Thursday, December 17, 2009

Story, Story, Story

Our new resident thriller writer, AJ, has turned in half of his first assignment, the backstory of his character, Victor Wallace, protagonist for the novel he is calling, at least for now, Mississippi Running. Aj did an excellent job, and TG was happy to see that the extended bio gave plenty of room for future expansion. He's thinking series, in other words, which is a good thing because publishers always think series whenever possible. So he now has a credible character with lots of interesting backstory and is working on the plot one-pager. So far TG is very impressed with his writing.

TG is working with another writer, a friend of his daughter's, we'll call him DF for the time being. (And why are we continuing this weirdness of the initials? TG is not exactly sure, but it feels as if, at least in these early stages, a certain amount of discretion is necessary. But as TG is not much one for discretion, he'll probably drop the initial silliness and go with real names, but for now, TG, AJ, and DF it is. DF, a first-time novelist, sent TG a 60 page chunk of a novel he had finished and was shopping to agents. It is not an unusual occurrence for TG to read for folks he doesn't know, as he feels it is part of the job of being a writer to look at other writer's work, if asked, and make recommendations, if asked. Or as much as possible. One only has a certain amount of time to devote to worthy causes. DF's chunk was as good as anything TG reads at his regular reviewing day job, and, actually, better than most. DF is meeting soon with a big agent (BA) (Stop! Stop! No more initials!) in NY (I thought I told you no more initials!) soon, to kick around some ideas, and the agent suggested DF read Robert McKee's book, Story, which is a how-to-write tome much revered by publishers and everyone else in the business. Well, revered by everyone except TG, who is an aficionado of the genre, as explained in these pages before. I found Story pretty boring, very textbooky. (The same seems to be true of McKee's seminars on this subject.) While all writers should probably read it because it's such a standard, and there are certainly many good points therein, TG would like to make his own recommendation.

For those of you who want to write big books from big concepts with big characters and earn big money, at least in the thriller genre, TG recommends Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman. Every time TG begins a new novel, he sits down and rereads this book. Zuckerman doesn't screw around with “theory,” he just tells you what to do and what not to do. It's entertaining, it's fast and it gets the job done. If you've got that and Masello's Roberts Rules of Writing, you are on your way to mastering the form. In other blogs TG will discuss some of the more esoteric How To books that have influenced him, but for now, get those two, read them, get your ass in the chair and get to work.

1 comment:

  1. I just got my copy today of Albert Zuckerman's "Writing the Blockbuster Novel" from Amazon. It is pretty interesting so far, and has promise to answer some of the questions I posted in an earlier comment about what it takes to make the a great novel. Ken Follet's introduction was both encouraging and daunting, but I can see already that this book has a lot of good advice. There are a few reading assignments throughout, so Amazon will get some more business from me.

    Allen, I suppose this makes you my Book Doctor. :)
    Working on the synopsis. This may take me a few days to get it right. I have a head cold, and I thought it would keep me from writing, but I find it is only slowing me down a little.

    Part of what does slow me down is the tons of research I find myself diving into on every little aspect of the story. There are some procedural things that I needed to find out, which makes other questions come up, which leads to new ideas, etc. Then I have to change things a bit to keep from revealing real life details that the federal agency I'm using in the story, doesn't want published. The more I dig the more fascinating some of these things are, and I believe will lend authentic detail to the story.