About John Rogers

I have thought of myself as a writer for most of my adult life. In 2011, I became a fiction writer full time. I studied creative writing as an English major in college. Then came family and career. I worked in finance and biotech and did a wonderful stint in Vienna. Now, I have the opportunity to use those experiences as the substrate for my stories. My first novel takes on the world of Big Data and the very timely issue of cyber war. The second uses the manipulation of financial derivatives as impetus for attempted murder during a trip from Vienna to Budapest on the Danube. I have taken writing instruction at the Cape Cod Writers Conference and from The Loft in Minneapolis. I am finding writers’ groups to be very helpful as concept editors, as well as practical advice from the published authors. I am in three such groups. I have taken writing instruction at the Cape Cod Writers Conference and from The Loft in Minneapolis.

Backstory: the Sililoquy

TO backstory or not to backstory, that is the question:

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to assume the reader

will figure the character out through bits and pieces

Or to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous critique asking

“Why, why did you bore me so?”

To rush to fix a sea of troubles with a “kill your darlings” red pencil

Or perhaps a section break.

 

(Sorry, Bill. Frustrated with a rewrite that cut too much.)

 

 

The Mutable OR

As a writer, one often gets the question, “Are you an Plotter or a Pantser?” Do you write from an outline or just go ahead and let the plot and characters come to life as they flow onto the page?

The question usually gets presented that way—as a binary choice—in the many books and articles on the subject, and the author goes on to explain the advantages and pitfalls of each approach. The Plotter approach can get detailed and complex … I have a book called Story Engineering that has spawned dozens of downloadable spreadsheets (see illustration). On the other hand, as a Pantser, one can end up pretty deeply in the plot weeds. I wrote my first book, Fatal Score, as a Pantser and published the thirteenth rewrite.

A Pantser at work

The whole damn issue is the definition of OR. If I’d remembered my symbolic logic, I’d have become comfortable with my natural writing mode a lot sooner. To most people, OR means alternatives. One or the other. You go downtown this way or that way. Not both, right? That’s the Exclusive Or in logic. The Inclusive Or says one or both alternatives are okay, more like ‘either/or.’ We most frequently use ‘or’ in the exclusive sense.

Is all this going somewhere, Rogers?

In a Sisters in Crime webinar, the pantser/plotter question was raised to Walter Mosley, the author of the Easy Rawlins mystery series and plenty of other stories. He got the weary look that denotes a person who is about to explain the obvious for the nth time. He said, “Both.” There was a short pause while the interlocutor figured out that he should ask the next question. Always the gentleman, Mosley explained that if you’re writing commercial fiction, you need something like a broad outline or you’re going to have to do a lot of fixing (see thirteenth draft, above). But characters have lives of their own. They grow. They develop. As an author, you had better let that happen or your book will be boring.

So here I am, nearly a decade into the craft that I love, learning an essential truth that should have been obvious all along.