Write Every Day


I actually really enjoy writing. I love the constant thinking about story ideas. “It’s about a guy who…”

Yes it is. Finish the sentence, and you have the germ of a novel.

“It’s about a guy who goes and buys lunch.”

Believe it or not, that’s the genesis of one of my favorite movies. A man goes out to buy lunch for everyone in his office. He specifically tells everyone that it’s going to rain starting at 11:22 and finish by 12:17. So he’ll pick up lunch for everyone. After that, they all talk about a book that’s got them stumped. A man shot, no bullet, and only a couple of drops of water.

The man who knows the weather explains it came from Dick Tracy, and it was a bullet made of ice. He then runs outside to get lunch for everyone.

Sounds like a winner of a movie or novel, huh? Well, if that’s all you got, hang it up. That’s not a novel.

Okay, let’s gum it up. He comes back to the office and everyone’s dead. As a matter of fact, let’s make the killer the mailman whom the hero ran past on his way to buy lunch for everyone.

Now what do you have? THe hero has to run, and keep running. He works for the CIA as a book reader, and knows that whoever killed everyone knows where he lives, who his friends are. So he takes the pistol from a co-worker, and starts running.

Okay, now you got a novel. That’s Seven Days of the Condor, released as a movie of 3 Days of the Condor. One of my favorites, because I saw it when I was 12, and it made a huge impression in me. My dad shared my interest in shadow government novels, and I used to read through his collection after that – novels by Forsythe, Trevanian, etc. Some were TERRIBLE, some were not.

So, tying up the loose thread from yesterday about not spending two weeks writing character bios for every last character in your book (2 weeks per means one month wasted writing 4 character bio’s), here’s the main thing – write every day.

Don’t know how to type? Stare at your keyboard. I don’t know how to type, but I can most certainly type quickly, because I memorized the keyboard. Kwerty-yoo-eee-op is qwertyuiop, As di fidget kill is asdfghjkl, and the third row I know and can’t prounounce!

Write every day. That’s advice I’ve read, advice I’ve been given, and advice I pass on to you.

When one book is going nowhere, try writing a different one. Doesn’t matter what it is. Just write it. You may end up with four incomplete novels, but by that time, you’ve figured out where you got stuck on book one. So finish it. In two years, you suddenly have four books publish ready.

write, write, write, write!

Characters


Characters are what they do.

That’s the first essential rule. When you read about a character that rejected his social security number in the hopes he would not pay his taxes, it tells you a lot about that character. When you read he deliberately drove a Chevy Corvair despite Ralph Nader, it tells you more things about him. You now know he doesn’t toe the line – as a matter of fact, he considers himself separate from society.

I read about a lot of writers who construct deliberately long bios about their character. They often write for a few days on what they did in third grade, etc. I’ve never done that. I’ve written some small things. But I find that as I’m writing, I quickly grasp every last thing my character does defines them.

Aaron Sorkin says, “You know you fill up a legal pad with things like, your character eats creamy peanut butter. And you write a scene where they’re saying, Mom Dad, we need money for this, and now you’re staring at your legal pad trying to figure how to work creamy peanut butter into the dialogue.”

Although I don’t quite agree with Sorkin’s contention that, “your character was never 8 years old – they were always the age they were when you write ‘fade in’, I do see his point.

There is two magic ages that determine who and what your character is – eight and twelve. It’s been said that what you want to be when you’re twelve is who you are. I dunno, at twelve I was struggling with the fact I had a really nice collection of GI Joes and I knew deep down inside I was too old to play with them, so I gave all my toys to my nephew. So now both of us, fully grown, are kicking ourselves over getting rid of the Space Capsule toy, which is worth $600!

Some would say the primary ages are 8,12,16 – these ages (all multiples of 4 – what’s up?) seem to be the defining ages. Now if you’re one of the people who write that your character likes creamy peanut butter, you now have the crucial ages you MUST think about.

I liken it rather to someone who buys a violin, practices five minutes, and then daydreams about playing Paganini’s 24th Caprice Op. 1 Variation #5. You’re NEVER going to play it if you don’t play the violin!

I personally think if you’re a writer, and you spend an inordinate amount of time on character sheets… you’re not writing.

Now, Scrivener has built-in character bio’s you can fill out. I’ve even made a three act template that I made all colorful and everything! I’ve filled in, for example, that Yossi was born in the city my novels start out in, but spent most of his life in New York. Brooklyn, as a matter of fact.

It popped out in one bit of dialogue that probably nobody will read and say, “AHA! He’s spent most of his life in Brooklyn!” My beta reader actually never said anything about it.

So, this is a long way of just saying – I don’t sit and write for days on who my characters are.

Another Thursday


You know, I see so many people who say things like, “It’s just 2 more days to the weekend…”

I’ve never thought like that, I guess.

Wanna know a good way to make every day after dinner seem like it’s the weekend?

Get rid of your TV.

No, I’m not kidding!

People spend their lives thinking, “today is Ghost Hunters. Tomorrow, Deadliest Catch.” or whatever. I don’t know what shows are on tv.

Now, get a book, and read.

Or take up painting.

Or something.

We’re all so passive nowadays, from a lifetime of sitting and watching to see what’s next.

Not a Writer’s Blog


This is not so much a writer’s blog, but a reader’s blog! I’m a writer, and I talk a little about the process of writing, because I always was interested in that.

When Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001, what struggles did he face? What parts were easy? Was he able to do it in 80 days? 50? 18?

One?

WHat about when Tolkien wrote? I know he wrote his books as letters he mailed to his son in the RAF. Did he sit in his study from 6 pm to 8 pm every night, with ink, quill and a candle? Was he like a modern day Scrooge, hunched over an empty desk save for a solitary piece of paper? Or was his desk littered with scraps of this and that?

I always wanted to know that kind of stuff.

I could write a lot of stuff of interest to other writers. But then my audience is mostly… other writers.

I want to talk to readers, because after all, they’re the ones who will buy what I write!

What do you like to read? Do you have pet peeves, things you hate when writers do something?

I always hated when writers would start to go one way, then suddenly go in another direction. I read a book about a man once who was smart, an exceptional military commander. The book as a champ at leading you in one direction, then flying the other way. He starts out his military career making his men crawl through jungles, not trusting intel reports. You see the other armies just walk to the destination, la de da.

You WANTED to see them get blown away. You WANTED to see the commander vindicated. But you’re treated to a plot that… vaporizes. Promises much, then is gone like morning mist.

You were shown a scene where a Buddhist monk tells the man, “I believe you can walk on air.” the man walks off, and realizes he’s stepped off a stone path.. and literally is walking on air. then he falls, when he realizes that.

And can’t do it ever again.

I felt cheated as a reader by that.

What bugs you as a reader?

Michael Hyatt’s Latest Seminar


I was just waaay too busy for Michael Hyatt’s latest seminar. I will say they’re usually infomercials on how to buy his latest product. The last one was “7 ways how to write your book.”

Okay. I took it. I even wrote on it. The most I got out of it was getting Evernote. Yup, he was right.

The latest seminar was on growing your “Social platform”, what others are calling your “writing platform” – a social media presence combined of a website/blog (got that), Facebook (ugh), twitter, and LinkedIn or Instagram. It gets your name out there, people know you’re a writer, have some inkling of what you’re writing, and can follow you once you’re published or sold. And industry insiders are making dire comments that if you don’t have a writer’s platform, you probably won’t get published!

Michael Hyatt is using it to advertise his $280 a year publicity college, where you learn how to build a blog following, etc.

I was interested on watching the seminar, but he sent out the link to the broadcast on the very last day that it expired. He did offer a questionnaire where he analyzed your problems, and had a recommended video. well, according ti him, I don’t know what my message is.

Actually, I don’t know what he’s talking about! So, I’ll go through the workshop pdf, and see if I can figure all this out.

Mike, it’s like this… you need to run the seminars for longer than just two weeks!

Facebook is Evil


I hate facebook.

There, I said it.

some of you spend your LIVES checking to see what someone wrote. And checking to see if what you wrote got any likes.

I never was one of those people who posted, “buying a coffee at Starbucks!” Then, “I’m pulling into my parking spot at wiork!” Then, “I’m at work! Ho Hum!”

To quote Hank the Septapus, “Nobody cares.”

Now, I understand that all writers have to – HAVE TO – have a social media presence. Okay, that’s fine. I understand that.

But I’ll tell you right now, Facebook destroys lives. People kill one another, take out warrants on one another, get protective orders against one another, over words you write in your home, full of self justification , you’d NEVER dream of saying to someone’s face.

So, here it is. I”ll set up a facebook-twitter presence when I’m about to get something filmed, or published.

And promptly hand it over to someone else to manage. Maybe one of my family, I don’t know.

And they can put up the “I’m buying coffee” posts for me.

Remember when you used to call someone up and talk to them?

Unfulfilled Ambitions


 I guess I’ll never be an award winning paleontologist, posing proudly with an Allosaurus skeleton I personally dug out of a Wyoming creek bed.

I’ll never be the award winning ichthyologist, who reveals on film that the Megaladon shark is still alive.

I’ll never be the pro wrestler who beats Andre the Giant.

I’ll never have the 1:1 working model of a Lunar Module in my house.

Isn’t it CRAZY the things you wanted to be when you were a kid?

I did make it to be the man who drinks coffee whenever he wants.

Realized Ambitions…. Ah.

I’m basking in happiness right now.

Unforgettable Movies


The Tenth Level

I don’t watch a lot of movies, I guess. I went through a big phase of watching a lot of movies in the ’80’s, but they had to be action movies. And most action movies people liked, I hated. I didn’t like Top Gun, for instance.

Two movies I saw as a kid were unforgettable to me. One was the Tenth Level. A one set- one camera movie with William Shatner as a behaviorist who hired two men for $20 each to engage in a study on the effects of electric shock on memory. Shatner’s character wanted to see if two friends would pass the level where the increasing shocks would eventually kill. I never saw the end of it, so I’ve always wondered what happened.

Another movie was called Fate is the Hunter. I missed the beginning of the movie, and it apparently starts with a perfectly normal airplane crashing for no reason, and a crash investigator for the FAA has to figure out why it crashed. They’re running out of answers, and finally, they end up taking the sister airplane (made in the same factory the same week) into the air and repeating the flight – right down to, “Where did the pilot keep his cup of coffee when he flew?” And the same events begin to happen….

They don’t write them like that any more. I guess I’m trying to change that.

Updated Ideas


In reading “Save The Cat” Snyder talks about updated ideas and characters, giving us a listing of popular actors who basically are playing silent age, early age and golden age movie characters. He also gave a list of movies that essentially were,” let’s combine this movie and this movie.”

I guess I’m too original in my outlook for that kind of thinking. Certainly, although years ago I tried for a martial arts movie career, I was never trying to be anyone else.

Now, I’m content to write books and movies. I have zero interest in being a movie actor anymore. But if you’re going to be, what about being Spencer Tracy? What about being Jimmy Stewart? By the way, if you want to be technical about it, Jimmy Stewart should have been addressed after World War II as GENERAL jimmy Stewart. He literally stopped acting to fly 40 bombing missions in the Army Air Corps in Flying Fortresses. I can’t think of anyone in Hollywood today who, if America were in as desperate a war as that, would volunteer to join the Air Force, or go on the ground as a combatant. I think the absence of Jimmy Stewart in Hollywood allowed others with little experience to rise as stars after that.

So, if you’re struggling for ideas, get on The Movie Channel. How Can I combine these two movies? Literally, the next two movies you watch. TRy watching them with a stack of 3X5 cards, and writing down key beats. Then logline both movies, and figure how to stick the two of them together. It won’t always work. In fact, it might almost never work. But if you need ideas, try that.