Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Wish…

What existing book do you wish you could have written?

Besides The Cat in the Hat? (And yes, I use every opportunity I can to slide a picture of me and my idol into the blog.)meandthecat

Although many (most?) of the books I like are character-driven stories, when I thought about this question, the books I wished I’d written all had a common element.

A Big Idea. A Great Hook. A High Concept. An Amazing Premise. A Grab-Me-By-The-Shirt-And-Don’t-Let-Go Situation. I don’t remember plots; I remember premises.

I couldn’t pick a single book, so I’ve compiled a short list:

Two Agatha Christie classics made the cut: And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express. Both use clever devices, which, many years later, have become classic mystery plots (and have been repurposed on numerous occasions).

Firestarter – Stephen King has no shortage of great ideas, and this was one I wished I’d hatched.

The Lock Artist – Cool idea, great main character, and, oh yeah, it won an Edgar.

Ender’s Game – Set in the future, a whip-smart kid must save humanity, without succumbing to peer pressure. In a word, awesome!

And if I had to select just one book I wish I’d written, that book would be:

Fifty Shades of

Jurassic Park


Jurassic Park - Theme park! Sabotage! Tropical island! Kids in danger! And dinosaurs! (mean dinosaurs!) And sequels! And a movie! And movie sequels!





(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)


Monday, May 20, 2013

I Need Style

What reference work (dictionary, thesaurus, style guide, etc) is indispensable in your writing? Why?

Here’s what I’ve got on my reference bookshelf (yes, these are actual printed books!):

The Dictionary of Clich├ęsChicago Manual
The Bantam Medical Dictionary
The New International Dictionary of Quotations
What Happened When
Woe is I
Chicago Manual of Style
The Elements of Style (otherwise known as Strunk and White)
Mark My Words
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript
Webster’s Dictionary
Roget’s Thesaurus
The Synonym Finder
Illustrated Reverse Dictionary
The New York Public Library Desk Reference
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Quotations
A Treasury for Word Lovers

Do I ever use these books? What, with the Internet a click away? Are you kidding? Truth is—for good or for bad—I do most of my research/grammar-checking/spell-checking/synonym-finding/procrastinating on line.

From time to time, however, I will crack open my Chicago Manual to check on some arcane usage question (I slept through my high school English classes). There’s just something about that authoritative tome that I trust!

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)


Thursday, May 2, 2013


Are you a “carrot” or “stick” type of writer, with regard to your own motivation? Do you ever reward yourself for finishing a book/chapter/scene/sentence? How? What other types of motivation do you use?

When I’m in the middle of writing a draft, I’m a very disciplined guy. I’ve found that I don’t need much in the way of reward (or punishment). I set my daily word quota, then I sit down and bang out the words until I’m done. As I tell the students in my writing workshops, BICFOK! (Butt In Chair, Fingers On Keyboard). nike swoosh

Just Do It.

But…when I finish my quota, I get up from my desk—sometimes in the middle of a sentence—free to do something else. Unshackled from the sheer torture that is writing. So, in one sense, freedom is my reward.

[Rumor has it that sometimes I’ll dance around my office, singing “I’m Free” by The Who. Can you tell that I like “having written” much more than I like “writing”?]

When I was growing up, my parents talked a lot about intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards, and I guess I’m motivated on a broad scale by wanting to achieve my long-term goals as a writer.

And, of course, monetary riches beyond my wildest imagination.

I’d better get back to work. BICFOK!

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)