Monday, March 24, 2008

All About Meme

The lovely and talented Christa Miller, whose idea of mommy-lit involves post-apocalyptic wastelands chock-a-block with the cannibal undead, has tagged me with a meme in which I'm supposed to list my favorite blog posts relating to family, friends, and whatnot. The problem is, I'm wildly narcissistic (or, if you're feeling charitable, that this blog centers around my writing life, so posts about other stuff are kinda hard to come by), so finding meme-appropriate content proved a touch tricky. With that in mind, I present to you Chris' Favorite Posts About Chris, Who is Awesome, and Also Occasionally Involving Other Crap like Friends and Family and Whatnot, Even Though Chris is Pretty Sure People Would Rather Read About Him, Since From Where He's Sitting, He's Pretty Much the Star of the Show:

1. Chris' Favorite Post About Chris (Family Edition): Holiday Loot

2. Chris' Favorite Post About Chris (Friends Edition): Looks Like the Sap is Running Early This Year

3. Chris' Favorite Post About Chris (Extra-Special Chris Edition): On Writing (and little green men)

4. Chris' Favorite Post About Chris (Something You Love Besides Yourself Edition): Books I Never Seem to Shut Up About

5. Chris' Favorite Post About Chris (Zombie Edition): And now for something completely different.

So there you have it. My five favorite posts about me and stuff. Kind of like getting smacked in the face with a pipe made of awesome, isn't it?

Now, the tagging. Thing is, most of my friends live in my head, and the rest of them all seem to be taking a break from blogging, on account of they'd like to all finish the books they're working on. So, Dear Reader, I leave it to you: your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to compile your five favorite blog posts about me. Or, failing that, about family, friends, yourself, something you love, and zombies. Pirates will also be accepted in a pinch.

If I can be serious for just a moment (and there's considerable evidence to the contrary), I tend not to wax all sappy here, since it doesn't make for the funnest-ever reading, but the success I've had thus far would not be possible without the support and encouragement of friends and family. At the top of the list is my best friend and first line of defense against looking like an idiot - my lovely wife Katrina. Props as well to Anna, and Mom, and a whole host of lovely people whose links can be found on the sidebar. But most of all, I'd like to thank me. You know, for all the awesome. (See, I knew I couldn't keep the serious going. Eh, it was worth a shot.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Who you callin' princess?

I've posted a time or two these past weeks of my progress on DH, which to my mind is coming along quite nicely, though never as quickly as I'd like. The thing is, we writers often measure progress in pages (210, thanks for asking) or words (60,000, give or take), but there's an inherent problem with that. See, this week, I wrote a good seven or eight pages - the problem is, I cut three old ones, and spent a good amount of time massaging out the wrinkles that left in the ten or so that followed them. That leaves me with only four, maybe five new pages, but an immeasurably stronger book.

The other day on Criminal Brief, Stephen Steinbock elucidated a set of ten rules put forth in 1929 by Ronald A. Knox. Now, I don't put much truck in hard and fast rules with regard to plot or structure (and in fact have broken the living crap out of a couple of his), but there was one rule Knox put forth that resonated with me. No, not the one about the Chinaman (it was 1929, I know, but seriously, who says that?) No, the one I liked was this:

No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.

Should be obvious, right? I mean, we writers of thrillers and whatnot tend to beat the living hell out of our characters, throwing up obstacle after obstacle between them and their goals. But here's the thing: last weekend, I totally broke that. After two hundred pages of bad luck, my protagonist caught one hell of a lucky break. Truth is, it's been driving me nuts all week (like the princess and the pea, only, you know, manlier.) It just smacked of lazy writing. Problem was, it also set up the climax nicely. But after some lame attempts at self-justification, I decided to go back and fix it, and damn I'm glad I did.

Why? Well, first off, the lazy writing just plain irked me. But more importantly, I think there's an interesting parallel between what reads well on the page and what works well in real life. See, we like conflict on the page because it's interesting - that's why we eschew stories of happy people doing happy things in favor of the afore mentioned obstacles. But it's not the obstacles that are interesting - it's the characters' reactions to those obstacles that make the story worth reading. Likewise, my lame-ass boring lucky break wasn't interesting to write, which meant it wouldn't be any fun to read. See? Obstacle. But it got my brain turning all week, and I think I figured a hell of a way to make my protagonist really earn it - one that I suspect is way better than anything I could've come up with had I not first made a horrendous misstep.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Last week sucked. I mean, not in any major kind of way, but in that petty, niggling, soul-crushing way that just makes you want to stay in bed and pull the covers up over your head. Mostly, it was bullshit work stuff (sometimes, the Gods of Science just plain frown upon you, no matter how hard you try to appease them), and usually, when it's work that's got me down, I try to throw myself into my writing, figuring it'll be just the boon I need to drag me back to Happy-Land.

The problem is, it never works.

See, I think one of the tricks to writing well (for me, at least) is to separate the desire to write from the desire to have written. Fame, financial stability, critical acclaim, the respect of your peers - all those goals are well and good, but they're all about having written. You focus on those when you sit down at the keyboard, and what you get is crap. To get anything worthwhile on the page, you've got to be invested in the story, the characters, the moment - that's where writing comes from. The problem is, when you're counting on writing to solve your problems or improve your mood (you meaning me, of course; why do I keep writing it that way?), you're sort of shifting the focus to all that having written stuff. At least, that's how it was for me, this weekend: a whole lot of staring at a blank page, and a whole lot of crappy sentences, agonized over, only to be quickly deleted.

Lucky for me, the tide eventually turned, and my ennui lifted. I went from no new pages to seven new pages in a few hours flat. The trick? I gave up. I figured it just wasn't gonna happen this weekend, so I shut down the computer, and that was that. Except, of course, it wasn't. It's like I gave my mind permission to wander, and really, that's all I ever needed.

So yeah. DH is up over 200, which means life is good - that other crap be damned.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

So it's official...

... the New Book has a higher body count than anything else I've ever written. In fact, I think it has a higher body count than everything else I've ever written. Not sure what that says about me, exactly. Eh. Writing's cheaper than a shrink, at least.

In other news, I'm far too lazy to keep calling it the New Book. From now on, it shall heretofore be known by its initials: DH. Let the speculation begin (by which, I of course, mean my mom's speculation, since the rest of you aren't likely to give a damn. Still, any wildly inappropriate and/or random guesses are of course welcome...)