27 October 2017

In The Zone

O'Neil De Noux

Writing while working full time was difficult, involving fitful nights for years and spurts of binge writing. Did it for so long I didn't realize when I was in the zone until I wrote an epic (320,000 word historical novel). For two years I lived in 1814 and 1815, wrote every evening after supper into the night, 8 to 10 hours a day through weekends and holidays. I did manage to spend a little time with my family.

Driving to and from my day job gave me time to think about the book and it was while doing this I realized I had been doing this since my first book. Zoning in and out of the story but letting it stay up front in my mind. Playing out scenes, watching and listening to the characters.

Retired now, I write every day and every night, even in the middle of the night when a character wakes me and starts doing things I have to write down or forget in the morning. Booting up the computer at 3 a.m. is no problem when you don't have to get up at 6 a.m. and head to a 10-hour work day. I recommend retirement.

Home Office

Home Office with helper

The Zone. It's sort of a Twilight Zone, sort of a separate existence, sort of daydreaming while doing other things. Weird. My wife will ask, "Where are you?" and sometimes, "When are you?" Sometimes she likes it when I'm there but not there.

Sometimes it's almost a trance. But always, ALWAYS, I have to get it down right away. I started with a tape recorder, moved to a digital recorder, moved to a smart phone and the wonderful Voice Memo application. Pen and paper still works when you're with company.

"Are you taking notes of what I say?"
This in a restaurant over dinner.
"Nope. I'm in 1951 at the moment and Lucien and Alizée won't stop talking."
Better when I smile and say, "Naw. Just figured out how I'm gonna kill a guy."

Gotta love the zone. Gotta love creating my own worlds and living in them through a book, sometimes a short story. How anyone writes without a vigorous imagination is beyond me.

That's all for now. I'm in the middle of a novel and Lucifer's hanging to a balcony by his fingertips.



  1. O'Neil, it's always great when one can get in The Zone. That's the best writing. But sometimes you just have to type away and see what comes and hope that will get you in The Zone if you're not there already. And people -- non writers -- think writing is easy...

  2. Retirement has its moments certainly. I see your office is a lot neater than mine but your assistant very strongly resembles my elderly helper, himself retired from mouse hunting.

  3. Janice pointed out how neat your desk is, and I'm left wondering how long it took for you to stage the photo. As hard as I try to keep mine clean, there are far too many days when I can barely find the top of the desk beneath everything else. Hmm...maybe when I'm in the zone I don't notice the mess.

  4. I enjoyed this look at your home office and your writing schedule. Whatever you're doing, it works!

  5. What I love about The Zone is how, when you are in it, things magically line up in your favor. Two years ago I decided to rewrite a story to send to the Murder Under the Oaks anthology. It was set in Spain so I wanted to check to see if there was some connection between oaks and Spain I could use. There was and - this is the bizarre part - it fit perfectly into the theme of my story. You can't make that sort of thing happen but when you are in the zone it seems like the world is trying to help you write. Wish it happened more often...

  6. The zone is great, O'Neil, but when you're a writer, you find the time to write and make it work, as you also point out.

    During the 70s, I taught five high school English classes daily and took graduate courses in the summer. During that time, I wrote 5 unpublished novels, too, basically teaching myself to write by making every possible mistake. In 1980, I took a night class while teaching full-time AND working weekends for a photography studio AND working on my 6th-year project, a novel. It's not quite as intense as your own experience as a police officer slash author, but it's close.

    I still roll my eyes at the people who say they want to write or act or something else when they're retired and actually have the time. Yeah, right.

  7. Yes. Neat desk. I'm a neat desk guy while my wife is the opposite. I'm sure I suffer from some mental malady that won't even tolerate me putting my glasses on my desk when I take them off. My buddy George Alec Effinger's desk looked like the aftermath of a battle. He once told me he only needed part of his brain to write. He did so much with such little effort. Funny how that works.


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