Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Know Your Ending

When it comes to reading, most consider it bad form to find out the ending before you’ve actually read the book. Not so when it comes to writing. At least, that’s the advice I learned last month from two of the thriller genre’s best-selling writers.

Every month in Richmond, James River Writers holds “The Writing Show” at the Science Museum of Virginia. This odd mix of talk show and “Inside the Actors Studio” brings in talent from all corners of the literary world. We’ve seen many agents, editors and writers pay our city a visit. Last month, thriller writers Brian Haig and Steve Berry came to “The Writing Show” to discuss how they build their thriller novels.

Brian specializes in military thrillers where as Berry tends to write history-based thrillers. As their style of thrillers differ, so did much of their advice. They provided a friendly counterpoint, and while I could easily focus on all the ways in which they disagreed, I think it far more interesting to look at one thing on which they did agree. Both Brian and Steve said that to write a tight thriller novel, the writer needs to know how it’s all going to end. They both pointed out that knowing how it all ends makes it that much easier to realize what isn’t important to the story. As a writer, you’re less likely to waste time on a “cute” scene that doesn’t really add anything.

While my specialty is writing fantasy, I found their discussion on thriller novel construction very useful. Perhaps the most interesting thing for me was that they confirmed something I’d suspected about one of the novels I’m writing. For some time, I’ve considered my solo work The Cold Shoulder a thriller novel disguised as a fantasy novel. The things Brian and Steve said about writing thrillers confirmed that for me.

I don’t really know how The Cold Shoulder will end, though. Heck, I’m still trying to figure out all of the villains. Brian and Steve made me appreciate how important the ending really is to building a good thriller, and I will be able to use that advice to make The Cold Shoulder a well-written story. I probably won’t know my ending until I get there, but when it comes time to edit, you can bet I’ll be approaching that task with a firm idea of how everything ties into the end.

I have to say that this particular “Writing Show” was one of the best we’ve had. Hopefully, I can draw on that particular show for a few more blog entries. Both Brian and Steve offered so much useful advice.

Monday, December 25, 2006

"I'm not dead yet!"

Yes, Wildcat still lives. Frank’s still kicking around somewhere, too.

Let’s get to the first order of business. Thanks to all who sent e-mails and posted well-wishes and questions as to this blog’s future (and my own). I seem to go through phases with my blog, and reality has just demanded too much attention. Something had to give, and this blog suffered for it. I seriously considered closing the Lair down for good. That I couldn’t make up my mind is the main reason I’ve hesitated to reply to many of your queries. I was scared to commit myself to either path. That said… the Wildcat’s Lair is going to stick around.

I’m happy to say the time away from the Lair has been worth it. Much as I wanted to announce The Last VanDaryn (the book my wife and I are writing together) was finished or would be done by the end of the year, that just hasn’t happened. We have made a lot of headway on it, though. Last month, I took off more than two-and-a-half weeks in order to make a serious dent in the book. It paid off. We’re in the home stretch with our heroes close to their big fight with the main villain (what fantasy adventure is complete without the big battle at the end?). Our word count: about 95,000. The holidays have made additional time off from work all but impossible. The disadvantage to writing together is that we sometimes do need to be in the same room to write a scene. So much of this book’s last third has been that way, and it’s frustrating when we can’t find the time to be in a room together to get it done.

Of course, other things are also keeping us busy. I’m happy to announce I’m moving up in the literary world (at least here in Richmond). As something of a reward for all the prep work to the 2006 James River Writers Conference, I was voted in as a board member to James River Writers earlier this month. I consider it more of a reward for me and my wife. I might officially be on the board, but we’re pretty much a package deal. We both had a hand in preparing this past October’s conference. Sheri and I have already started planning next year’s conference. The first meeting for the planning committee was held earlier this month at our house. The meeting went well. We’ve already put together some great topic ideas, but we have to panel these sessions. As things come together, you can expect updates here in the Wildcat’s Lair.

Speaking of the Lair, I’m considering taking the blog in some new directions. Nothing drastic, mind you… just the occasional need for change. One change you’ll already notice is my picture. The old one had gotten just a bit too dated. My hair has gotten thinner and a few wrinkles clearer. The time has come to owe up to it.

Seems odd even to me that I’ve chosen Christmas to make this decision, but that’s just how it worked out. With that in mind, happy holidays to you all. I’ll post again soon.