Monthly Archives: November 2009

The process of writing

I get asked often, “How do you write?” So let me explain my Zone. But please understand, every writer has a different Zone. If you are a would-be writer, you need to experiment until you find yours.

Some folks write in the morning. My good friend, the screenwriter Laurence Cruz, writes very, very late at night, into the early morning hours. I met a novelist one time who writes while taking the tube to and from her office in London.

Me, I write longhand, with a mechanical pencil and a steno pad, in the mornings. I then translate my scribbling (my handwriting is positively rorschachian) into my Macbook Air in the evenings. The first half of the process lets me use my artistic side, while the second half lets me use my analytical side. It’s how I can tell that the stuff I wrote in the morning sucks or not.

When I’m really cooking, I can generate seven typed, double-spaced pages per day. Sometimes as few as two. Sometimes as many as 12.

Box populi

Something I picked up at this year’s Bouchercon, or World Mystery Convention: “Blue Heaven” by C.J. Box.

The story takes place in North Idaho and Box does a great job of capturing the flavors and voices of the region. I was born in Kellogg and lived in Moscow. I have brothers living in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, so I know a bit about the region and can tell you, Box gets the tone right.

This is a terrific mystery. Truly worth reading.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Cain is able

Four-fifths of the way through Chelsea Cain’s “Heart Sick,” my shoulders sagged and I went, “Ah, dammit.” That’s because she appeared to fall back onto the weak writer’s crutch: Coincidence.

The operative word there was appeared.

OK: First backgrounder. I hadn’t read Chelsea’s 2007 thriller because it’s about serial killers. And frankly, prime time TV had ruined that medium for me. For a while there, network TV offered two or three serial killers per night on a wide array of repetitive cop dramas. Yawn

But then I went to Bouchercon – the World Mystery Convention – in Indianapolis and I met Chelsea Cain and she turned out to be as friendly and funny as she is stunning and smart. So now I’m thinking: dang, gotta read her book.

Which got me to the sagging shoulders and the dammit. And the coincidence.

OK: Second backgrounder. When creating a fictional story, it is OK to use coincidence in Act I, but not in Act II or III. Your heroine can stumble into a mystery but she absolutely cannot stumble into the solution. That’s cheating.

I will not give away the ending of “Heart Sick” but I will tell you: Chelsea fooled me. Completely. And I devour mysteries, so I am not an easy reader to fool.

The day I finished “Heart Sick” I walked to Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland’s Multnomah Village to buy the sequel, “Sweetheart.”

Nicely done, Ms. Cain.

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