters, I start writing. After I write three or four chapters, I go back to the first chapter and start re-writing to fill in more details. This requires much more research time to ensure credibility and realism. As an example, one of my female characters in a novel I am working on uses a bathroom near Plymouth Rock in Plymouth , Massachusetts. I have, on my next physical research trip to Plymouth, to find a way to get into that bathroom so I can write about it more authentically. This is why internet research can only take you so far. Travel to the area in which the novel takes place is important, as are phone, Skype and Zoom interviews are also important. In my writing, research takes up as much time as the actual writing of the novel.
How much planning do you do before beginning in earnest? Do you have to know where you’re going to end up before you start?
I don’t have much of a plan before I start. I do need to know the ending. Along the way, I figure out the story, much like a reader does when they are reading a great novel they enjoy. I try to guess what’s going to happen next. I may come up with three to six ideas. Then, I pick what I believe to be the most interesting and then write about it.
If the hundreds of memes about writing are to be believed, sitting down and actually putting words on a page is perhaps the toughest part of the job. What are the distractions you battle with the most when trying to work?
I have two main distractions. The first is I have too many ideas about what should happen next. I may start to bring the story down one path and continue for three or four pages before I realise it’s the wrong path, so I need to start all over and re-write those pages in a different direction. The second is research. I spend a lot of time on research that may or may not add value to the book and it really slows me down, but I still need to do it.
What’s the weirdest or craziest way you’ve found to avoid meeting a deadline?
I’ve used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse when being forced to stay at home – though eliminating normal distractions were actually helpful to my writing time and output.
Daily goals: what, for you, is an acceptable daily target, in terms of word count or the quality of what you complete, be it a sentence, a paragraph or a chapter?
I use time, not word count. My daily goal is four hours a day, six days a week, at my desk – actually writing and thinking like my characters think.
What have you found are the best ways to get this done?
Writing at a specific time each day. For me , it’s in the afternoon.
If writing books is not your full-time job, how does completing a project fit in with your other duties?
Writing is my full-time job. What competes with my writing is plain old regular life that you can plan for but can’t actually control.
Marketing new books – print or digital: what fresh ideas do you think could be introduced to the process to make new work more accessible and appealing to both new and established readers?
The writing field is so crowded that it’s difficult for some very, very good new authors I know to get any visibility at all. I believe television and e-books could integrate their platforms to offer new works as e-books or audio books. I believe AI is close to melding works into actual films by downloading the work and creating AI animation of the work. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?