*The featured image isn’t the final cover
So far in my writing endeavors, I’ve really connected with my inner comedian. Ok, we all know it’s a very outward comedian. But throwing out one liners on twitter and in Facebook messenger with my buddies is obviously not as much of an outlet as a whole book. Writing The Right Kind of Stupid was also an experiment in self-torture, though, as most first books are. I demanded much from my story and my comedy, probably too much. It was a constant struggle to assess where “the line” was, and when I felt strongly that I ought to cross that line with the force of a varsity offensive line, I had to work very hard to dance through the minefield of social taboo, pull no punches whatsoever and still try to come out the other side un-blow-up. It was invigorating but infuriating.
I needed something completely different in my second book. I needed, in a sense, to decompress from the TRKOS style of literary/satirical comedy. For reasons I will expound upon in another post, I chose to write a Detective-Mystery-WhoDunnit, CORUS AND THE CASE OF THE CHAOS. Looking back, this was a very good choice for a few reasons.
First, it was something that got me right back into writing. I knocked out the first draft in a month, which meant an average of 2000+ words a day, plus all the research that went along with it. I had now written two books. This gave me a sense of accomplishment that propelled me onward as I finished the final revisions on TRKOS and eventually on CORUS itself. I do not have the same attachment to CORUS as I did TRKOS, but when you compare the length of time I spent on them and the level of personal commitment they each took, that makes sense.
Second, I think it was productive to write something for a more general audience. I got to think about what tropes and elements of story hit those common denominator nerves. The challenge here was to write a book that would be enjoyable to the most readers possible, but also mean something to those readers. For me, the way to get readers to find meaning in your book is to get them into the shoes of one or more of your characters and then have those characters face difficult questions, not only difficult situations. You don’t always have to do this. Look at James Bond. He wasn’t losing too much sleep over life’s great questions. People still love that guy. The untroubled badass will always have his or her place in fiction, but these days the Walter Whites and Sherlocks are finding an incredible reception. People like their heroes flawed and facing questions that their inner demons have to wrestle with. So, this among other things was an enjoyable puzzle in mass 2014 pop-culture psychology.
Third, I have no business writing a detective novel. Write what you know? Forgetaboutit. Write what genre you love most? Noooope. However, this turned out to be a really great thing. It caused me to have to take a slightly different approach with the genre in order to entertain myself. That instantly makes CORUS a little bit interesting right? Imagine if Terry Pratchett was forced to write Young Adult Romance, or if the Late Tom Clancy had been forced to write an early 20th century British period drama. It’s a fun thought, probably because we’d want to see where these guys took things, expecting them to be a breath of fresh air. I’m not saying CORUS is some game-changing contribution to the genre, but for a few readers it might be a way to enjoy their favored genre in a slightly new way.
Fourth, following on the idea that I had no business writing a detective novel, going that far away from literary/satirical comedy forced me to write a lot of scenes with technical detail (always a tricky thing to manage in writing and make relatable to the reader). It also forced me to write more action scenes, which I found I really enjoy (Thus…my third project is an outlandish, pulpy historical thriller — a combination of the ridiculousness and satire of TRKOS and the action scenes in CORUS). CORUS gave more opportunity to practice writing with the mood of the setting (in this case the Seattle metro area). It also forced me to work out the logical progression of the clues and the detectivizing, always a good exercise in plot and continuity.
In the end, I found that I loved writing the cop and bad guy characters, I loved the action/suspense scenes, I loved writing with the mood of a setting. But I didn’t really love love the police procedure, or writing a lot of technical detail for a general audience in a fiction format.
I really do believe that you should write what you love, because life is short and you want to connect with readers over what you truly love. However, by writing something I wasn’t sure I would love, I came to better understand another genre and writing in general, and came to appreciate aspects I didn’t expect to like. Novels are so time-intense that you need to choose wisely which projects to devote yourself to. I needed to play with genre now if I’m to crystalize what I want to write in the future and the kinds of audiences I want to nurture. CORUS is written to set up a trilogy, so of course it would be awesome if people connected with it. If so, hey, it’s my story now, and I’d have no problem spending more time with Corus and Lt. Chu and more baddies in sequels. No matter what comes of it, though, or how large or small an audience it finds, was vital in helping me discover more about what I want to do with my future writing. For that reason, I’ll always love this book.
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