Plans for 2011

With little more than twenty-four hours left of the year 2010, I’ve given a lot of thought to what’s in store for 2011.

As far as this blog is concerned, my plan is to blog twice a week. Yes, it’s aggressive but I know it’s necessary to build my online presence especially since my only online presence is from my Armageddon post from last January (see here). So to blog twice a week requires a little more structure and strategy. Here’s how this looks. Tuesdays will focus on writing. Tips I’ve picked up, resources, progress, thoughts on certain aspects of writing, etc. On Thursdays, my focus will be on topic which will be centered on science fiction or horror. Posts on trends, book and movie reviews, and ideas. Really just a chance to devote some time to my favorite genres.

As for my goals for 2011 as it relates to writing, I want to write another novel. I shelved my first but have learned so much about the writing process and well as the business of writing. The experience was valuable and don’t I wasted anything writing that first novel. If anything, I have a better strategy and direction on how the novel process can and will work for me. Right now, I’m reading Donald Mass’ Writing the Breakout Novel, and I have picked up solid information that will definitely carry over to my next project.

What are your writing plans for 2011?

Best of luck to a successful year of writing.

Cheers,

Chris

Rock Paper Tiger

I found out about Rock Paper Tiger on Nathan Bransford’s blog about six months ago. This novel by Lisa Brackmann piqued my interest because it was her debut. The story is about an Iraq war veteran, Ellie, living in Beijing. She’s separated from her husband, who cheated on her; suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome; has no direction in her life; hangs out in an artist’s colony; etc. I’m listing all of this because this is how the book reads. There’s not much plot – just a bunch of stuff that happens and none of it seems connected.

As a consistent reader of Bransford’s blog, I expected more of this book. Bransford was a literary agent (recently left the profession) and Rock Paper Tiger was a book he promoted vigorously on his blog. This is a very average book, and I’m not sure what Bransford saw in getting it published. Maybe it was the anti-war rhetoric from the main character, or the many liberal leanings that Brackmann preaches throughout. Maybe I should change my political ideology to get published?

What I do like about this book is how it covers China. I might be travelling there in 2011 so I was eager to dive into this setting and was not disappointed. From what I have learned about Brackmann, she lived there and absorbed much of the culture. This plays out really well in the book. The locales constantly change and gives the reader a nice visual of what China is like from a foreigner’s perspective.

From the reading as a writer standpoint, I like the pace of the novel. It’s constantly moving forward and doesn’t dwell on too much. There aren’t any high concepts that slow down the story. The showing versus telling ratio is admirable. I like the first person style. It serves the novel well especially as the main character bounces to different parts of China. Character development is weak. Ellie, main character, is a pill popping nomad with no direction in her life. I don’t like her. She spends much of the book angry and bitter about her pending divorce – I can understand that but at the same time the character is one-dimensional. The Ellie character reminds me a of a grumpy old man. No matter who she comes across she’s feisty and irritable (like she’s complaining about those damn kids to get off her lawn!) If Brackmann tried to generate sympathy for Ellie, she missed the mark. Ellie also has these flashbacks about the war in Iraq which really has nothing to do with the story. It’s interesting she’s a vet but what it adds to the story – maybe I missed it. The other characters are shallow and don’t add anything to the story. Above all, there’s no plot. Ellie bums around China because she’s friends with some controversial artist, who has a Chinese dissident buddy. She’s wanted by some US security firm for what I’m not exactly sure. I know she needs to get information but nobody provides it. Factor in the online role-playing game, and you’ll be left wondering what’s the point of it all! The ending is disappointing. Nothing is tied up and issues are still open. I’m not left wanting more, I’m left frustrated.

Read this book as a travel companion for China, but if you’re looking for a story that grips you’ll have to look elsewhere.

So You Want to Write a Novel

Before I ever seriously pursued writing, I had some grandiose ideas of what writing would be like.  Reality came into play and all the sudden I realized it was tough to get published. Short story or a novel, getting published takes patience and persistence. That’s why I enjoyed this short film I found on Nathan Bransford’s blog. It illustrates why some people might fall in love with writing, and getting disappointed or frustrated results don’t match their dreams. I’m a little guilty of looking for the success before the hard work is done. I’m sure any writer tends fantasizes about the fruits of their labor, but at the same time writers need to be able to tune back into reality. Instant gratification plagues our society and spills into any endeavor out there. Writing (like anything) takes time; there are no overnight successes. Watch this video and you’ll get a sense of where I’m coming from.

Observations on The Walking Dead

I never read any of the comics so as I watched The Walking Dead the storyline was new to me but not the concept. The zombie apocalypse has been pretty much done. What hasn’t been done are deep, flawed characters in a zombie apocalypse. I found myself investing in these characters much like reading a book. So when I originally heard that The Walking Dead was coming to TV, I was excited but had my doubts. How can producers keep a story about a zombie apocalypse interesting? Strong characters for one. Another is avoiding clichés from movies. So far so good.

The Walking Dead gives enough horror to keep fans of that genre interested, but at the same balance it with characters of substance. For example, the character Shane seems to be a real hot button on most blogs I’ve read. He’s flawed and complicated. He slept with his best friend’s wife, and believed that his buddy was dead – that is until Rick surfaces alive and kicking. Shane is tormented. He’s in love with his buddy’s wife, happy that his buddy is alive but at the same angry he’s back in the picture. This kind of storyline will propel the series for season two. Where it might fail is if falls into clichéd zombie traps. Don’t let the characters hold up in a mall against walkers, don’t let the characters seek refuge at an army base, or a farm-house in the middle of nowhere. It might entertain for an episode but the series should find interesting, challenging ways the characters look to survive.

Sunday night’s season finale left us with cliffhanger. Characters are on the run again. Low on food and fuel – armed with plenty of drama. I hope the writers, producers, actors, etc are looking to one up the six episodes of 2010. Here’s what I would like to see in the next season:

  • More of the old dude and the cute blonde. Dale (old dude) is wise and doesn’t have any throw away lines – I’d like to see more of him. And what is the connection with him and Andrea (cute blonde). Lovers? Friends? Complicated?
  • More back story on each character. It would be cool if an episode was spent showing how each character dealt with the outbreak of the walkers and then met up with the current group. Take the opening scene from the season finale. It was interesting to see Shane deal with Rick in a coma while trying to figure out how to escape. Take that same approach for each character – that would be cool!
  • The crew tries to take over a town from the walkers and try to rebuild. Could happen and would be interesting.
  • Obviously, bring in more characters to change the dynamic a bit.

Of course, as I write all of this I haven’t read a single page of the comic. I might be way off. Those of you who have read the comic probably know what happens next. It’s a long what till Fall 2011. Ugh!