Monday, May 22, 2017

Guest author Bill A. Brier: A Dumb Idea

Bill A. Brier
Bill A. Brier grew up in California and served in the Air Force as a combat cameraman. After hiring on at Disney Studios as a film loader, he soon advanced and moved on to other studios. During his more than 25 years in the movie business as a cameraman, film editor, and general manager, Bill worked on everything from the hilarious, The Love Bug, to the creepy, The Exorcist, to the far out, Star Trek and Battle Star Galactica. Eight years ago, Bill switched from reading scripts to writing mysteries and driving race cars. His first novel, The Devil Orders Takeout, was a finalist in the 2015 Faulkner Creative Writing Competition. His second mystery, The Killer Who Hated Soup, launches this summer. The Brier Patch is Bill’s wildly entertaining blog about his shameless early days in Hollywood.

A Dumb Idea

The natural curiosity of children often prods them into mischief. They get into things. They explore. They take risks.

As adults, that curiosity is too often squelched by that tiny voice inside that says you won’t be good enough, you might fail, others won’t approve.

Eight years ago, I came up with an exciting idea for a novel. But then that tiny voice came knocking—That’s a dumb idea. The funny thing is, later, I learned it was a dumb idea.

While this best-selling idea was percolating in my mind, I told a writer friend that I was thinking of coming up with a mystery that included a talking dog and wondered what he thought about it.

I waited with the kind of anticipation usually reserved for cold toilet seats.

He nodded thoughtfully, stroked his beard, then said, “Bill, if that’s what you want to write, write it!”

Man, pretty exciting.

I went home, ordered a writing book and put a little workstation together. Desk, computer, printer, and a dumpster-size wastebasket for crummy drafts.

I was on my way. Young Jim Bolt, a magnificent golfer whose dog not only finds Jim’s lost balls—any mutt can do that—but the pooch also talks. Says exactly how far to the hole, what club to use, and once on the green, the dog …

Yes! The Devil Orders Takeout was born.

But wait!

Giving birth was one thing. Surviving the terrible twos, fearsome fours, and sucky sixes was quite another. I’d worked six months on a story that sucked. The talking dog needed muzzling. More than muzzling. He needed to be taken out.

Desperate, I searched online for help, found a writer’s group, and was invited to sit in on a meeting. Boy, was I charged. These were real writers. Everyone had prepared a critique of something one of them had written.

Those people knew their stuff. They saw problems I didn’t know were problems. Passive sentences, clichés, head hopping, too many to be words.

Huh? Better order more writing books. I’d need them.

When the meeting was over, the facilitator asked me to send her a sample of my writing. I danced out the door. Not just anybody gets into her group.

I went home energized—and intimidated. Didn’t dare send her my crappy talking-dog story. I don’t remember what I wrote, but it wasn’t up to snuff. Too much head hopping? Too many to be words?

“Do you have anything else?” the woman asked. A benevolent teacher trying to coax me into giving the correct answer. “Anything at all?”

My throat tightened as I tried to think. “Um … there’s Scamming the Scammer.”

I sent her some funny emails I had written, and she wrote back, “Bill, you are a writer. Welcome to our group.”


Determined to make The Devil Orders Takeout as good as possible, I wrote draft after draft, year after year, yet never quite reaching the finish line.

“The funeral scene is much improved,” one person wrote, after I was four years at it. “The boy taking the father’s hand brought tears to my eyes, but what was the police chief’s reaction?”

Another year, more critiques: “Misha’s bosses call him, derisively, The Midget. Why, and how tall is he?”

When someone corrected the word further for farther, I could go no further. As the wise man (or woman) said, “Novels are never finished, only abandoned.”

And that’s how I, as a writer, was born. Paragraph after paragraph, page after page. Until eventually, I had three completed books.

Go to for more Brier Patch blogs.


Maggie King said...

Bill, I can certainly relate to your writing journey. And you're on my TBR list!

I really like the cold toilet seat bit.

authorlindathorne said...

I started to comment much earlier and got an interrupted and lost the comment, Oh, could I identify with this post. I went to my first critique group not knowing what the word "genre" meant or how to pronounce it. I presented my writing and got some pretty jaw-dropping responses to it. I had no idea what I was doing only that I knew I wanted to do it, which I think is 98% of the battle. You will figure it out if you want it bad enough. My group accepted everyone - no guidelines on being a good writer like the one you started in - except no porn, no political incorrectness, etc. One person wrote "BORING!" across the 1st page of my 5-page submission to be critiqued. He talked to me about it first and His intentions were good. I needed the feedback.