Tag Archives: Writing Process

Hard Work or Hardly Working: Writers’ Edition

A couple posts I read this past weekend inspired me to update my “Writing” section, but before I get to that, here are the posts in questions.

Ken Levine on the difference between amateur writers and pros.

Ken Levine is, as one might expect of a veteran writer of shows like M*A*S*H and Cheers, pithy and to the point. I’ve heard both the anecdotes before, though I don’t think I knew the sources.

Mark Evanier on the hard work of writing… and the previous post.

In reading these, I wanted to reference my “writing” section intro and in re-reading it for the first time in, well, years, I realized I didn’t make it abundantly clear: I love writing.

I like actually writing. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying motivating myself isn’t hard on occasion, but when I get into a flow, in that Csikszentmihalyi way, I absolutely LOVE it. Maybe when I’m in that flow, loving writing, the end result isn’t my best writing. I’ve heard that when you go back to a piece of writing, you can’t tell the passages from your “good” days from your “bad” days and my personal experience rings true — but the reason I write is because of those good days. I love writing.

Now for the idea that many writers hate writing, but love having written. I get it. I also get a tremendous amount of satisfaction –even pride– at having completed a work. I’ve written about the importance of finishing your writing. But, of course, one of the reasons I don’t “love having written” the way other people seem to express it is because that finished script, that finished story is just sitting there, waiting to be revised. It could be better. It could always be better. I know this in my bones.

So, I suppose I’m okay when it comes to which type of writer I am. As long as I keep putting in the work.

Video

Screenwriting through the David Lynch Lens

Last week, I posted a few videos about David Lynch and how to hook yourself an idea or two.

Well, as you might expect, I plowed through a number of Lynch videos at the same time, in part because the two I shared last week are just about the nature of getting ideas.

But, in fact, the first video I watched was a piece asking Lynch about his screenwriting process… and since it’s just over two minutes, it’s actually easy to re-watch as you realize at the end how many little nuggets of experience he puts in there.

All the ideas of process could easily be fleshed out into whole seminars (and I imagine the gentleman who introduced Lynch to the “note card” idea does just that in his classes), but it’s good to think of.

Incidentally, I am more of a “plotter” than a “pantser” — and back when I was more analog than digital, I absolutely did the note card method and still do it as I outline albeit via Workflowy. However I think in terms of altitude. Some “note cards” remain at the 50,000 foot view and that’s all I need. Some need more detail. Some get so much detail, I have to break them into separate cards so that the flow gets articulated well.

But that’s likely a discussion for another time. Back to Lynch. I’ve now shared several short videos, so here’s a compilation of a bunch of interviews which gives you 10 screenwriting tips… though since it’s Lynch, it’s really more ideas and approaches to screenwriting versus bland specifications.

I like all the ideas presented. For one, I think he nails why film is such a powerful medium, since it can deal with abstraction so powerfully. I also like his notion of what writer’s block represents and how he rejects suffering as a necessary component of being an artist. There’s also some great stuff about how to tap into your own creativity. Hope you all have a creative week.

A Writer’s Journey from Idea to Novel

It’s always interesting to figure out how various writers work and this long article by George Saunders, which explains the genesis and creation (and recreation) of one of his novels, is a great window into a process that had me going “aha,” and nodding in equal measure.

Illustration by Yann Kebbi

Fewer Lightning Strikes and More Slow Burns

Besides the inevitable barbecues in the U.S. this long weekend, it’s a good one for reflection (not the least given the reason for the long weekend).

So that got me thinking about ideas and inspiration and a recent article by David Robinson for the BBC about how people get ideas… and how a certain professor is testing some assumptions of how people get and choose ideas.

But, maybe don’t try and connect all the ideas to one another? That could get bad.

The article goes a lot into brainstorming and business settings, but there’s plenty to mull over for creative work — and working together creatively.

Reckless, Truthful, & Clean as a Bone: James Baldwin on Writing

I’ve been meaning to get back into the groove of posting motivational material on Mondays — as well as tackle some larger writing projects as well, so this list from Emily Temple over at Literary Hub of James Baldwin’s observations on writing is most welcome.

James Baldwin (Photo: Allan Warren)

If you’ve read some of his work or seen some of his interviews, the directness and clarity of his observations and suggestions will come as no surprise, but it could just be that one or three of the sentiments is just what you need to hear right now.

Lessons Learned: Trilogy-writing Edition

Book one in the trilogy (image via JohnAugust.com)

In traditional project management, the last phase is closing. It means the project is accepted as ‘completed’ on some level of formality. Not only that, what with project managers loving to document things, they like to document ‘”lessons learned.” In other words, what will you do better next time? What might you try to avoid doing altogether? What definitely worked? While users of agile and lean frameworks may think of continuous improvement, a good concept to bear in mind, sometimes you only have the chance to really step back and evaluate what the heck happened at a bigger milestone.

“Post-mortems” in theater and film projects are where I first encountered “lessons learned,” so when I later crossed over into the office environment, they were not unfamiliar and something I’ve encouraged for both their pragmatic and cathartic benefits. This has also meant that I’ve always known it’s good and necessary to do lessons learned for creative projects.

So I was thrilled to see screenwriter and all-around storyteller John August detail some of his lessons learned after completing his foray into middle-grade fiction. (That’s the Arlo Finch series pictured above).

Long-time readers may recall I listen to the screenwriting podcast he and fellow scribe Craig Mazin do, called Scriptnotes. Long-time listeners of that podcast will already know August approaches most things with a thoroughly methodical, yet joyful frame of mind. You’ll see that on display in this list of 10 lessons learned. I’m not writing a trilogy per se, but a lot of the lessons here apply to my writing. Hope they work for you all as well.

Aaron Sorkin Gives Screenwriting Support

Purveyor of hyperreal –and immensely satisfying– dialogue, playwright/screenwriter Aaron Sorkin jumped online last week to give a few really choice answers to some Twitter questions. Enjoy.

Video

Wait, Tolkien was Working on a LOTR Sequel?!?

Many of you already knew this and (spoiler alert), there’s good reasons why he abandoned the ideas as the video goes into, but I was not aware — and it does touch on some of his writing process and his motivation to write in any case.

Video

Writing Advice from George R. R. Martin

Since I did a Monday motivational post last week about writing, I figured I’d delve into that well again, especially since motivational YouTuber Evan Carmichael went ahead and did a compilation video of another well known speculative fiction author.

Truth be told, I actually haven’t read much of George R. R. Martin’s work. I commented to friends that I’d try his landmark series, A Song of Ice and Fire, after the TV show Game of Thrones was over — and I’m

But I’ve found him to be an engaging and insightful speaker whenever I’ve heard interviews with him and that proves to be the case here. I especially like his tip to read widely, not just comic books and sci-fi and such. He’s a huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy and comics, of course, but he loves history and mystery and all sorts of other things… and goodness knows I think reading more across all genres helps one’s writing.

Video

Writing Advice from Neil Gaiman

I’ve been talking with several people offline about writing, so my web wanderings led me to this compilation by motivational YouTuber Evan Carmichael.

I’ve seen many of these clips before, but it was nice to see them in one place. I especially like the notion of walking toward the mountain (which I’ve heard other people speak of in other terms) as well as the notions of where ideas come from (which may be worth a future post in and of itself).