Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Rollins, James Rollins

Last year was my first crack at the A-Z Blogging Challenge, a blogging phenomenon created by the amazing Arlee Bird. The object is to blog every day of the month of April (except Sundays), and to increase the challenge (if you want), to blog thematically from A to Z. No sweat, right? Last year, I blogged about music with Jessica Bell. This year, I'm heading back to my roots and blogging about all things thriller. Join me?
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There are no original ideas - there are only original adaptations.

That's the lesson I learned from one of my favorite thriller writers - and someone who has given me invaluable writing advice over the years.

James Rollins is the NYT Bestselling author of numerous action-adventure thrillers, with his books translated into more than 40 languages. His novels repeatedly earn well-deserved five-star reviews. Action, characterization, adventure, and clever interpretations of science - what more could you ask for? They are brilliant!

I've attended many sessions with James at writer's conferences in Hawaii (I really miss those days), but it was during a great one-on-one discussion that the above lesson truly resonated. Years ago, I sat across  from James in his amazing office, surrounded by posters showcasing his NYT Bestselling status, copies of his books in various languages proudly displayed on a beautiful, wooden bookshelf. He'd just finished reading my thriller, ABSOLUTION, and given me some great feedback - and a mind-boggling blurb. Talk about surreal.

"So what else are you working on?" he asked.

Prepared for that question, I delivered a pitch for an action-adventure thriller I'd been rolling around in my head for months, maybe a full year. He sat and listened intently as I spoke of lost cities and conspiracies. I must have rambled on for almost ten minutes. When I finished, he calmly reached over to his bookshelf, pulled out one of his own novels, and said, "Sounds excellent! And a little like this book, one of my first."


Mortified, I read the back blurb. Despite having read (and studied) almost all of his books, I had not read this one - and the story in my head was eerily similar to James' published book. 

But here's the thing. James wasn't upset or mad. he didn't accuse me of "stealing his story" or something equally as ridiculous. Instead, he was encouraging, kind, mentoring. He explained that even if I wrote the story I'd explained to him, it wouldn't be "just like his" because I am not him (sadly, I don't have even a fraction of his talent). He actually suggested I write the thriller and then give it to him to read. I didn't write the book  - but I did learn an invaluable lesson. 

Stay true to who YOU are as a writer. There may not be any original ideas (not fully), but you have the power to give it an original spin. 

What's the most important writing lesson you've learned?

- Dawn

PS - James also gave me this great piece of advice: When writing first draft, post a note next to your computer that reads - I give myself permission to write crap today. First drafts should be crap. Sometimes I forget that.

1 comment:

  1. Mine would be to let the manuscript sit at least a few weeks between drafts. Then read the draft through taking notes, make no actual corrections ... even a typo ... until I've finished reading. For me this means a hard copy. If I read off the computer screen I'll want to change it then!

    That's when things derail for me.