The Iron Horse Novelist: Write Your First Novel Ten Minutes at a Time

If you’d have asked me a few months ago, “Trig, what is Hipster Noir?” I’d have replied with all sincerity I don’t know.


What I can tell you is that Hipster Noir (working title) is a extranatural mystery story I’ve been working on since May of this year about a Dirk Gently-inspired private eye named Sebastian Holden and his case to find the killer of a poet’s muse. But perhaps the how I’ve been writing what seems to be my first novel may be more interesting at this stage than the what it is about.

I draft up two chapters a day, each in only ten minutes.

Ever since I joined the frontlines of the working class, the only time I really have to write is during the PATH train ride that shuttles me into Manhattan from Jersey City. The other reason is because the only time I’m not connected to the Internet is when I’m riding the underground rails.

The first few chapters began as simple character sketches for a slew of weirdly wonderful folks –– from an unemployed muse and a suicidal vampire (borrowing a few concepts from my feature-length screenplay A Beautiful Unlife) to a trio of sexed up assassin sisters (borrowed from another feature-lengther called Caput) to the development of our main protagonist of the story. Then from these character sketches, Hipster Noir started to organically turn into a detective story, no doubt inspired by two-year long stint watching solely film noir titles and soaking up the Hitchhiker’s Guide and Dirk Gently novels of Douglas Adams, which has bestowed on Hipster Noir a darkly comedic element to it what I’m writing, though at times, it doesn’t feel like.


Write What You Know: Hipster Noir has also proven to be an excellent journaling exercise, as I’ve started to include a great deal of my own life stories (fictionalized, of course) and other ideas into it. It’s certainly helped me to cope with my silent internal conflict of going from a full- to part-time writer; but what shades of color that transition’s added to Hipster Noir’s naturally grey undertones; this first volume is aptly titled “The Case of the Murdered Muse.”

Perhaps the most interesting part of this is that most times I really don’t feel like I’m writing Hipster Noir, but rather it’s writing itself (or it’s writing me, if you wanna get all metaphysical about it). I know that sounds like a crock of Kerouacian hogwash, but when I began this project, I had no idea where it was going to go. I thought I was writing a poem, but it came out as if it were a narrative written for Philip Marlowe, and it flowed like an episode of Magnum, P.I. with a hint of Bored to Death.

The best part? I still don’t know exactly where it’s going. But it’s going.

I never once thought I could ever begin a novel, let alone get 60 pages into it. The lesson is simple –– use what you know and just write that novel. And give yourself milestones and commit to hitting them. For some it’s 5,000 words per week. For me, twenty minutes a day is all I need.

6 thoughts on “The Iron Horse Novelist: Write Your First Novel Ten Minutes at a Time

  1. Looking forward to reading it, John.

    1. Thanks a bunch, Adam. It’s out of control right now (in the best possible way), but definitely doing some interesting things and is becoming a nice medley of noir, pulp fiction and pop culture. And I’m enjoying the process immensely, which is most important.

  2. Sounds great and inspring too. 10 minutes sounds like a challenge. I have something I’ve overly plotted but never written. Maybe 10 minutes would be a good habit to set up for me. hmm . BTW I read some of Dirk, but I really loved Hitchhikers Guide, after growing up watching the show then reading the books. “Hey you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect, there’s a dude that really knows where his towel is” 🙂 #Chianti

    1. Certainly one of my favorite, most memorable lines in The Guide, Sir. Thanks for reading my post and sharing your comments. I’m hoping to pick up The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul from City Lights Bookstore while I’m here in San Francisco; need a lil’ more inspiration for my iNovel-writing.

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