Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category


I’ve seen hundreds, probably thousands, of films over the years. Here’re the first few in my list of favorites. I’m not saying these are the best films ever made — far from it; my knowledge is far too limited to say that — just that I really enjoyed them and that there’s a good chance you will too, if you decide to give ’em a view. Here are the first ones, in no particular order:

  • The Third Man (1949, directed by Carol Reed, original screenplay by Graham Greene). A visually stunning, subtly menacing, intelligently written European film noir with great performances by David Niven, Joseph Cotton, and Orson Welles. This contains some of the most memorable images ever recorded. (Fun fact: for decades I assumed Carol Reed was a woman. Not so. He was — the Brits, go figure ’em — a guy.)
  • Double Indemnity (1944, directed by Billy Wilder, screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler). My all-time favorite film noir. Fred McMurray is absolutely great as a clueless insurance salesman manipulated by a femme fatale (the equally good Barbara Stanwyck) in this engrossing murder mystery that will keep you guessing until near the end. Edward G. Robinson is likewise great in a secondary role.
  • Life of Brian (1979, directed by Terry Jones, written by the Python crew). A fictional version of the life of Jesus, and one of the funniest films ever produced. As much about politics as religion, this incredibly insightful film remains as relevant today as it was four decades ago.
  • The Big Lebowski (1998, directed and written by Ethan and Joel Coen). Another nominee for funniest film ever produced. Great performances by Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, and David Huddleston. (As awful as it seems, The Dude reminds me all too much of myself — I even look like him.)
  • The Producers (1967, written and directed by Mel Brooks). Probably the funniest film ever made, it concerns the production by two Jewish hucksters of what they consider the certain-to-fail play, “Springtime for Hitler.” The choreographed scene is still jaw dropping four decades later.

As I said, enjoy ’em.

More to come.

It’s time for me to write some in-all-likelihood terrible fiction that will probably never see the light of day, and then practice guitar for a couple of hours for a band that will never be popular.

As some wise guy once said, “enjoy the trip, not the destination.”

Cheers


Barbara Kingsolver

“To begin, give yourself permission to write a bad book. Writer’s block is another name for writer’s dread—the paralyzing fear that our work won’t measure up. It doesn’t matter how many books I’ve published, starting the next one always feels as daunting as the first. A day comes when I just have to make a deal with myself: write something anyway, even if it’s awful. Nobody has to know. Maybe it never leaves this room! Just go. Bang out a draft.”

–Barbara Kingsolver in “5 Writing Tips: Barbara Kingsolver” on the Publishers Weekly site

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(Kingsolver’s five writing tips constitute the best writing advice in a short space I’ve ever seen. I’d highly recommend reading all of her tips.)


Danez Smith

“I don’t believe in writer’s block. When I am experiencing what feels like it, I know I need to do one of a few things. The first would be to stop writing and to focus on absorbing art. . . . The other thing I have to do is ask questions. (Why am I stuck? Is it the piece? Am I feeling balanced enough in other areas in my life to flourish in my writing? Am I hungry? Am I tired? Are the idea and the genre of what I’m working on agreeing with each other? Am I experiencing a road block or a directive to try something else?) Another option is to write through it, to write every ugly, horrible sentence that comes to mind and just work until I find something of value.”

–“Is it real? 25 famous writers on writer’s block” on LitHub


“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

–quoted by Adam O’Fallon Price in “On Semicolons and the Rules of Writing


“[Chekhov] has put his finger on a problem that often affects writers and just as frequently stands in the way of clarity: the belief that every noun needs an adjective, that every sentence must be elaborate, that every turn of phrase must be lyrical, poetic, and above all original, and that it represents some sort of shameful failure of the imagination to use language in a way that can be readily understood by all.”

–Francine Prose, “It’s Harder Than It Looks to Write Clearly” on Lithub

 


Occasionally, I shake my head at some of the things I used to do. One of the dumbest was finishing every book I started, no matter how bad. No more. I wasted a lot of time reading crap because of my completion compulsion, and as a result didn’t read a lot of good books I’d otherwise have had time for.

Anymore, the first thing I do is read a book’s opening sentences and then, if those don’t cause me to drop it as if it were leprous, flip to a random page and read a paragraph or two. Of the books that make it past that initial weeding-out process, I finish maybe one out of four. Sometimes I’ll stop reading after a few pages, and sometimes only after I’m halfway or more through a book.

With nonfiction, I’ll put a book down if the writing is sloppy or otherwise bad, if the argumentation is consistently faulty, or if the author obviously did a poor job of research.

With fiction, I’ll stop reading if the writing is bad enough to get in the way of the story, if the writing style irritates me, if there are plot holes big enough to drive an 18-wheeler through, or if there are major implausibilities or absurdities in the premise(s) or events. (I just stopped reading a sci-fi novel because it hinged on NASA managing to build both an interplanetary spaceship big enough for dozens of people and an equally large space station in orbit around Mars — and managing to keep both projects secret. Please. Spare me.)

If you’re still finishing every book you start, please consider doing yourself a favor by putting down books that aren’t worth your time. If you do that, you’ll probably end up reading a lot more good books.


Several of our authors have web sites. Here are the ones that immediately come to mind:

Over the next few days I’ll contact the other authors who seem like they might have either a site or blog, and will add any that come up. So, if you’re interested, please check back shortly and you’ll probably find additional author sites and blogs.

Note: Tim Boomer, who wrote The Bassist’s Bible, is also a computer pro who wrote the very nice looking Bassist’s Bible web site. He’s currently rewriting the See Sharp Press site, which badly needs the update. I wrote it in html 3 over 15 years ago, and it looks it. It’s not quite in Save Walter White territory, but not that far beyond it. The spiffy looking redesigned site will be up later this summer.

Finally, in non-book-related news, Mick Berry, co-author of The Drummer’s Bible, has a web site up for his one-man show, Keith Moon: The Real Me, which is playing in San Jose through June 24th.