September 1, 2013 / 1 Comment


            Is this pathetic or what?  Someone else offers to write a ranty blog post for me and I still can’t get it up on time.  It’s sad, really…
            Well, here’s Thom Brannan, author of Lords of Night and (with DL Snell) co-author of  Pavlov’s Dogs and their new book The Omega Dog, talking a bit about clarity.  I’ll be back later this week (hopefully on time) to talk about Easter eggs.
            Hello is alright, again. On occasion, Pete has stuff to do; like, a lot of it, and he knows there are a lot of you who come to this blog for tips and tools.
            So this week, it’s me again. Thom Brannan. I’ll try to avoid disappointing you. Those of you who know who I am, congratulations! For those who don’t, here is a picture.
            Today, I’m here to talk to you about transparency. It’s a thing, a real thing, where you can read something an author wrote, and there’s a lot of the author in there, one way or another. Sometimes it’s political, sometimes it’s in the interests… most times, you’ll find it in the details.
            For your readers who are just like you, no doubt this will be a source of delight and entertainment. But not everybody is like you. For those readers, this will induce the effect known as “God, I’m skimming this part.” It happens.
            Let me hit you with an example. I recently finished reading something by Robert A. Heinlein. He’s one of my literary heroes, okay? I love his work and his verve and his ideas and just everything.
            I’m now catching up on works of his I’d missed previously, and it’s great joy. Except when he devotes entire paragraphs to doing math. Really, honestly, when I started reading his stuff, it made me want to run out and get a slide rule, just so I could keep up. True story. But that was a different me, back in high school. Math was one of my things. Now, when I get to a part where any of his hyper-competent characters go on about anything that remotely resembles figuring, I just skim over it.
            But that wasn’t enough to spark this blog entry. I’m also reading a WWII story about… well, about spooky stuff. (I don’t want to put too fine a point on what or who I’m reading.) So, there’s a passage where some dirty, nasty Krauts are in a plane with a creepy box which may or may not have something moving in it, and the author is clearly enamored with the plane. With the plane. There is a serious chunk of text dedicated to the plane and why it was chosen for this type of mission and the capabilities of the plane and how it got its nickname, et cetera.
This will cost you
extra with FedEx
            But what about the spooky box?
            The spooky box, if I’m reading the foreshadowing correctly, contains something (someone?!) which is going to be major later on, and next to no text is dedicated to it. It’s just kind of there, and the Nazis eye it, and the plane they’re in is endlessly fascinating.
            Now, in other places in this very blog, Pete has said things like have a reason to describe it, or to avoid being focused on the wrong thing. Sometimes, it’s hard to figure out when YOU’VE LOST YOUR GODDAMN… excuse me. Sometimes it’s hard to know when the thing you’re writing is what people need to read about the story. Or if people will even read it. Skimmers gonna skim.
            For an easy litmus test, corner someone your work with. Or someone you live with. Or someone in the grocery store. Whatever. Start telling them all this cool stuff you’ve unearthed about maybe Einstein being a plagiarist, or the use of Tesla technology to cripple other nations, or how the innards of a watch work, or how the Warthog got its nickname of the Warthog, or whatever stupidly addicting thing you’re bound and determined to include in your current or next work.
This is what it’s like…
            If at any point their eyes start to glaze over, cross that crap off your list.
            And since I didn’t say this from the get-go, this is what I’ve found works for me. I have a relatively diverse background, and I find a lot of things fascinating. But only a fraction of that stuff finds its way into my prose because I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes, that loss of focus when they’re not really listening to me anymore. It happens quite a bit, as I tend to ramble.
For instance, in my most recent work, The Omega Dog(with D.L. Snell) there’s a section where the protagonists travel in the Gulf of Mexico in a narco-sub. I’m a former submariner, and the intricacies of the works of subs, even the fiberglass jobs used to transport drugs, kind of trips my trigger. So I sat and wrote maybe two pages of all this, and then I stopped.
            There was also a drug lord, my protagonists, a person who may or may not have been human, a strapped-down zombie and a goddamn WEREWOLF, all in this tiny space… and here I was writing about navigation and whatnot. A little bit of submarine development history had made it in there, too. What the hell?
            I deleted all that before I sent it to Snell, because he would just delete it. He’d be nicer about it than I was to myself, but the end result would be the same.
            There are exceptions, of course. What’s his name, the legal writer guy? The one who wrote The Pelican Brief. He leaves a lot of that stuff in there because hey, that’s what his readers are reading him for. The same with gun porn. I mean, men’s adventure. My good friend Doug Wojtowicz knows a lot about guns, and that kind of detail is not only expected in The Executioner, but welcome. God help him if he leaves something out. Or gets it wrong, yikes.
            But I guess I’m starting to get long-winded. Shaddap. I guess my point is this: if you’re including something like that, be sure it moves the story along, or is at least an interesting tangent with some story elements to it. If at any point, your manuscript starts to read like a Wikipedia entry, you’re doing it wrong.
            So there. My two cents. Again, your mileage may vary.
            Go write something.

March 14, 2013 / 4 Comments


            First up, my sincerest apologies.  Again.  Two weeks missed in a row is not a good habit for me to get into.  I could make a bunch of excuses about the Ex-Heroesre-release and all the publicity work I’ve been doing, plus last week was ConDor con down in San Diego and I think I was on half a dozen panels over the weekend (including a writer’s workshop and an editing class).  Not to mention I’m trying to finish the fourth Ex book during all this…

            Actually, those are pretty good excuses.
            So, while I finish getting caught up, Thom Brannan has offered to step in with a post about scheduling your writing time.
            (maybe I should’ve read this two weeks ago…)
* * *
            Hello is all right.
            I know, I know. You came here to glean some of Peter Clines’ wisdom, and what the hell is this? Right? I’ll do my best to keep your disappointment to a minimum.
            My name is Thom Brannan, and some of you know me from Cthulhu Unbound, some from Survivors, some from Pavlov’s Dogs, and some from filing restraining orders. Some of you don’t know me from Adam. This should help.
These are Adams.  I am not one of them
            I’m here in Pete’s blog to help you with your writing. I’m not a guru, and if you’ve read my work, you’d probably agree. I’m probably only a notch above “adequate.” But one thing I do well is produce. I am a productive individual for someone who does not write for a living. And the reason for this is scheduling. So, I’m here to talk about scheduling and its importance for writers (and for any other creative endeavor, really) in my experience.
            (It should be worthwhile to note, for the rest of this blog entry, whenever I say “it’s this way,” or “this is what works,” I’m speaking of what I’ve experienced for myself and through others. I have no guru hat.)
            The first thing to realize is we are creatures of habit, all of us. Good habits, bad habits, everything in-between. It’s hard to break habits, so rather than suggesting you alter something about yourself that may require the assistance of a psychiatrist, let’s talk instead about forming good habits, which will hopefully be just as hard to break.
            Pete has hammered home the point: to be a writer, you must write.  I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve found that doing it at the same time every day helps the process. Your body and mind know when it’s time to do something. There are things you do so often and so insistently that you feel off if you’re not doing them. Liken the creative process to a workout, and you’ll see what I mean.
            These things are part of your daily routine, and if you are fortunate to be able to carve out a niche in your day for writing, you should definitely do so. Allow me to share with you my experience.
           After finishing work on Survivors, I had the opportunity to write a novel for the same audience. I leapt at the chance, and after wrestling with several ideas (and gathering input from friends) I chose one and got started.
            I’d written before, but always for myself, or to have a Cthulhu Mythos story in my back pocket for whenever an anthology opened, or what have you. I had never written with a deadline before. Now, I know myself pretty well, and I know this is how I am: if you give me a deadline, that’s when I’ll turn it in. If you wanted it earlier, you’d have made the deadline earlier. Right? Right. That’s kind of crappy, and I want to change that.
            So, to that end, I tried something new and scheduled myself some writing time. And, to keep myself honest, I tracked my daily and weekly progress in an Excel file. The first week, I averaged about twelve hundred pages a day, say five pages in standard manuscript format.  That seemed pretty good to me, and in keeping with Robert B. Parker’s self-enforced rule.
I felt like one of these, kind of.
            My second week of writing at the same time every day yielded slightly better results: eight pages a day. By week three, I was up to thirteen pages a day. By the last week of working on the novel, I was churning out eighteen pages a day.
            I leaned to take the weekends off, which allowed the grey matter to decompress, and it kept me from burning out. I also only do this four weeks at a time, with four weeks off in between.  
            To date, when working on a solo project, I write an average of twelve SMF pages a day. Slightly less when collaborating, but that’s to be expected. Compared to a powerhouse wordfount like Eric S. Brown, it’s not very much. But if I compare it to my previous output of one or two pages a week, it’s a vast improvement.
           I’ve also found that if I sit and play my guitar for five or ten minutes before writing, that primes the pump, so to speak. But that’s me. Everyone has something different to get them started when it comes to write. I’ve read that Hemingway would leave off in the middle of a sentence. The proprietor of this very blog makes sure he has something left over from today’s writing time so he can write tomorrow.
            So, there you have it. My 2¢ on scheduling. If I’m back at some point, I’ll likely blather on about collaborating.
            Until then… well, you know what Pete says here.