What Other Writers Have To Say

 

Sign in a Santa Fe shop window, photo by author
Sign in a Santa Fe shop window, photo by author

Sunday Blues

Since I have nothing to add to the blogosphere on this hot July Sunday afternoon, I just thought I’d pass along a few comments and quotes by some of the more noted authors. I have culled these little gems from my internet musings over the past week and I may attempt to continue this effort on a weekly or bi-weekly basis if time allows.

The Quotes

1. “I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” by Steve Martin

2. “The cliffhanger — which sounds like a weird sex move or a particularly diligent dingleberry – isn’t just for use at the end of a book.” by Chuck Wendig

3. “The good news is that anyone can get published. The bad news is that anyone can get published.” by David Henry Sterry

4. “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money either.” Robert Graves

5. “It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” by C. J. Cherryh

6. “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” by Kurt Vonnegut

7. “An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make them laugh.” by Will Rogers

8. The best of us must sometimes eat our words.” by J.K. Rowling

9. “From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.” by Sir Winston Churchill

10. “Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.” by Steve Martin

11. “I can have oodles of charm when I want to,” by Kurt Vonnegut

To Be a Good Storyteller You Need To Fib A Little Bit

Puppets of Pinnocchio in Istanbul, from wikipedia, photo by maurice07
Puppets of Pinocchio in Istanbul, from wikipedia, photo by maurice07

True Storytelling

Pinocchio may have been ridiculed in the old Italian folk tale, but if he was alive today, he might have a bright future as a fiction writer. Fact may be stranger than fiction, but some of the best storytelling comes from stretching a tale just a wee bit…unless, of course,  your name is Jack Kerouac and  you have a wild-eyed and revolutionary friend like Neal Cassady.

Or you can go for the big one that got away, which is kind of what Carlo Collodi did when he created his serialized children’s story, The Adventures of Pinocchio. Not does the story of Pinnocchio reveal an important moral lesson for children (Yes your lies will catch up with you eventually), but also it may transmit  a more sinister truth to those authors who pine for a bigger audience. And that is sometimes it is the bigger falsification that wins over the most fans. Where would be today without such irrational classic of literature, as Jack and the BeanstalkAlice in Wonderland, The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen, The Wizard of Oz, Gulliver’s Travels or Harry Potter.

A woman scolding
A woman scolding

Little Fibs

Sometime,s it is the little fib that is most effective. In fact, there are a thousand places a struggling writer can ramp up a placid scene with stretching the action a wee bit. One of the first places that comes to mind is the bedroom, where there may be an encounter going on between two consenting adults. A little fib here can go a long ways in enhancing a story. But don’t limit your simple lies to the bedroom, for the sky is the limit with this aspect of storytelling. One of my favorite short stories to illuminate this point is The Three Hermits by Leo Tolstoy. Towards the end of the story, three fisherman pursue a boat, where a pious bishop is a passenger. The scene reveals that the three men are running across the water, “as though it were dry land”. All in all, this final scene of the story uses humor, a touch of fantasy and a biblical metaphor to make a point about faith in Christianity.

fish story

The Whopper

If you want to make a really big impression, why not go for the story, so far flung that nobody will believe it. This may sound like bad advice on the outside, but in reality it is some of our most preposterous tales that have eventually evolved into our most cherished fireside stories. By skewing all relationships to reality, the author can open the door for scathing satire, ridicule and contempt. To the novice this writer, this might be dangerous territory, but when done correctly, this type of treatment can turn a mundane take into a story for the ages.

 

 

It Takes More Than Good Writing Skills To Be An Author

The joker as portrayed by the late Heath Ledger
The joker as portrayed by the late Heath Ledger

Bad Morning

I thought I was not having a very good day until I saw the mug shot of Greg Jarrett, the Fox news anchor, who got arrested in the Twin Cities airport. His picture wasn’t so bad, but Huffington Post decided to add a little insult with a  slide show of  Bad Mug Shots. Sad as some of them were, I did manage a robust chuckle, at viewing other peoples’ misery. Maybe Mr. Jarrett should check out some of these mug shots. It might make him feel a little bit better, but I bet he’s got a hell of a hangover this morning and most likely doesn’t feel like doing too much. I guess this whole story is a little bit like reading the newspaper to see if your name is in the obituary.

The Original Nipper from the RCA Victola add, photo from wikipedia
The Original Nipper from the RCA Victola add, photo from wikipedia

Goin’ Audio

The other day I visited one of the more popular writer/bloggers, Jeff Goins. And to my surprise Mr. Goins had transcribed his post to an audio podcast. I clicked on it and about five minutes later I heard a strange voice come trailing out of my computer, describing the three steps to launching a writing career and also extolling the virtues of being a writer.

What this little episode underscores…… is that it just got a whole lot easier to convert your short story or novella to an audio podcast and then market the recording along with your ebook and /or tree book. The company that is spearheading this movement is called ACX. To learn more about creating your own audiobook, you can visit Joanna Penn’s informative post.

Slideshare

Another option for budding and energetic authors is to create a slide show describing and detailing your book. Nowadays online slide shows are routinely employed by large, popular websites such as Huntington Post, Yahoo and CNN. Now there is a startup company (it’s called Slideshare) that can help you put together your own slide show. Fortunately they also have a large website where you can post you series of pictures and hopefully direct visitors to your ebook or whatever. This site is called Slideshare and if you want more info, again go to one of Joanna’s posts to learn more.

very few writers still use a typewriter, from wikipedia
very few writers still use a typewriter, from wikipedia

 

It’s Still All About the Writing

If you’re serious about your writing, who has the time to deal with all alternative ways of promoting and selling your story. Both Slideshare and ACX seem like they could be of great benefit to the indie writer/self-publisher. The only problem is that each venue requires a learning curve and a level of involvement that would exhaust the average writer. The only solution here is to recruit a small circle of talented artisans who can help you get your story out……..Writing just ain’t what it used to be.

Don’t Forget The Small Things In Life

Remembering the small things in life can sweeten your day, photo by author
Remembering the small things in life can sweeten your day, photo by author

Some Simple Reminders For A Better Day

I took this picture several weeks ago while visiting  family back east in the Carolinas. These are actually the very small variety of M & Ms and not the usual sized ones that you buy in the store. They had been left out in a small bowl, for all to enjoy, and thus illuminated by the afternoon sun pouring in from a large picture window. The picture came out much better than expected and that little event in itself  sent my mind wondering and how often our best results our achieved with little effort. With this in mind I came up with a list of unnecessary activities that writers sometimes engage in (especially myself) which can lead to unneeded worrying and fretting.

Some of My Most Nagging Distractions

1. Blogging – Sure when things go well, blogging is great, but all to often I feel like I am paddling upstream with the time and effort invested.

2. TV Sports – Lately, my latest distraction seems to be Intercollegiate Girl’s Softball. Sure enough, the sport is as fascinating as it is different. Just watching the high speed underhand pitching, the adept fielding and the home runs these gals produce can catch my attention for a long time. But lately, just sitting down to watch the game for a few minutes can turn into an hour and a half activity.

3. Surfing the Net – Similar to number one except that I am not enhancing my writing skills. Just whiling away my time looking for that indispensable bit of writing advice or seeing what J Lo is up to nowadays. The first activity just might be more futile than the second.

4. Browsing Bookstores –  I love browsing bookstores. In fact, the bigger the better. That because there is an awesome feeling that comes with having so many titles, catchy covers and unturned pages sitting under one roof. The problem is that I seldom buy books and the ones that I do buy I don’t always finish. Fortunately, there is one hidden side benefit in that the hour or so I do spend in these places give me some modest cardiovascular exercise.

5. Making Lists – This activity is doubly unproductive because it takes time to make a list and I need go look for the list, later on, when I’m ready to use it. Then more often than not the list is outdated, when I finally get around to fulfilling. Come to think of it I think I’ll keep this list at five items so I can stare at the refrigerator and see what I want for dinner.

 

So long for now, think I’ll go watch the sunset.

taos sunset, photo by author

 

 

 

Write Drunk, Edit Sober

 

Hemingway carousing at a bar in Cuba
 Hemingway carousing at a bar in Cuba

Questionable Advice

Recently, I came across this beautiful little piece of writer’s advice on the web. The short catchy phrase is attributed to the legendary, Ernest Hemingway and goes like this: “Write Drunk, Edit Sober“.  I have found this  slogan, mentioned in writing blogs, printed on T-shirts and incorporated into decorative posters. If taken at face value……maybe this is not the best piece of advice one can receive…..but when interpreted to imply that creative writing requires an altered reality from everyday experience…..then maybe there is some truth to the four words.

I pair airplane crashes  1954, Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Mary Welsh , were involved in Africa
I pair airplane crashes 1954, Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Mary Welsh , were involved in Africa

Hemingway and the Bottle

In January 1954, Hemingway and his wife were involved in two seperate small plane crashes, while elephant hunting in Uganda. According to a NY Times report, Hemingway walked out of the jungle with his arm in a bandage, yet he was still able to carry a bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin. Throughout much of his life, Hemingway has been associated with alcohol, taverns, high adventure and having a good time, but even if Ernest did have a drinking problem, it did not prevent him from winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

hemingway_lg_0
Hemingway was often photographed with a bottle in hand, a situation, which often lead to many misconceptions about the author’s drinking habits.

Bars Associated With Ernest Hemingway

Though Hemingway traveled the world his favorite watering spots seem to have been Havana, Key West, Madrid and Paris. In Havana, La Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio got the Lion’s share of his attention, while in Key West, there are two drinking establishments that claim home to both Mr. Hemingway and the Sloppy Joe sandwich. They are Captain Tony’s Saloon and Sloppy Joe’s Bar. Maybe the best way to resolve this dilemma is visit both, but I do suspect the Sloppy Joe may have originated in Havanna, Cuba and not the Conch Republic.

In Paris, Hemingway’s favorite bars included Harry’s New York Bar, the Dingo Bar, the Ritz Hotel on rue Cambon and the La Closerie de Lilas among many others. And then there is Madrid, a bustling city that Hemingway visited off and on for 40 years. In this Spanish capitol, places with names like Museo Chicote, La Venencia and the (Westin) Palace Hotel got most of Ernest’s patronage.

Drinking and Writing

Although Hemingway did sometimes write while sitting alone in a bar with a drink in hand, the author claims to have never written when inebriated. Instead, Hemingway enjoyed working in the morning before the heat of the day set in.

Origin of Write Drunk, Edit Sober

These four terse words have never been connected with Hemingway. Instead, they are most often traced to the writer, Peter deVries. In his 1964 novel, Reuben, Reuben, the main character, whom is loosely based on Dylan Thomas, says this:

“Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation – the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity, restraint, emotion and discipline.”

So there you go with the real nuts and bolts of writing drunk. But next time you see this text in print, maybe you should check out Hunter Thompson to see if he was sober, when he finally sat himself down in front of his typewriter and started pecking. My hunch is that his mind may have in a relatively subdued mood.

How Not To Write A Novel

The beach is a great place to relax, from Wikipedia, photo by Maria
The beach is a great place to relax, from Wikipedia, photo by Maria Ly

WSJ’s Take On How To Write a Great Novel

Not long ago, there appeared an article in the Wall Street Journal about How To Write A Great Novel. Even though the WSJ in the 21st century is not quite something that you would call a politically-correct enterprise, I decided to check out the piece anyway; as I have always wanted to create my very own Great American Novel. To my surprise he articlet was a great read, although the title was a bit misleading. That is because there was no writing advice here (Thank God), but instead, the reader was treated with a humorous essay on some of the odd habits, various writers exhibit during the writing process. Leave it to the Wall Street Journal to come up with an idea like this.

In the 1800s there existed a two cent piece, from Wikipedia, photo by Jerry Woody
In the 1800s there existed a two cent piece, from Wikipedia, photo by Jerry Woody

My Dilemma 

I would love to put in my two cents about how to write a novel, but the problem is I haven’t published anything of that length……just a few short stories and those venues were online. Fortunately, all is not lost, for I do have lots of experience with how to not write a novel. So for all you wannabe novelists out there here is the real deal………on how not to write a novel.

640px-Liquor_Cabinet_(4233482692)
the liquor shelves at the Hotel Tirolerhof, from Wikipedia, by xlibber

1. Go to an exotic location! – This is a complete waist of time. Chances you will be so enthralled and overwhelmed by your new environment that you will be unable to write. Wide sandy beaches, five star restaurants, spectacular hiking trails and world-class opera halls can make for a great vacation, but a lousy writing prompt. (However, if you stay in one place long enough to be considered an ex-pat, then this strategy might work)

2. Get Drunk! – True some of the greatest literary bards have been notorious alcoholics (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dylan Thomas, Ernest Hemingway and Winston Churchill come first to mind), but chances are that their best literary works preceded their descent into the bottle. (Then there’s always Hunter Thompson)

3. Get Good Writing Advice! – Yuck…..just the thought of this makes me sick.

4. Surf the Web! – There are a million places, where you find neat sites that eat up your time. Some of my favorites are StumbleUpon, Flickr, Astronomy Picture of the Day, the Smithsonian and National Geographic.

5. Blog! – Actually, blogging could help improve your writing skills, especially if you ever read what your written after its finished. Yet still, there is the issue of why I am I writing this silly post, when I could be working on bigger things. That’s exactly the dilemma I am facing now.

6. Go to the movies! – A lot of fascinating reads have been converted to  entertaining movies, plus there are a few select films that have been made about great writers. (I think Truman Capote rated two) All of this is fine and dandy, but it probably won’t put any words on your page.

7. Get a nice laptop with a state of the art novel writing program! – Kind of expensive and not really necessary. All you need is a lined notebook and a pen. Come to think of it a pencil on plain paper might work too.

8. Go To A Writers’ Conference! – Like number 2, this activity is best left until after you finish your manuscript unless of course you plan to write a novel about a writing conference.

9. Go To a Literary Event! (i.e. book reading or book fair) – A great place to meet other folks, who  are doing the same thing you are. Avoiding a w.i.p.

10. Go To the Library – This activity could be beneficial, if you can find a secluded corner, where nobody can bother. But stay away from the magazine rack, music room and stacks of fiction books. These things only act as distractions.

437px-París

 

A Guide To Screenwriting Blogs

kepler186f_artistconcept_0h600
NASA Illustration of a possible earth-sized planet in another galaxy

 

Striking Paydirt With Screenwriting

Screenwriting can be a lucrative occupation……..that is if you can sell your screenplay to Hollywood or other interested parties. But that’s a big “IF”. First you have to come up with a killer screenplay……..this might mean literally, for if there ain’t some dead bodies or corpses floating around, film producers might not be so interested. That’s not to say other types of films don’t have a chance, but for a breakout screenplay your 120 pages of script must be first rate or better.

 

Something To Consider 

For those writers who choose to go down this perilous path of writing, here is a list of blogs that might help you on your way……..or a more likely scenario……they might provide good reading, while you convert your unsold screenplay to novella or novel.

From Writer’s Digest

In the May/June WD issue, there were three screenwriting blogs included with the 101. They are as follows: MovieBytes, The Script Lab and the blog by John August. Movie Bytes is a good place to go for info on upcoming screenwriting contests. This site also contains mucho info on previously released movies. The Script Lab is another blog singled out by WD. They provide a wide cross-section of useful tips that includes many reviews and trailers.  John August is a commercially successful screewriting who promotes his blog with the slogan, “a ton of useful information”. This is not an understatement.

Some of My Favorites 

Here are the screenwriting blogs that I most commonly visit.

Screenwriting from IowaScott W. Smith really does live in Iowa, where he posts several times a week on various topics related to screenwriting. Just goes to show you don’t have to live in southern California to keep abreast of events in Hollywood.

The Bitter Script Reader – This guy has actually been reading Hollywood scripts for the last seven years. No wonder he’s bitter. To keep his true identity a secret, this irreverent commentator goes by the name of Zuul. His comments are fun to read, but I kind of miss the talking puppet. Maybe Zuul will bring back his animated sidekick soon.

The Black List Blog – The Black List is the digital equivalent to screenwriting agents. Even in this new century, you can still get an agent, but the best route for newbie writers trying to crack the big time is to get your script posted and read at the Black List. That in itself makes this a most interesting website and blog.

Inktip – Inktip is simular to the Black List in that it helps fledgling screewriters get there prospective hit movies out there. Membership is free and do receive a weekly listing on who is looking for what. Still a long shot, but just paying attention to what’s current could be helpful.

Screenwriting Goldmine – A British site that operates in much the same manner as inktips. Sign up and you’ll some info on what British producers are looking for in screenplays. If you can match your script to a producer’s request, you might get lucky.

And then there’s this new site called the Bitch Pack. Go there and judge for yourself.

 

 

 

Advertising changes with the times
Advertising changes with the times, from flickr

Sign of the Times

In recent years one of my most frequently-visited screenwriting blogs has been an irreverent site called “Just Effing Entertain Me”, run by an experienced insider, named Julie Gray. Right now, this particular blog has ceased, only to be replaced by a website promoting her consulting business. In April, Julie just started blogging again from the Middle East. You can read all about the screenwriter in her newfound home at Stories Without Borders.

Welcome To the Digital Age

Like everything else in today’s world, the business of writing a screenplay is changing all the time. Always remember good writing will find its voice…….somewhere, though it might be where you least expect it. So long for now.

Digital devices are everywhere, from Wikipedia, photo by Tomas Castelazo
Digital devices are everywhere, from Wikipedia, photo by Tomas Castelazo