Wednesday, June 2, 2010

WHAT KIND OF WRITER ARE YOU?

My guest is thriller author, Graham Brown. His debut thriller, BLACK RAIN, has the backdrop of Mayan myth. I can't wait to read it.


Graham cracks me up with his view of things. Take a look at his website and read his latest adventure, Hieroglyphic Canyon. I also like his thoughts on writing. I can so relate to his *style*. :-)


People often ask: “What kind of books do you write?” An important question, but I think a more important question for us writers is “What kind of writer are you?”

It’s important because you have to know yourself to know how to get your best work out. I been fortunate enough, even before I was published, to talk with and occasionally hang out with other writers. To my dismay they all seemed so damn organized. I actually made me sick. Word counts, page counts, designated times for writing. Ummm… yeah, I don’t do any of that stuff.

Which begs the question - Am I doing this thing wrong somehow?

I mean, I could do a word count but most likely it would resemble my senior paper from high school which had to be fifteen hundred words and in which I used every possible trick to lengthen every single sentence as much as humanly possible including repeating and repeating and repeating words and phrases. If Lucas had written Star Wars that way it would have started “A, long, long, long , long ,long , loooooong time ago in a galaxy far, far, extremely, very far away…” Nope – word count’s not going to work for me.

Then, I met a couple of writers that only work when they’re really feeling it. “Really Feeling It”? Are you kidding me? Nine times out of ten I don’t “really feel it” until I’ve been working for an hour or so. That first hour of work is like – “ugh, I think I’ve forgotten how to do this.” Followed by - “why do I suck so much.” Followed by – “wait, look, a sentence with some redeeming value – PROGRESS!”

So what kind of writer am I anyway? Well for me, getting going is tough- I don’t mean sitting in the seat – although that can be a problem too. I mean cranking out pages that I think are worthy of all the effort. It just doesn’t start quickly. But once I get going I don’t want to stop.

I guess that means I’m a sprint writer. No that’s not quite right, 100,000 plus words cannot be considered a sprint. A “binge” writer? No – that sounds like it’s involuntary somehow and that I have to throw it all away afterward – thankfully neither of which is generally the case. Okay so here it is – I’m a Freight Train writer. It takes a long time to get up any momentum but once I start going don’t park on the tracks in front of me.

When I’m really working, I end up staying up later and later every night. Which, of course, makes it harder and harder to get up in the morning, but I don’t care- I write until physically can’t go anymore.

With apologies to Gabriel Byrne, it reminds me of the talking Heads song – Life During Wartime.
Sleep in the daytime, work in the night time, I might not ever get home…

Now, I’m not recommending this to anyone – in fact I think it’s probably the least healthy style of writing out there. What I am suggesting is find out what works for you – try different things and when you’ve found THE WAY you get your best work done, don’t worry if it’s different from what others are doing, because I guarantee everyone is doing something a little different. And in my opinion, knowing yourself is as important as knowing your characters.


Funny thing is, this was a hard realization to come to. Mostly because my first book, Black Rain, which came out in January of 2010, was a different process. I wrote it over a long period of years, prior to being represented. Prior to having any real deadlines. I wrote that one more like one of those “when I’m feeling it authors.”

My second book, Black Sun, which comes out this August, was a different story (no pun intended). Written on a dead-line, with important people like agents and editors waiting to see it, I tried to do the page count thing, and I did, in a way – at first I fell way behind in my page count, while I thought and considered and backtracked and rearranged, and then, when the train got going, I caught up and passed the page count And it went quickly, and it came out great and it was tighter on the first draft, than my prior book had been on the third or fourth. Guess we’re learning something.


And when it came time to do the revisions – I did them the same way – thinking and jotting down notes for hours and days, while not a keystroke was written. And then, I went into the work mode, pretty much twenty-four/seven for several weeks. I didn’t want to be interrupted by anything, not dinner, not walking the dog, or going out with my wife or our friends.


To quote another line from Life During Wartime – no time for dancing, or lovey dovey, I ain’t got time for that now…


So now I’m working on a third book, I’ve been filling up legal pads with scribbled character notes and dialogue fragments and arrows and abbreviations galore to the point where; if one of these suckers falls into the wrong hands it will probably get me committed as some kind of Uni-bomber like mad man. Doesn’t help that during this phase, shaving and personal hygiene go out the window and that I’m often seen talking to myself in public, working out dialogue, (which is almost always conflict so it seems like I‘m arguing with myself). Truth be told, it’s not a pretty sight, the other day at Starbucks people were scurrying away in all directions to get away from me. The character I was working on was plotting to destroy the world and I think I may have voiced some of his plans to the unsuspecting public. Might have to go to a different Starbucks next time.


But anyway , somehow this works and now the train is starting to move. The nights will soon get longer and the days will get later and the whole thing will pick up speed until hopefully it comes to a roaring finish and I can reflect on another line from Life During Wartime, in which we hear the singer tell us - “I’m burning notebooks, what good are note books, they won’t keep you alive…” No, but then again, they might bring a story to life.


  • So tell me about your “weirdest” writing habit? If you dare.

# - # - #

  • A Coveted Treasure,

  • A Perilous Mission,

  • And a Dark Secret That Kills


Covert government operative Danielle Laidlaw leads an expedition into the deepest reaches of the Amazon in search of a legendary Mayan city. Assisted by a renowned university professor and protected by a mercenary named Hawker, her team journeys into the tangled rain forest—unaware that they are replacements for a group that vanished weeks before, and that the treasure they are seeking is no mere artifact but a breakthrough discovery that could transform the world.

Shadowed by a ruthless billionaire, threatened by a violent indigenous tribe, and stalked by an unseen enemy that leaves battered corpses in its wake, the group desperately seeks the connection between the deadly reality of the Mayan legend, the nomadic tribe that haunts them, and the chilling secret buried beneath the ancient ruins.



Excerpt

~*~*~*~

Graham Brown was born in Chicago in 1969. He grew up in Illinois, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, traveling often with his family. Graham earned a degree in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona and went on to get a law degree from Arizona State College of Law in Tempe.

A former pilot, lawyer and executive at a small health care company, Graham could not escape the allure of the thriller. After writing in his spare time for years he decided to see what he could make of it. Black Rain is the first result, with other novels on the way.


Graham has spent the better part of the last 21 years in the deserts of Arizona and southern California. He currently lives in Tucson, with his wife, Tracey.

24 comments:

~Sia McKye~ said...

Graham, welcome to Over Coffee. I sure am glad to have you visit.

Grab a cuppa coffee and one of the homemade goodies on the coffee bar. My coffee isn't Starbucks, but it damn fine coffee. I don't do wimpy coffee. :-)

I love the whole freight train analogy. When I'm in the zone I don't want to stop either. What do you mean what's for dinner? Dinner? what's this thing called Dinner and cleaning?

But you make a good point. One has to know they type of writer they are. One can't compare their writing to anothers style and feel like they're a failure because they don't write that way.

tonya kappes said...

Hi Sia and Graham!
Zone? I need a zone! How do you get a zone??

I have to have on the TV for white noise when I write. It has to be something i don't care about watching or I might get sucked int.

Mason Canyon said...

Sia, thanks so much for introducing me to a 'new to me' author.

Graham, I definitely love your writing style. The fact that you still use a legal pad is great (don't ask, I have to write on paper before I do the computer). Looking forward to checking out your book. Wishing you much success.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Graham Brown said...

Hi Sia - thanks for having me on. I think this is a great forum - there is a concept in life called terminal uniqueness - where you think your troubles/questions/dilemmas are unique to only yourself and "no one will understand". When I first started writing I felt that way because I had no other authors to talk to - then once I found some I realized "I was not alone." If only this Blog had been up back then it would not have taken me so long. :)

Graham Brown said...

Hi Tonya - The Zone is like the Matrix - no one can be told exactly what it is - LOL. But blocking out the real worlkd is the first step - I like background noise for that too - but just to prove that we are all different - the TV would kill me - I'd looking for re-runs of Gilligan's Island and I Dream of Jeannie in a heart beat. I tend to either listen to instrumental music or soundtracks on my I-pod - anything without lyrics for the same reason you noted.

Graham Brown said...

Hi Mason - all I can say is "Legal Pads Rule!" You can draw on them and cross things out - angrilly if ou really don't like what you've written. That's far more satisfactory that just hitting delete. And somehow - I find I can see the work better on the legal pad - at least at that stage.

VA said...

Good to see someone admit to the inefficient writing style that I call friend. Eight or ten hours straight with only a large glass of water and the resulting requisite break. Gotta say that I do bathe, perhaps this is a gender failing.

It is fascinating to see the flurry of Mesoamerican based lit./movies coming out with the 2012 calendar change. Since I am a fan of the various civilizations, I'll have to check it out. Thanks, Graham.

Thanks Sia. I hope you're happy with yourself. One writer last week totally pegged my mood and when I saw the cover in the store, I snagged it. I feel like a junkie.

Graham Brown said...

Hi VA - hope you'll like the book - one of the interesting things about it, is that it focuses on the Mayan creation story - I like to say if 2012 is the end - then Black Rain is the beginning.

Judi Fennell said...

I can tell I'll love your book just from "This begs the question." I use that phrase a lot.

And a reference to Star Wars? Too bad we're both married. LOL.

I like the term "freight train writer." No matter how early I try to get started, it seems like it's not until the kids are due home from school (like, now, as I type this) that the ideas start flowing enough for me to crank out the wordage (feel free to borrow that term if you'd like).

Putting this on my TBR pile. It's the "To" part of that that gets me down. I think the list is up to five feet tall - in one corner of my office. I'm not even going to look behind my desk. :)

Congrats on the debut, Graham - and for writing a tighter one the second time. I'm on #5, and, well, let's just say, it's always an experience.

Olivia Cunning said...

I tried to post a cleverly written comment about how I'm a "roller coaster writer" who starts out at the top of a steep decline at breakneck speed and returns to the station slow on the clanking chain-track, but when I posted it, blogger gave me an error message and then deleted my be-a-utiful words. GAH!!

So.... imagine a clever comment about my writing process here.

And congrats on the novel, Graham!

*grumbles off into the distance

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Sia, thanks for showcasing another new author. Black Rain is on my tbr pile.
Hi Graham, loved this post. The best part of writing is doing it my way. :) cheers~

VA said...

Graham it is precisely that- the end and the beginning. Cyclical notions of time are difficult for linear societies to grasp. I am presently digging through a great book on the Aztec calendar stone, non-fiction, so some fun would be welcomed.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Olivia, *snork. Roller Coaster writer, lolol!

Vivian, there is some fascinating research reads on the Mayans and the doomsday calendar.

Seems most *societies* have their doomsday prounouncements.

Graham Brown said...

Hi Guys - sorry for the disappearing act - I am traveling and my network card has stopped responding. But now, safely hooked up on an Ether-net cable, I'm back.

Judi - love the word wordage - gonna borrow it. My TBR list is almost as long as yours - I will have to add a book on Mer-men and the Humans who love them as well. All the best.

Graham Brown said...

Hey Olivia - I love it . Roller Coaster Writer's of the world unite!!

funny thing - for me the worst part of the roller coaster is when you are "clanking" up the first hill - hmmm... I wonder if there are any metaphors there?

Mark said...

I'm more of a steady plugger and compose straight into an Apple computer. But that's me. Doomsday pronouncements? More like a hand waving in the dark. Anything is fodder for creation. All depends on how it is done.

Graham Brown said...

Hi Nancy - I can hear Frank Sinatra singing right now. We should all do it our way. All the best.

Graham Brown said...

Hi Mark - that's a great gift you have there. I wonder has it always been like that for you?

Graham Brown said...

Have to say thanks to Sia for having me on - looking forward to see who pops up here next. All the best guys.

Mark said...

No, as with everything, it's an evolutionary process.

Kat Sheridan said...

OMG!!! I want this book, and I'm so glad to have found another writer who does it the way I do! Freight Train! LOVE IT! Yes, that describes me totally. The book sounds wonderful. Honestly, having the Steve Berry quote on your website would have been enough--he's one of my faves. Can't wait to get my hands on your work!

aries18 said...

Hi Graham. Hi Sia. Another great guest Sia. I'v got your book added to my ever-growing TBR list. Jeez every time I read Sia's blog I add another book or two.

I can't write on the legal pad anymore, my hand goes to sleep but I have to say I miss that part of the creative process. Now I write on the computer and I have to log everything I know about the characters as they tell me their life stories. Finally we get to the story at hand and then.... well, I just hope they still want to talk to me.

Thanks for the smiles. I'm really looking forward to reading your work.

As a note to anyone having trouble making a post linger on here.... I always hit Ctrl/C before I hit post. That way if blogspot eats my post I still have a copy. Just a hint to help.

Toodles.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Wanda, thanks for the tip. I didn't know that. Some blog sites get the hiccups and it's a pain. I'll have to keep that one in mind.

Dana Fredsti said...

I think my writing train is more like The Little Engine That Could. "I THINK I can, I THINK I can..." It's also kind of young and cranky and wants bribes to get over that hill.

Loved the post - especially the new beginning to Star Wars. :-) Although world domination in Starbucks was awfully funny too...