Mark Terry

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sniffing Pooh

August 17, 2010
I took Frodo out for his morning walk and, like most days, that involved stopping every 5 or 10 feet to sniff something and then pee on it. (Frodo, not me. I just stood there).

Toward the end of this slow process (gee, I thought I was taking him out for his exercise; he thought I was taking him out so he could pee on the universe), we came across some pooh in the road and he sniffed and sniffed and I thought, "Is there anything in this that relates to writing that I can put on my blog?" because, you know, I was just thinking about all of you while watching Frodo sniff pooh in the road. Go figure.

And I thought, Well, yeah, because it's useful to know what the other dogs, er, writers, in the world are doing. In our genre, if we're genre writers, and in general. I look through the bestseller lists to see what's selling, even if I don't necessarily read all the books there, and I at least skim through book review sections to see what's new and notable, whether they inspire me to read them or not. And I read a lot.

Within my genre, which is loosely "thriller" and less loosely "action-adventure thriller" and/or "political thriller" and/or "espionage," I read quite a bit. I recently read NO MERCY by John Gilstrap, who has writing sensibilities so closely aligned with my own that I had one of those Ah-ha! moments in which I recognized a successful author who is playing on exactly the same tennis court I am (and kicking my ass in the process, but that's a different story, we're probably not really exactly competing), and I'm reading THE CONFESSOR by Daniel Silva because he keeps raising the fricking bar for espionage novels and I want to see how differently he approaches things than I do (very, very differently)...

But I also sniff the pooh (ahem) of many other writers in other genres because it expands my brain and shows me other techniques and clears my head from the conventions of the thriller genre. And I don't discount that last part one bit. Two years ago I was a judge for ITW's Thriller Award and I had about 40 thrillers in a very short period of time and what got to me the most wasn't the crap, because there were very few poorly-written books in that selection, but how many of the books had a similar feel to them because of the conventions of the genre. I suppose it's like reading 40 sonnets by Shakespeare all in a row. You can note how different and well done each one is, but by the end you're pretty much sick of 13 lines of iambic pentameter and are ready for a haiku or good dirty limerick or two.

Which reminds me...

You know nature quite often calls,
I've been known to defile a few walls
You call me a dog?
Well, my brain is agog!
Never once have I licked my own balls!
--Graeme King

With apologies to, well, everybody.
Mark Terry


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

For a long time I had got away from reading as much as I should have. The last few years I have read a fair amount but I've jumped from genre to genre so much I probably haven't given myself the opportunity to see the popular patterns. Then too, I tend to read older books which are not necessarily indicative of what would work today. This is likely not a good way for me to arrange my reading. It might be helpful to have in mind some useful templates. I am, right now, reading a few mysteries of the sort Mary and I write. Not historicals, because I am afraid of being too influenced, but rather mysteries that revolve around solving a puzzle and are short on violence and physical action, more intellectual in approach. We shall see if it helps!

10:50 AM  
Blogger JaxPop said...

I recently finished No Mercy & Hostage Zero - excellent.

As for "sniffing" (really gross analogy by the way) I'm reading The Battle For Atlantis by this Mark Terry guy. Wanna see how he handles YA. According to the Kindle, I'm at page 51% (?) & Lance is kickin' Peter's butt in a sword fight. Thumbs up so far. DE

12:57 PM  

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