Note: if you're looking for my "Q" post for the A to Z Challenge, scroll down the page and you'll find it. But first, especially if you love to read good crime fiction, check out Lisa Brackmann's guest post.
According to Lisa Brackmann's website, she "has worked as an executive at a major motion picture studio, an issues researcher in a presidential campaign, and was the singer/songwriter/bassist in an LA rock band. She still takes pride in her karaoke-ready repertoire of bad pop hits and an embarrassing number of show tunes.
Her debut novel, Rock Paper Tiger, set on the fringes of the Chinese art world, made several “Best of 2010″ lists, including Amazon’s Top 100 Novels and Top 10 Mystery/Thrillers, and was nominated for the Strand Magazine Critics Award for Best First Novel. A San Diego native, she lives in Venice CA."
Lisa's new thriller, Getaway, is now available for pre-order.
Go Outside and Play! by Lisa Brackmann
I often am asked questions about how I write, what my life as a writer is like. And I really suck at answering these questions. I’m not a terribly organized writer. I don’t outline. I don’t read books on technique, attend classes or workshops, not since college, anyway. The only conferences I go to are crime fiction conventions, which are really about hanging out in the hotel bar with your author, reader, publisher and book friends.
Besides, I hold the firm belief that there is no one best way to write.
So the following is what works for me. Your mileage may vary.
The basic writing tips I have, and they are really basic: Write. Put the time in. Set a schedule and think of writing as a job. Read, and learn how to read critically—do pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Analyze how a piece is put together, how it works, what it’s trying to do and how well it does that.
Aside from that, my main piece of advice is: get out of the house.
Because the writing I do is deeply connected to place, this is absolutely necessary for me. My first two published novels are set in contemporary China and Puerto Vallarta, respectively. I try very hard to convey a vivid impression of what these places are like, and in order to do that, I pretty much need to go there and see them for myself. Place is so essential to me that I often start with a location and develop a story based on that. And the travel helps my work in other ways. I find that it’s way too easy to get too complacent, to stop challenging myself and fall into a comfortable routine. Don’t get me wrong, I like my routines, and when I’m writing, I really need that sense of familiarity and comfort. But for inspiration, I need to get out of my own head.
The thing about traveling is, you can’t really take much for granted. You may have an idea where you’re going, but you don’t necessarily know what it will be like when you get there. Everything is just a little bit hard – finding a taxi, a cup of coffee, a place to eat. And if these new routines aren’t difficult, they are at least different. I don’t spend so much time going down the well-worn ruts in my head—I’m too busy trying to figure things out. That means my observation skills are heightened. I notice details that in my daily routine I’d often tune out. Minutia becomes fascinating. And sometimes it’s the smallest of details that bring your writing to life.
Other times, it’s the big stuff.
When I was in Puerto Vallarta a few years ago, during the early stages of writing the novel that would become Getaway, I had the opportunity to visit the old municipal dump. It’s not like I’d planned to set scenes in the book at a dump—I still barely knew what the book was about—but there was no way I could pass up the chance to see it. The setting—and the experience—became a major element in the story. Standing on top of that dump, watching workers who lived in shacks salvaged from the dump’s refuse sorting through garbage by hand in the horrible heat, literally surrounded by buzzards and rotting cow parts, told me what a huge element of my story needed to be. Not plot per se—I was writing a thriller, after all—but some of the meaning beneath it.
Plus, what an awesomely scary place to “dump” my heroine…
Lisa, thanks so much for being here today. I enjoyed Rock Paper Tiger so much and look forward to another great read with Getaway.
You can find out more about Lisa and her novels at her website. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter. There's also an excellent 2010 two-part interview with Lisa at Writer Unboxed.