Monday, January 7, 2013
MYSTERIOUS PATIENT ENTERS MADHOUSE: CHRIS STOUT
PATIENT: CHRIS STOUT
When did you start writing? Why did you pick the genre you write in?
I've been writing since I was a kid. I still have a "Masters of the Universe" fanfic that I wrote in 1st grade. Illustrated, too. I've always liked action and adventure, so that is what led me to the mystery/thriller genre. Having said that, I love exploring the other genres as well, thanks in large part to my two stints in Seton Hill's Writing Popular Fiction program.
Where do you get your ideas from? Do you journal at all?
I've always spent a lot of time in my own head, so I guess my ideas mostly come from playing "What if" games with myself. I hate journaling from the very depths of my soul. The only journals I ever kept were from writing classes that forced me to keep them. They've since been burned.
What's a normal (writing) day like for you?
Thanks to an Evil Day Job, I don't have writing days. I mostly find snippets of time here and there to jot down a hundred or so words. Which is horribly inefficient, at least for me. The few days where I can actually sit and write, I tend to do so in sprints, usually around 1,000 words or so. That way, I can really get into the flow of the story. Short breaks don't seem to interrupt that. Rather, they allow time to plot out what will happen next.
Favorite author or book? Who are you currently reading?
"Favorite" is a tough one. My top three are usually "The Road Back" by Erich Maria Remarque, "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, and "Snoopy and the Red Baron" by Charles M. Schultz. At the moment, I am reading "Carte Blanche," Jeffery Deaver's offering in the James Bond canon. I'm also reading a couple of series by Victoria Dahl, because a)I edit e-roms and b) her Tweets make me laugh.
Do you prefer writing poetry or prose? Why one over the other?
Prose, since I suck at poetry!
Do you write in silence or with noise (TV, movies, music)?
I've always got music on, whether I'm writing or not.
Do you have any weird habits when it comes to writing? Do you type or write longhand?
I have plenty of weird habits, but none of them are really writing related. I long ago dismissed the notion of needing a favorite notebook or pen; probably about the time I started typing my drafts. I'll occasionally write long-handed if I am stuck or brainstorming. But I type all of my drafts. I enjoy it, and that way I can actually read what I've written.
Would you consider yourself a Plotter or a Pantser?
Pantser, for the most part. But then again, I run a lot of scenarios through my head before and in between writing sessions. So while I don't write to or with an outline, it would be disingenuous for me to claim that I don't plot things out in advance.
What do you think is the hardest aspect of the craft?
Can I go with "whatever part I'm currently working on?" I think this will vary from writer to writer and situation to situation. Right now, the hardest "big picture" part for me is finding balance so I can keep up with all the plates I have spinning in the air. As far as the mechanics of writing, I usually find that coming up with ideas is fairly easy. Making them work together in a coherent narrative is not.
Two adventures and one romantic suspense, all of which currently have uncertain fates. Several short stores in various stages of developments.
How do you balance being an editor and being a writer?
Not terribly well, I'm afraid. The Evil Day Job is a huge time and energy suck. Editing for others is very rewarding, but I can't easily switch from "editor" to "writer" if my own muse strikes. So production really depends on sheer force of will. Some days I win out, and others I simply have nothing left in the tank.
What do you think people expect from you with your writing? EX: Can they always count on a good gross out?
I suspect people expect me to push envelopes, buttons and boundaries. I try not to pull punches in my writing, which sometimes can backfire painfully.
Advice for aspiring writers?
The best advice I ever received consisted of two words, courtesy of Dr. Michael A. Arnzen: "Go there." You can apply that to just about any stage in the production of a creative work. Whether it's exploring the darkest depths of your creative soul, trying out a new genre, or seeking out new and exciting forms of publication: "Go there."
The other advice I have to offer: FTFT, which stands for "Finish the Fucking Thing." Now, if you're just writing for yourself, you can do whatever you want. But if you want to publish and sell, you have to have finished product to offer. I know far too many talented writers who never let themselves finish a project. I don't know if it's fear, or if they simply enjoy the romantic notion of being a struggling writer or what. That's really between them and their therapists. But if you want to sell, if you want to be read by more than just your critique partners, and frankly if you ever want to grow as a writer, you eventually have to get to "The End."
Chris Stout is the author of the novel "Days of Reckoning" and several short stories. He holds a MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.