Anatomy of Writing a Novel – Part 2

Did I have an outline of the book before I started writing?

I never put any type of outline down on paper, but in my mind I had a general idea of topics and some scenes that I wanted in the book. I wanted two years in high school. I wanted the school class play. I wanted my character to go through the all of the various steps required to become a bombardier and get to England. I wanted that process to as accurate as possible which I knew would require a lot of research. I wanted my character to fly the Schweinfurt mission. I also wanted what became the Michelle chapter although it changed dramatically from my original idea. I will expand more on that topic in a later blog. I did not know how the book was going to end until the vast majority (90%) of the story had been written. I then had to go back and tweak some sections.

When did I settle on the title of the book?

Through the completion of the first rough draft, the story was titled WWII B-17 Story because I had no idea what to call the book. For a very short period after the completion of the rough draft it was called Love – History – War, but I never really liked that title. A couple of months after the rough draft, I was writing a short description of the book and that is when I decided to call the book You Can Only be Lucky. See the first blog posting for the source of the title.

How did I determine the timeline of the book?

The timeline of the book was driven by the Schweinfurt mission on October 14, 1943. I wanted my lead character to fly that mission. The other driving force was that I wanted my lead character to attend high school as I had several things I wanted to write about high school. I wanted my lead character to be in high school on September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. Before I started to write extensively, I did a lot of research about how long after enlisting would it take for a bombardier to be ready to fly a mission on October 14, 1943. What came after enlistment and where? How long would he be at the Classification Center? How long was bombardier training? How long was gunner school? How long was crew training? How long after arriving in England to fly the first mission? I also wanted to be as historically accurate as I could on what happened during each of these stages.

Why is my leading character a bombardier?

I didn’t feel comfortable in writing about being a pilot, co-pilot or navigator. I felt comfortable writing about a bombardier. I think part of that was because I am a numbers person. I remember in school once doing some very simple problems about how far in advance of the target you had to drop a bomb for it to hit the target. The altitude, speed, the wind speed, and weight are some of the factors in the computation.

I also decided that I wanted my character to become a lead bombardier and have all the planes in the group drop their bombs on his drop.

The first words that I wrote

In the early morning light, I sat in the bombardier station listening to the roar of engines. We were the 7th B-17 in line waiting to take off on our first mission. I had a flock of butterflies madly flying circles in my stomach. My hands were sweating. My throat was already parched. I was scared. I had to get my fear under control.

This was going to be the beginning of the book but I knew wanted to write about high school and Ted and Samantha’s first meeting. If I started the book this way, I would need to do one or more flashbacks. I decided that I did not want to do flashbacks so I scrapped this as the beginning of the book.


You Can Only be Lucky is now on Search on You Can Only be Lucky. Here is a link


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