All posts filed under: Writing

Crichton

Words like “clean” and “concise” come to mind when I think of Michael Crichton’s writing, but I’d go further and say that his prose displays almost surgical-like precision. It makes sense: He was a medical student and the creator of the television show ER. Jurassic Park was first published when I was twelve years old, but I don’t think I read it until after the movie came out a few years later. I’ve read a few novels that feature dinosaurs since then, and it’s still one of my favorite sci-fi reads. I’ve read most but not all of Crichton’s work (several copies sit on my bookshelf), and it’s all expertly crafted. And whereas I wouldn’t say there’s anything glamorous about his writing, there doesn’t need to be. Maybe his involvement with Hollywood was the flashy part of his work because his books seem to come from a genuine fascination with science. Of course, he told stories and created suspense incredibly effectively. He was also known to do a great deal of research. I read that …

Social Media

I have mixed feelings when it comes to social media. I’m not interested in most of the tweets or posts that appear on these platforms. There are exceptions, but for the most part, I think it’s a waste of time, and I find myself perusing social media sites only when I’m too brain dead to do anything else. So, maybe it’s not a total waste of time. It’s a numbing agent. When it comes down to it, the notion that a writer should create a social media platform before publishing a book seems a little bit absurd. Some people create social media platforms with blogs, but I’m not particularly interested in any of those. (That may sound hypocritical since this is a blog, but I’m primarily writing this for me. If other people take notice, that’s great, but that’s not necessarily the aim.) I tend to pay more attention to the social media accounts of individuals who’ve already written books (primarily the ones I’ve read) or of those who have performed in films I’ve seen …

Huxley

All writers are inspired–at one point or another–to write. But I’m not at all sure how many of them recall the exact moment when they definitively decided to become a writer. Maybe every writer does. I was in college, sitting in a tan corduroy armchair reading a paperback copy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. There was an oversized “Devil’s Haircut” poster on the wall behind me and forest green, low pile carpet under my feet. It was past time for a good vacuuming. It was my second reading of the book; the first had come in high school. I was a fan of it in the tenth grade, but by the time I got to college, I’d decided I needed to reread it. I proceeded to go from Brave New World to Brave New World Revisited. This led to Island, The Doors of Perception, and Heaven and Hell. But it was the caste system (Alphas, Betas, Deltas, etc.) described in Huxley’s seminal work that gave me my eureka moment. I believed that if I …

Competition

A friend of mine and I run together a couple of times per week. Right now, he’s training for a ten-mile race. Together, we run a fraction of that amount because three miles is just about my limit. I’ve done four but regretted it later. He’s the better runner. He’s less winded than I am when we hit the three-mile mark and can usually outrun me in the final sprint. But this doesn’t bother me, and there’s a reason. I lift weights, and he doesn’t. Pull-ups? Push-ups? I’ve got him beat. When it comes to competition, we often neglect to think about our other skills. That may not be the point in a direct heat, but it’s important. Not being able to run faster or lift more than someone else doesn’t mean we’re a loser. It could mean we’re winning at something else. I’ve never been particularly competitive. I wasn’t athletic (or maybe coordinated) when I was young. But I could probably make an argument that I have become extremely competitive with age–at least with …

Film

I spent about ten years trying to make a film that would get noticed by Hollywood-types. I got so far as to have a short featured on the IFC Channel’s Media Lab Shorts Uploaded before realizing that the novel suited me better. That doesn’t mean that I’ve lost all interest in film. And it may be no surprise that my focus was on the writing previously, but I’m currently working on learning a bit more about cinematography. It’s possible that filmmaking is as integral as ever because one of the driving forces behind my writing is the possibility of seeing a novel adapted into a film. In fact, the last manuscript I submitted to agents was written as a screenplay first. I used it as a kind of outline. I’d like to see the writing I do as cinematic. I think it is, in part, because I write by watching the film version in my head, transcribing what I see. I’m not sure if that’s unusual and needs unpacking, but that’s the way I do …

Rejection

Between novels, short stories, and, now, a mini-documentary, I find myself submitting to agents, journals, and festivals almost continuously. This means that rejection is a constant companion. And it can be difficult to handle. When I’m faced with a barrage of “Not for us,” or “No thanks,” it’s vital that I keep a level head. Especially because rejection has several meanings, which tend to fall into one of the following categories: Insufficient Quality Excessive Quantity Lack of Compatibility Extreme Exclusivity Admittedly, quality is a depressing reason to be rejected, but it’s not the most frustrating. If the work isn’t of a high enough quality, it can be improved, so there’s hope. All that’s necessary is more work. Sometimes years of work. When it comes to issues of quantity, we may find that our work has been edged out by similar writing or a piece that has been written by someone of higher stature. In other words, the market is flooded. If work is sent into an agent or journal (or any other entity calling for …

Slowing Down

After almost a decade of writing fiction every day, I’ve decided to slow down. There are several reasons, but I think it can be summed up best by something I heard at a family dinner recently: “If you hate it, why do it?” I don’t hate writing. Far from. In fact, I’m finding that my current novel is some of the best work I’ve done yet. And I’m beginning to wonder if that’s not a direct result of slowing down. This is far from certain. It could just be that I’m continuing to improve over time. Regardless, I’ve gone from writing seven days a week to about four, which is allowing me to spend more time mulling over scenes while simultaneously leaving me a lot less frustrated. I can usually turn out a complete manuscript in a year (including four or so drafts). This new schedule means it’s going to take almost two, and that delays my next shot at getting an agent. That’s the real crux of the issue. But I’ve started to think …

Bourdain

I’ve been inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s work for years. He was an award-winning writer and an extremely effective one but his travels might be the real reason I considered him one of my heroes. …