Monday, July 20, 2009

A Writer's Perspective~Bud Connell

I’m pleased to have debut author, Bud Connell, as my guest Over Coffee. Bud is a fascinating man of many talents. He’s written a new contemporary thriller, Peak Experience.

Today, Bud discusses his perspective of the writing process. His thoughts on writers' block, conflict, characters, and recharging your writing. The satisfaction that comes from being able to create entire worlds that begins, continues and ends the way he wants them.



Thank you, Sia, for this forum. The gift of the Internet and the freedom to express and expound that it provides continues to amaze me. It’s a privilege that we must protect at all costs.

I’m new to fiction writing, but not new to writing. Over the years I’ve written an estimated one hundred thousand pages of business materials, television scripts, radio scripts, commercials and jingle lyrics. My background provided the discipline, attention-to-detail, wide interests, and perseverance necessary to become a fiction writer. After the morass of exteriorly directed clichéd bunkum, it’s a gift to create complete worlds populated by people of choice. Control... it’s all about control; and in the world of fiction, although my characters do what they do, and I follow, I have the on-off switch. If I don’t like the direction a story is taking, I can kill the power and start another world. I will elaborate in my forthcoming book, The Writing of a Debut Novel.

Writing, more specifically writing fiction is primarily a lifestyle decision driven by a desire for complete freedom. I write fiction anywhere, anytime and about anything; it’s not a job, it’s a joy. There is nothing as completely satisfying as creating a completely satisfying world... completely.

I’ve never had writer’s block. To me, that’s a manufactured term for a phony malady. There’s only writer’s laziness, or writer’s barrenness, or a combination of both. When I observe that I am not writing, I write! If I am unable to write, my mind is telling me that it needs filling up again. Then, I go somewhere or do something different and replenish my mental warehouse, after which, I return to the keyboard and write. It works every time––a simple solution for a natural condition.

If I don’t have the option of physically going somewhere, I get on my computer and go research/traveling to find out about places I’d like to feature in my current or next book. I make notes of specific locales and thoughts of how I want to incorporate them into my work. Then, I go back to the place I left off in my current project and write one scene... just one scene, and see how easily it leads me to my next scene, and to the next––and the next.

Someone asked me the other day how I come up with situations for my characters. I answered, “I don’t. My characters come up with their own situations.” If I know who my character is, and what he (or she) thinks he wants, he’ll do next what he wants to do. I have little to say about it. All I have to do is observe his actions and describe them. This is not to say that I don’t have some sort of loose framework in mind when I begin a project, I do; but it is subject to revision, and often to extreme revision... albeit still a loose outline. The main danger in the tight, rigid outline is production of predictability, which I avoid like a menacing pandemic.

My personal writing rules also apply to conflict. I place two or more characters whom I well know in a place of their misfortune or of their own choosing, and the conflict naturally erupts... or erupts naturally. If my characters don’t conflict, I have not chosen the appropriate personalities to people my story. Thank God, though, that has not happened to me... so far.

And the details... ah, the details. Truman Capote said he believed more in the scissors than in the pencil–––but it takes both, with the computer thrown it as a great codifier of words. At one point in the writing of Peak Experience, and to support Capote’s position, I had little snippets of paper all over every flat surface in my living and dining rooms. These were the loose ends; and every one of them had to be addressed, developed, and resolved before I could rewrite.

Plot difficulties only occur when one forgets important, or even not so important details, so I immerse myself into my plotline and subplots so completely that every nuance is continuously in front of me as I write. It’s a mental foreshadowing and it’s all there, much like the buildup of water in front of a ship’s bow and the wake flowing off to the sides and left behind as I plow into the incidents my characters create. On a re-read, I can easily see what portends from the direction the tale is taking, and I can examine the damages left in the water and on the shore by the waves of the wake. All of the details are addressed and handled before and during my denouement. The only issues potentially left hanging are those that may lead into a sequel; and, paraphrasing Mickey Spillane, the first chapter promotes the novel; the last chapter promotes the next book. The seeds of sequel are sown in several places among the pages of my thriller, Peak Experience: A Novel. I challenge you to find them.

Rewriting? Rewriting is where the polish is applied, and applied, and applied again. Then I put the manuscript away for several months, take it out and reread it, and brush it to a fine shine. But, there are always overlooked mistakes. Therefore, I solicit readers before submitting a manuscript for publishing or even consideration by another set of eyes, and it’s amazing how many little errors are discovered... missing punctuation, extra punctuation, missing words, extra words, misspellings... errors that make me wonder where my mind was when I read my manuscript the thirty-ninth or the fortieth time. If you’re a writer and can afford it, there is no better money spent than for a line-by-line editor.

Sia, you asked, how do I keep my writing fresh? Simple, I pay attention to what is happening worldwide. The old axiom “truth is stranger than fiction” is alive and well, and there is freshness, and putridness, wafting out from the continuous blare of twenty-four hour news. Flipping through my pile of current events magazines and punching among the cable news channels provide all the freshness I need for any given project. Although I may not use the current events per se in my current story, they provide an attitude that informs where my characters direct themselves and what they do. To me, it is important that I reflect the times; and it forever amazes me, that when I write a story, or a section, how prophetic or foreboding it may become. Take for example how my Peak Experience novel parallels the Bernie Madoff scandal, or the recently publicized alleged R. Allen Sanford fraud. The financial atmosphere that produced my novel eventually produced the real life villains. So, I was no prophet... but merely observant of current conditions, and the purveyor of what-ifs.

So, amid all my pronouncements of how and why, I lead a normal life, with two old Jags in the garage and two cats asleep on my desktop as I write. What’s the message here? I am only now beginning to live life as I’ve always envisioned it should be. I do what I want to do when I want to do it. But, fiction writing provides a deeper dimension: I can now create entire worlds that begin and continue and end the way I want them to... and in that there is no greater satisfaction.
###

Bud Connell is a media expert. With a background in entertainment and business, he was employed on-the-air by major broadcasting chains, holds some of the highest audience ratings ever recorded, was the programmer/creator of benchmark radio stations and later a consultant to over a hundred broadcasters nationwide. He produced numerous live events and major talent shows, and executive-produced network TV specials.

In 2001, he was inducted into the Media Hall of Fame in St. Louis along with Harry Caray, Jack Buck and Paul Harvey. A dozen years prior, he formed BCTV Productions in Los Angeles and has written, produced and directed hundreds of commercials, films and videos for top corporations, educational and public service organizations. His background also includes a number of writer credits. He was a monthly contributor of articles to a major celebrity magazine, lyricist for more than a thousand jingles––and, as an on-the-air personality, programmer and newsman was the writer of countless news stories, editorials, features, commercials, promotions, comedy bits and presentations. He has written hundreds of video and non-theatrical film scripts, several TV series concepts and radio specials. He's also been widely quoted in books about broadcasting such as Talking Radio by Michael C. Keith.

Bud recently authored Peak Experience, which tied for the Gold in Best in Popular Fiction Category for 2009's 13th annual Independent Publisher Book Awards. Peak Experience is available on Amazon.com, on Amazon’s amazing Kindle, Target.com, and through retailers and distributors nationwide.

He is currently at work on his next novel and a non-fiction book called The Writing of a Debut Novel.

Website:
http://www.myspace.com/authorbudconnell

36 comments:

~Sia McKye~ said...

Bud, welcome to Over Coffee. It's truly a pleasure to have you!

I can offer you Coffee, tea, a choice of a homemade scones and muffins. Help yourself,
:-)

What resonated with me was your thought on writer's block.

"If I am unable to write, my mind is telling me that it needs filling up again. Then, I go somewhere or do something different and replenish my mental warehouse...If I don’t have the option of physically going somewhere, I get on my computer and go research/traveling to find out about places I’d like to feature in my current or next book...I write one scene... just one scene, and see how easily it leads me to my next scene..."

That makes sence. I know when my mind isn't cooperating with my writing project I need a change of scene. The writing of one scene...I'll have to try that.

Sherrie Super said...

Great article! I too was struck by the observations on writer's block. Sometimes, I think I have it -- and then I beat myself with a stick and make myself write. And viola, it's gone!

Interesting bio too. Wow.

Kat Sheridan said...

Bud, it's a pleasure to see you here! What a bio you have, and the novel sounds o timely and exciting! I really like your direct way of putting things, and particularly with dealing with writer's block. I'm going to have to give that a try (and it sounds far more pleasant than Sherrie's suggestion of using a stick!) And I'll be particularly looking forward to your next book, since I'm still working on my own debut novel.

And now, off to do something about that writer's block. Now that I know it's a fictious malady, I should be able to whip it into compliance in no time!

Anonymous said...

Booksurge. D.O.A.

ptbertram said...

Writing fiction is a choice for many of us, hence there can be no writer's block. We choose to write, or we choose to do other writing-related activities such as editing or promotion.

Good luck with your book!

Judi Fennell said...

Put it away for several months... ah, how well I remember those days! Now I'm on major deadlines - thank God for critique partners.

I also love the control in my story telling. Well, the control the characters allow me to have - the rest? I just give it over to them. They usually have much better ideas than I do.

Ken Coffman said...

Aha, a kindred spirit in setting up the situations and letting the characters work their way through them. Sounds like an interesting book, Bud.

Bud Connell said...

Sia, being English-Irish, I'll take one of your homemade scones! My solution for writer's block, works for me every time.

Bud Connell said...

Thank you, Sherrie. A little stick once in awhile is useful for me, too... like withholding something I really want until I finish an entire scene or chapter.

Bud Connell said...

Good luck, Kat Sheridan (sounds like a movie star name to me!) If I can ever help, just let me know. BTW, your up awfully early in the morning... I found that was a great time to "imagineer" the big picture... my most serious plotting solutions...

Bud Connell said...

Note to ptbertram. So true, so true... and THANKS for the good wishes.

Bud Connell said...

Judi Fennell, that is the pure truth, on critique partners AND control. There are times that my characters (and I know this sounds strange to non-fiction writers) talk me to as if they were in the room... and that, at least to me, is a very high level of creative connection. And at the end of one of "these" sessions, I feel that I have truly linked with my storyline and overall goal.

Bud Connell said...

Thank you, Ken Coffman. It was certainly interesting writing it. I think we're in a game where it can only get more interesting, IF we continue to challenge ourselves... oneupsmanship on oneself, so to speak.

Bud Connell said...

I want to apologize to all for getting a late start on this blog. I had numerous difficulties getting a connection early this morning. Finally, magically, all became clear and I could respond to everyone at one sitting.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hey Bud. Computers are the bane of our exisitance at times. Glad you could make it.

*looking around, well darn, the scones are all gone. Some of my favorites have raisin and Cinnamon..oh and orange zest...

Two jags Bud? Oh I think I'm in love, I love jags. Did you do the restoration on these two?

Other Lisa said...

I have the cats part, but not the Jags!

Thanks, Bud, for an insightful look at your process and the process of writing in general. Re: block, I never used to be a believer in it, but writing has been tough for me lately. I think I need more "outside" time!

Anonymous said...

Control and freedom. Yes, certainly. And I love the idea that writer's block doesn't exist. It's simply laziness, or the need to get out and refresh.

I'll certainly check out his novel and his book on writing a novel.

Julie Zimmer George

Bud Connell said...

Hi Sia. You just named my two favorite scones, especially the orange zest. RE: jags, no, I bought them a long time ago and kept them pristine... sold one of three though, a XJSV12 convertible, but it was eating my lunch every time it went to the doctor's.

Bud Connell said...

Other Lisa, walking, especially with a tape recorder helps me immensely. I find that a half-hour plus of moderately-paced walking along a familiar trail does more than anything else to kick-start my stalled creativity. So, I resort to this solution when I don't have a plane ticket to some exotic island.

Bud Connell said...

Thanks, Julie Zimmer George. I hope you enjoy Peak Experience. If you'd like to see a book trailer on the novel, the link is posted on my MySpace page, http://www.myspace.com/authorbudconnell

Bud Connell said...

Sia, besides scones, a fresh out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookie is a great incentive for finishing a chapter... no, make that "finishing a sentence".

~Sia McKye~ said...

Bud, I made big ones, all soft and gooey with chocolate chips. They're a favorite with my son, of course most sweet things are a favorite of a 14 year old with 4 stomachs. (I don't have that confirmed my medical science, mind you :-) )

I had one when I was in California before child. But man, they tended to cough C notes whenever it saw a repair shop...

Bud Connell said...

Sia, next novel, choc chip with "Coffee". And thank God for Ford ingenuity. The Jags since '95 have sported Ford engines and Ford reliability. NO MORE English, "Ooops! Were we supposed to have installed a fuse there?" and "Oh, I'm so sorry, Mr. Connell, your part won't be in for about five weeks." All those pre-90's scenarios are a thing of Jag's past. As a matter of fact, a major auto-ranking org recently gave Jag the number one spot even above Lexus.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Five weeks, yah, that's about right. Mine was 1981 XJ series III. White. Loved it. Good car but still...

Didn't another American company make the engines for awhile? I know Jags were orginally made by an Indian company located in England. Still get parts for older ones is a pain. I do love the new XJ though.

Bud Connell said...

Tata Motors of India recently bought Jag from Ford. I didn't know of the past East Indian connection.

Bud Connell said...

Can't connect up the other American company that made Jag engines before Ford... My '92 XJSV12 seemed to be all English, but I could be wrong.

Bud Connell said...

Thanks for your participation in this blog. I'm taking off for dinner at 7:00 p.m. but will check back at 8:00 p.m. CDT. If Sia leaves my article up through tomorrow, feel free to blog and I will blog back throughout the day. Thanks again for your support!

~Sia McKye~ said...

You're article will be up until Tuesday night Bud.

I was curious though, have you always wanted to write fiction? Have you written, say short stories through out your life or did you allow your job to tap the need to create?

Anonymous said...

Congrats Bud. What an awesome experience you must be having. I'll check out the trailer.

Julie Zimmer George

Bud Connell said...

Thanks, Julie. Yes, with the recent First Place award for Peak Experience: A Novel, I am on the fringe of living a dream. If I can sustain through the second and third published book, I may have forged a new career. However, as George Burns said, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard." To paraphrase, writing is easy, promotion is hard; but there are moments, like Sia's blog, that put the fun into promotion, and I'm looking forward to more venues like this one.

Bud Connell said...

Sia, the latter. Broadcasting, and all the writing that it required, filled the creative need through most of my life. I always knew, though, that I wanted to become a novelist, and never believed I could become one; until my mother challenged me before she passed away. RE: short stories, I wrote ONE, when I was 20 years old, decided I didn't like the form, and never wrote another.

Bud Connell said...

Signing off for the evening. Will respond to any overnight comments in the morning, beginning shortly after 9:00 a.m. Thanks again, everyone, and please invite your friends to this blog anytime overnight and tomorrow. Bud

Adina said...

What an interesting article and even more, what a bio !
Writer's block ? Sometimes I'd like all the voices in my head to be quiet and stop telling me what to write ...:)

Bud Connell said...

Adina, persistent devils aren't they? I'll bet the more insistent ones wake you in the middle of the night from time to time!

Bud Connell said...

Goodnight friends... and thank you for visiting with me. Check Sia McKye's Thoughts... OVER COFFEE several times a week for new prospectives from fiction writers. Best wishes to all of you.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Bud, It's been a pleasure having you as a guest Over Coffee. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to visit with us awhile. :-)

Thank you to all that stopped by to comment.