How Russell Writes

My Writing Process – Blog Tour

I agreed to be a part of a Blog Tour where writers share a little bit about their writing process and introduce you to other writers whose work you might also enjoy.

First, a big thank you to Erin Leary for asking me to participate in this project. If you’ve not heard of Erin, you need to swing by her blog http://erinlearywrites.com and check out her work. Lately, she’s been devoting lots of time and energy to her current novel, Broken Parts. This is a story of a mother – daughter relationship that faces a major challenge when the daughter brings home her new boyfriend and he turns out to be an old lover from her mother’s past.

There are also two other writers sharing a bit of information about their writing this week. They are Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and Alicia Wallace  twitter.com/_AliciaAudrey facebook.com/AliciaAudreyAuthor

 1) What am I working on?

I’ve just completed the most difficult piece ever written. No, it’s not the Ten Commandments, but you’re close. Pen-L Publishing asked for a 250 word Book Description (pretty cool title, huh?). They want me to publicly confess my motives for writing The Perils of Heavy Thinking, tell what niche it’s expected to fill, give an explanation for its subject matter, and identify a few key points that make it unique. And then, as if that wasn’t hard enough, they want me to tell them what kind of person would buy or read such a book and why. The whole thing sounds intimidating and both my fans (the 3-speed oscillator and paperboard picture of Jesus) seem a little nervous about me sharing their personal information with a publisher.

 I’ve also got a couple new essays partially written. One is based on the radio commercial asking you to donate Cars for the Blind. I figure that’s all we need, a bunch of visually impaired folks texting on Braille iPhones while driving seventy-miles-an-hour down the freeway. I can’t wait to see how that turns out.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Geez, another tough question. The easiest way to do that is to compare my vasectomy story to Dave Barry’s. While Dave is clearly a talented writer and an exceptionally funny guy, there’s a reason he wrote “To Russell—My Idol” inside my copy of his book.

In addition, how many humorists do you know who’ve had a great American icon like Mark Twain return from the dead to open for them at a live performance? This happened to me last May when Samuel Clemens showed up at Ozark Folkways and offered to warm up the crowd prior to my show.

M.T. wondering, "Who is this idiot?"
M.T. wondering, “Who is this idiot?”

3) Why do I write what I do?

I have a really short attention span. When I get up to go get something in another room, the garage, or boat shed, I usually forget what I went after long before I arrive at my destination. This means any attempt to write a novel would result in a series of totally unrelated chapters involving characters who think plot is a place in the cemetery.

I write humor because it’s fun and requires very little research or effort on my part. I enjoy having people tell me they laughed out loud, spewed coffee through their nose, or had a coughing spell because they got tickled at something I wrote. In my opinion, spreading laughter is one of the greatest rewards a writer can achieve.

 4) How does my writing process work?

At my day job, we’re all about process and creating playbooks for every production related activity.  In fact, I could easily draw you a flow chart of all the steps required to brush my teeth or perform other personal hygiene functions, but I’ll spare you those details.

Writing is an entirely different matter. Most of my stories and essays are inspired by observing ordinary people caught up in their daily routine. The original brain farts for Dodging Miss Daisy and Donut Abuse were spawned during my morning commute. Medical procedures such as a colonoscopy, vasectomy, or brain scans also provide good material and interesting characters. Although, I don’t recommend running out and getting a root canal just so you’ll have something to write about.

Once the basic concept for the story has been conceived (usually just a title), I start adding the bricks and mortar as time and inspiration allows. I don’t outline or follow any kind of structure, nor do I set lofty word-count goals. I take my role as an underachiever seriously and follow the mantra, “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.”

The best advice I ever received in regard to writing humor came third-hand from Patrick McManus. In his Writers’ Forum, he shares a tip from an editor on how to come up with ideas for articles: “Take the ordinary and reverse it.” This advice has served me well in stories such as Triple F and Much Nothing about Ado.

 Please visit these other great writers on the Blog Tour next week:

Nancy Hartneynancy

Nancy Hartney writes about the Deep South. Her roots dig into the piney woods that she rode through on horseback, into the sweat-soaked hardscrabble farms, and into humid nights. Her slice of life tales chronicle a time past that is poignant, vivid and sometimes brutal. The reader stares into the eyes of people struggling with living, grasping for understanding, doing the best they know how.  

Her debut collection of short stories, Washed in the Water: Tales from the South, reflect a region historically peopled by eccentric characters and less-than-honest politics. But therein also dwell independent, caring and resourceful individuals. Nancy writes non-fiction for Ozark Mountaineer, Flashback Historical Quarterly, Horsemen’s Roundup, and American Iron.  Short stories have appeared in Voices, Cactus Country, Frontier Tales, and Echoes of the Ozarks.  She makes her home in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Her website is http://nancyhartney.com and you can find her blog at http://nancyhartney.worpress.com/

Gil MillerGilMiller
Gil had a normal upbringing, which means his parents aren’t to blame for him going into crime (fiction). Instead, he blames a steady diet of movies, shows, and books, from Miami Vice and Scarface in the ’80s to Breaking Bad and Justified in the ’00s. To cap it all off, he discovered authors such as Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Don Winslow, and the late, great Elmore Leonard. Gil is a member of the Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop, whose members sometimes wonder where he gets his inspiration. He makes his home outside Fayetteville, where he is at work on the first of his Rural Empires novels.
Gil maintains a blog at
http://gilmiller.wordpress.com/

Lori Ericson

Lori

Lori has published several short stories and has a novel she’s marketing that highlights her journalistic past and her childhood growing up in the cemetery her family owned. Her mystery novel involves a young Ozarks reporter investigating a corrupt prison program and a string of child murders, while she also tries to restore a damaged professional reputation and avoid some dangerous personal threats. Check out Lori’s blog at http://loriericson.com/

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29 thoughts on “How Russell Writes

  1. Hi Russell,

    As one who has nearly spurted coffee through her nose at your writing, I enjoyed your interview. I can’t wait to get a signed copy of your book.

    shalom,

    Rochelle (At least that’s the name on my birth certificate.)

  2. Russell, the next time I have an invasive procedure, I’ll try to accentuate the positive and think about your writing process. Thanks for a glimpse into how the Russellian brain works.

    1. I know there are bound to be some real quacks in NYC, so you shouldn’t have any problem finding plenty of good writing material. I’m thinking about going to a foot doctor. Wonder how that will turn out?

  3. That explains why you can write humor and I can’t… you start with the titles first and the rest flows from there. I can’t come up with titles even once my works are complete. If a title ever pops into my head before the story does, maybe I’ll try to write it on the lighter side. Good luck with the book release. I know it will be a success.

  4. That’s amazing that picture of you with Mark Twain! Of course, I happen to know he didn’t spring back to life for it, he was alive. He must have enjoyed your first hand tales about Charlemagne as well. Great piece and now I finally understand why you enjoyed your colonoscopy so much!

    1. Yes, I keep expecting you to pull out that painting of you and Ben Franklin (since he never bothered to invent a camera) for one of your posts. Too bad you didn’t pick up some tips on women from ol’ Ben.
      P.S. – I can’t wait to read your catheter story.

    1. Hopefully, by now you and Duke have read that earth shattering document that will turn the book buying public on its ear (or at least get me one sale from a stranger).

  5. Thank you so much for playing along with this idea! I have learned more about you! Rochelle, and Alicia than I did before and like what I am learning! Your writing makes me laugh every week. No pressure, Russell. I just wanted to put that out there.

  6. I’ve had the same funny thought on the Cars for the Blind. I can’t wait to read your essay on it. BTW, is that Lyle Thompson, who often played Mark Twain in and around northwest Arkansas?

      1. I’m saddened to hear that, Lori. He was really feeble last spring and I believe he was in his 90s. We lost a great man and patriot. He did a very good Mark Twain as well. God rest his soul.

      2. I remember seeing him play Twain when I was in High School. He was a very nice gentleman and always a pleasure to cover as a reporter even if he didn’t like the story that was in the works.

  7. Hear, hear. Now you’ve heard from me. You know your writing breaks me up when you’re kind enough to show up and share. I do understand that a person like yourself, so popular and in demand is rarely able to honor us with his presence, but when you do it’s magnificent.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Velda. I wish I were that much in demand. I really appreciate all I’ve learned about writing from you and others at the NWA Writers’ Workshop. Now, I try to get the “as” out, use “who” instead of “That,” and figure out where the hell I am (sense of place). 🙂

  8. Well not only did I enjoy reading this and learning about the way you create, I was happy to learn about “take the ordinary and reverse it” — that’s a great tip! And I’m so glad to learn that you don’t recommend getting a root canal for something humorous to write about. (Note to self: cancel root canal appointment). I find it interesting that you start with a title. I usually think up the title last. Although I may try it the other way around nnow as it woudl be a good way to get myself to stay on topic. (I too write humor because I have a short attention span and don’t like to research!) Anyway, enjoyed this immensely Russell, and congratulations on having a book that is coming out soon. I think the task of explaining what your book is about etc, would be much harder than writing the book itself! But I’m sure you’ll manage it with flying colors!

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