Thursday, May 6, 2010

Yay for, Um, … Yay!

by Bill

What is the most fun scene you've ever written?

Hrmm. I dunno. Why are you asking me all these questions?!

Oh. That's the point, isn't it?

Yeah. Lot of help I am. I guess the problem is it's not the kind of thing I track. Fun. I've spent some time here ruminating on my process and I can't recall a time when I had a rollicking good time at the ol' keyboard. Certainly nothing like this.

Oy, that sounds really sad, doesn't it? I don't want to suggest I don't enjoy writing. Sure, some days are better than others. I've experienced that Grinding Despair of the Keyboard familiar to most everyone who writes. But I love writing. I simply wouldn't describe it as fun. Writing provides me with an existential satisfaction better described as contentment. On my best days, the experience of writing is sublime. On my worst, well, let's forget about my worst days.

My process is so slow and plodding that by the time I finish a scene, usually what I feel is relief. Sometimes I think, "Hmmm, that wasn't too bad." Joy!

Maybe the question should be: what scene of mine do I think people will have the most fun reading?

And the answer is, um, … well, let's see.

There's this one scene in Lost Dog where Jake is inside the pipe and he starts to rub his— no, wait. Not that one. Okay, how about the scene in Chasing Smoke with Skin and Sylvia when she grabs his— er, better not. Day One has a scene, and a major plot point, which develops around the revelation of an STD. Good lord, I am such a pervert.

Obviously I have no idea how to answer this question.

How about this question: what idea have you had which filled you with the most glee?

Ideas aren't scenes, but ideas come to life in the scenes we write, usually through the agency of the characters who people them. And the ideas which make me gleeful are the ones which result in some horrible mayhem being wrought upon one of my hapless victims, er, characters. As a writer, there is nothing I enjoy more then getting readers invested in characters and then making the characters lives miserable.

In Lost Dog, my victims were Peter and Ruby Jane. Sure, things were tough on Peter, what with being investigated by the police and stalked by a serial killer, but they didn't get really bad until he fell in love with the smart, delightful mistress of coffee, Ruby Jane. Then she got shot and nearly died. Bwa ha ha.

In Chasing Smoke, I not only inflicted cancer on Skin (bwa ha) but then put him through a humiliating break-up.

I'm a terrible person. Seriously.

Since Day One isn't out yet, I don't want to give too much away, but all my favorite aspects of it are those in which I inflict the greatest misery on the characters I like best. My wife, after reading it, told me she'd never forgive me for what I did to one character in particular. Then she told me to stop grinning—never being forgiven is supposed to be a bad thing.

In each case, it's not one scene or another which stands out for me. I can't point to any one moment and say, "Yeah, that was fun." But the synthesis of scene, character, and misery can fill me with delight.


Maybe the answer to the original question, the one I tried not to answer, is all of them.

In other news, congratulations to Harley May and Terry Stonecrop, winners of galley copies of Day One. The release day is fast approaching, and I'll be doing another giveaway of a hardcover copy in June!

I'd like to draw your attention to an effort to help those who've suffered under the effects of the devastating flooding in Tennessee. A group of talented authors—Myra McEntire, Victoria Schwab and Amanda Morgan—have spearheaded an fundraising effort on behalf of flood victims called, Do the Write Thing for Nashville.

Do the Write Thing for Nashville will auction off critiques, signed books, and more from authors, agents, editors, and other publishing industry professionals, with the proceeds going to flood relief. 10 - 15 items will go up for bid each day at:

I've donated signed copies of Lost Dog, Chasing Smoke, and Day One, plus the opportunity to name a character (someone upon whom I am likely to inflict misery, with great delight) in my next book, tentatively titled County Line Road. My item goes up for auction today at 9:00 am Central Time, and will be open for bidding for five three days.

You can learn more here:, or you can donate directly to Nashville flood relief at:


Elisabeth Black said...

"Writing provides me with an existential satisfaction better described as contentment."


Shane Gericke said...

I love strongman. He sounds like Ricardo Montalban after smoking a crack pipe.

Terrific blog. It made my day.
Especially the part about "all of them." That is SO true. Even crummy scenes are great to write.

Bill Cameron said...

Aye, Beth. I knew you'd like that one. :)

And, yes, Shane, how do we pick. Our darlings! (Except the ones we kill, but even them!)

Linda G. said...

Just as I suspected--writers ARE sadists.

Sophie Littlefield said...

wow bill, you did a great job describing the emotions around writing, or more precisely, around "having written"...

Bill Cameron said...

Linda, as it happens, I do a character development workshop in which I describe my own guidelines for character development. Number 1: Embrace your inner sadist. :) (You can see the outline, featuring other guidelines which encourage imposing misery, here:

Thanks, Sophie. I wasn't really trying to!

Elisabeth Black said...

You know me too well. :)

Sophie Littlefield, was that a Dorothy Sayers reference? "I hate writing. I love having written."

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Great post! You do kinda remind me of Mr. Smithers in it, so inspired choice of graphic as well.

I can be mean to my characters, but I always have to rewrite the climax because I wasn't mean enough. Maybe someday I'll be as sadistic as Bill. A goal to shoot for?

Terry Stonecrop said...

We all have our own idea of fun... I like the idea of embracing my inner sadist. I have trouble with that.

Thanks so much for Day One! I just got it. It feels so cool having a promo copy. I'm finishing up another book. This is next and it sure looks good.

Shane Gericke said...

Bill, I looked at Elisabeth's blog. She wrote this:

"Art twines its roots through your whole self and when your art suffers a blow, the rest of you hurts."

Isn't that just damn lovely?

Bill Cameron said...

Hey, Becky. It's good to dream. Embrace the darkness! Bwa ha ha!

Terry, glad the book arrived safe and sound. I look forward to hearing what you think. When it comes to your inner sadist, I think it helps to remember that trouble is interesting. I remember Lee Child saying (rough paraphrase) that when he writes, he spends the first half of the book making things as hard as possible for Jack Reacher, and then the second half of the book figuring out how to get him out of all that trouble. Lee knows what he's about, that's for sure.

And, Shane, yes. So lovely.

Terry Stonecrop said...

Bill, Thanks for the advice, much appreciated. I'll email you after I've read it.