Posts tagged writing
From Today's Goodreads Chat with Richard Montanari
- Barbara: I very much admire authors who deliver compelling serial characters. Do you have any advice on how to keep their stories fresh and interesting over the years?
- Richard Montanari: One way to keep characters fresh is to have them, more or less, age in real time. Also, when they survive a life-changing event, they should emerge changed.
The chicken comes first, but so does the egg. And somewhere in the relationship between them coalesces a novel. I can’t necessarily recommend this approach, as it can lead to periods of ear-bleeding confusion and doubt, but it’s how I do. And it’s how life works too, of course. We perform actions in order to make things happen: but things happen, too, and cause us to perform actions as a result. Causality is not a one-way street, and neither is the relationship between research and creation. Research is a type of creation, or can be. I don’t want to impose a plot upon a novel. I would rather discover it within what transpires on the page in front of me—and in this case, growing of what I found, by accident, amidst the streets of New York.
babyiowa asked: Hey man, I finished reading Skinner today and I loved it. Your books mean a lot to me, and if you don't mind I'd like to ask you for a little advice. How much importance would you place on actual writing schooling (like college courses/programs) for someone that wants to be a writer?
My personal experience with writing programs was my first semester at CSUSF. I enrolled in the creative writing program, and by the end of the semester I was dropping classes to keep my GPA just high enough to land on academic probation instead of being expelled outright. The following semester I loaded up on theater classes to lift my GPA, and never took another writing course in my life.
But the only conclusion you can really draw from that story is that me at that age and that writing program in that year were not compatible. I’m certain that there are any number of terrific programs out there that are genuinely productive in terms of helping their students to become better writers.
That said, I imagine that the single largest benefit of any writing program is that it is a focused environment devoted to the act of writing. Unless you become a professional writer earning a living wage off your work, you are unlikely to ever again be in such an environment and have a concentrated span of time during which you can devote yourself to your writing with few other distractions. The irony being that most students will only be in a position to avail themselves of this environment when they are at an age where their long term prospects as a writer might be better served by doing a whole lot of shit so as to accrue that life experience stuff.
What we in the trade refer to as: Shit to write about.
There is no good answer.
I have only two pieces of solid advice to anyone who wants to write for a living: Read and write a lot, and repeat.
As brutal as it sounds, if you have to struggle to get yourself to write and produce pages, that probably means that you’re not a writer. Desire and ideas are easy; sitting down and putting them on paper day after day is hard.
If you are a self-motivated writer who can’t stop worrying away at a thing until it’s “finished,” you may also be a good candidate for spreading your energy around into other areas rather than living in a scrivener’s hot house. If you have trouble self-starting and keeping at it, a writing program might teach you a new level of self-discipline that will carry you forward.
Regardless, go grab something by the short and curlies and don’t let go.
Whenever our authors give writing advice, I am reminded that these writers are my heroes.
Life is drama, and drama comes from conflict. There are many sources of conflict in the writing process. It most obviously comes from interaction between characters, and from the challenges they face in the plot you construct around them (it’d sound more poetic to say ‘weave’, but plot always feels to me more like slowly building a structure, block by speculative lock, and then sometimes having to knock down and rebuild an entire wing because it turns out the architect was distracted or drunk one afternoon).
William Shaw on the Duty of a Crime Writer
- Lloyd Paige: In the competitive world of crime fiction, what would you say makes SHE'S LEAVING HOME stand out?
- William Shaw: Crime fiction is an astonishing genre. The supreme device of the crime plot allows you to take readers to extraordinary places. In fact I'm starting to realize that's almost the most important duty of the crime writer. We're used to being taken to locations like Turkey by Barbara Nadel, or Iceland by Arnaldur Indridason. And there's the historical novel, too, with C.J. Sansom immersing us in the 16th century.
- Because I've spent a lot of time writing about culture, whether it be hip hop or art and design, I wondered if you could write a cultural crime novel in the same way as you could write historical crime fiction, so I set the trilogy at a time of enormous cultural change—and those changes are a crucial part of the plots.
Thalo Magazine Interviews the Authors of WEAPONIZED
- thalo magazine: How was writing a novel different than a screenplay or short story?
- David Guggenheim: It's painting and pottery. There are a lot of things you can get away with in a book that you can't in a movie—and vice versa. Inner monologue for example…But being a screenwriter, I did look at the book like a movie in many ways, especially in regards to the structure and the pacing—and knowing there was a chance I could get the opportunity to adapt it down the line, we made sure that the book was as cinematic as possible.
- Nicholas Mennuti: Short stories basically need to start in the middle. But they use the middle as the beginning and thread it through to the end. So ironically, in a short story, there really isn’t much of a middle. That was the biggest challenge to me—the middle of the book.
From Brain Pickings’s feature on The Letters of Raymond Chandler. Totally worth reading the article—and the letters themselves!—in full.
You don’t have to worry about focus groups, budgets, set pieces, or someone telling you you the main character needs a dog to be more likable. All of the s**t you have to do in movies. It’s nice because you can let your mind go. I could jump points of view or give the thoughts of the characters. All of those things make it exciting to write prose.