Tag Archives: Writing Process

Video

Bradbury on Starting Writing, Keeping Writing, and Love

I grew up reading Ray Bradbury stories and loved it when 13 of his short stories were adapted for radio (because, you know, I’m into that sort of thing). So, naturally, I’ve checked out some interviews and lectures where he talks about writing and his thoughts on it.

This hour-long lecture comes from when Bradbury was around 80, so it should come as no surprise if your curmudgeon detector goes off. However, other videos can give you more of a taste of that.

Here, I especially like how he tackles:

How to get started writing

His advocacy of attempting short stories before getting deep into novels mirrors other a lot of what I’ve read and heard in the filmmaking realm, where doing shorts is often vital in learning various aspects of craft. It also matches what many people say in that the quantity and mindful practice is invaluable to getting better.

How to get your brain percolating about writing

I mean, as the lecture goes on, he does keep on adding to one’s evening homework, but Bradbury isn’t the only one who advocates reading poetry (I’ve had acting teachers and dialect coaches push for the same).

And it seems like a good way to keep your brain active in any case (writer or not).

Why you’re writing in the first place

As with any creative pursuit, it should all roll back to love, which he mentions generally near the beginning and closes with very personally at the end.

Video

Margaret Atwood on Writing

This one’s from 4 years ago, but pretty evergreen: persistent writer Margaret Atwood talks with a new generation of writers about her process and some key writing tips… and don’t forget to sit up straight.

Lessons Learned from NaNoWriMo, 20 Years On

It’s National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. Right now, friends and colleagues are busily trying to reach daily word counts that will total 50,000 words or more at the end of the month.

I linked to a series of resources (articles, videos) about approaching NaNoWriMo and novel writing last month. My month is packed full of going through casting submissions for the first half and then script-writing on a certain space opera for the second half, but I wanted to add something for folks novel-writing one week in.

Okay, most folks are probably using some for of word processor vs. doing NaNoWriMo long hand, but this looks cooler (also, less like a crazed hacker).

Long-time NaNoWriMo participant Kathy Kitts has seen some things over the years and shares her experience… and since she’s not only a writer, but a scientist, she brings a certain entertaining rigor to her observations over the years.

“Leveling Up” your Writing Prior to NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us, so I’ve been posting articles for what many writers call National Novel Prep Month.

(I’m mainly going to hype my writing in an anthology this month… and also work on some scriptwriting).

In this installment, Shannon Valenzuela goes into some actions you can take to make the most of your prep.

Video

8 Things to Consider Before Writing Your First Novel (Possible NaNoWriMo Prep)

NaNoWriMo will be upon us next month, and so for a lot of people, October is National Novel Prep Month.

(I’m mainly going to hype my writing in an anthology this month… and also work on some scriptwriting).

But let’s say you haven’t written a novel before and were anxious about it and were wondering about what will work and what won’t work and what will work for you…

Well, since I featured one Vlog brother during Banned Books Week, I might as well feature the other one now:

Okay, so, what would my takes be?

Characters vs. Plot

Of course, you need both. The key is where you start and I know of writers who use one or other to get a story going. Not only that, the same writer may need a good plot hook to get one story going where they’ll need a compelling character to get into another story.

The one thing I definitely want to echo from Green’s advice above is it’s a love for the characters that provides fuel. For my short story “Final Delivery” in the anthology linked above, it was naturally the plot I came up with first, but it was the characters that made it fun and ring true as I was writing. For Rogue Tyger, that’s also a very plot-heavy series at present (what with all the cliffhangers), but it’s crafting and deepening the characters and figuring out how they’ll deal with various situations that makes me want to fire up ye olde computer again. Loving the characters, even if the characters are not lovely, can see you through any plot.

Binge Writing vs. Daily Ritual

If I say “only daily ritual” then I will be completely lying to you because many of my scripts, like Nostromo 2 were finished thanks to an intense, sleep-depriving binge session.

However, that’s because we had a very real deadline to perform said script.

But I’ll point again to something specific Hank Green mentions in the video about needing to work on the story steadily through a given week otherwise he forgets the story. Simply put: you want your brain to be thinking about your story when you’re not writing. It will solve problems and make connections like your muscles heal back stronger after a workout. It’s wonderful.

This is why I will forever advocate reading Cory Doctorow’s article about writing 20 minutes a day, because being able to do that is how you get through huge chunks of writing like a novel or a season’s worth of scripts.

Writing is not always writing

While I completely agree about this, I’m still an advocate of “showing up” for those regular writing sessions. And remember, that 20 minutes or hour or 1-2 hours can be at the same time or different times, depending on your everyday life level of crazy, just so long as you regularly show up. I try and make it be around the same time and I know I’m not the only person who benefits from that schedule, but I also know there’s a reason why I or other binge write because that’s when we have time.

My point is that showing up specifically to put words on paper has to be in the mix. If that session is just staring at the keyboard or thinking, then I advocate doing so many of the other things he’s talking about from researching to re-reading your work, etc. so that you can put words on paper. I’m not concerned about word count, just words on paper, steadily, inevitably (moo hoo ha ha ha).

Time Writes the Book

I mean, that’s what I mentioned above, so I agree. Ya just gotta keep putting words up there. You’ll read no end of people who say the first draft is crap no matter who you are. If you need to hear that so you won’t edit while your write, fine. If you need to not believe that because otherwise you won’t write, don’t believe it. Just get all the words you need on the page. Put it in the time.

How to Plot

Writing is re-writing, so I love his idea of having a guide of “things to change” so he doesn’t mess with his flow.

My method of plotting likely deserves its own post, but the short version I equate to outlining high-level enough to head in what seems to be the right direction for the given story and only tightening the screws of scenes when I need to so I don’t need to re-do stuff, but if I do –hey, they’re screws, not nails. It’s like when you’re building a flat for theater scenery and–

Okay, I’ll save all that for later.

The Characters Have to be Real

Don’t disagree at all, but sometimes I’m the DM observing the player characters do their thing and sometimes the story demands I throw a hazard in their way… or, y’know, have them die a horrible death.

As long as things are truthful.

Don’t Write Linear if You Don’t Want To

This goes back into some of my plotting. For any given story, I might have whole scenes totally written that are in Episode 27 because that’s what excited me to write the story.

I have written the last scene of the entire series, Rogue Tyger. Will I rewrite it? Almost certainly — given all the scenes and episodes I’ll write between now and then. But, damn, it was fun to write.

Don’t Ignore Your Passions When Writing

“Write what you know” is an aphorism that definitely deserves its own post to pull apart, but here I also wholeheartedly agree: put your passion and truth into your writing, don’t close it off. To paraphrase Dr. Spock, “You can write more than you think because you know more than you think.”

Hope you enjoyed the video and some wheels are turning in your brain. I’ll be back each Monday this month with more NaNoWriMo prep.

Neil Gaiman on Writing

Considering I shared some interviews of Rod Serling on writing earlier, what are the odds that I’d share an interview with Neil Gaiman after last week’s post?

Pretty darn good.

So here’s a good 100-minute interview with Tim Ferris from 2019 where Neil Gaiman goes into all sorts of things from his formative years to fountain pens to his writing process (and I have to say, I do like the change in format enforcing the editing phase).

A Lot More Q&A with Rod Serling

After watching the Rod Serling video compilation back in July, I’ve gone down a modest Rod Serling rabbit hole looking for other videos and talks and interviews he’s given.

As you might imagine, YouTube does provide.

This nearly hour-long entry is essentially a long question-answer session from UCLA circa 1971. As with many of the other videos I’ve come across, many of his answers and references are very topical to 1971, so be warned that you may need to fire your history synapses for some of the shows and events cited.

Nevertheless, I found many of the answers –even though they were very much of the time regarding the recent departure of Star Trek from the airwaves to Serling’s displeasure at his current gig Night Gallery– to be interesting enough to share.

via UCLA

Now, while this is a video, it’s simply a recording of the session at UCLA… and because there wasn’t any presumption of broadcast, you’ll hear some salty language from both Serling and some of the student. Also, and this is something I’ve found in some of the other videos I’ve watched, Serling can be irascible and prickly with some of the questions… which is interesting, because he seems remarkably self-aware that he is being irascible. Perhaps the most poignant aspects of this self-awareness is when they discuss his addiction to smoking, which he knew was not good for his health.

Rod Serling on Writing

I was recently writing a short story that I purposely wanted to have a “Twilight Zone” feel for both the structure my overall understanding of how the story would unfold. I mean, I linked to it above, but the phrase “Twilight Zone” and its implications has permeated culture so thoroughly that, even without an impressive three follow-up series, I think it would still occupy a place in people’s minds.

So, after finishing the story, I came across this video in my “stuff to check out” folder and enjoyed it immensely. It appears to be a mash-up of at least two sessions Rod Serling had with students in the 60s or 70s (so if anyone finds the uncut versions posted, let me know). In it they discuss creativity, the writing process, Serling’s very definite views on the subjects, and –as comes as no surprise– more than a little autobiographical info on what made Serling tick.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in a bit more of how the whole manner of putting an anthology show together from the producing side, (you know, if one were to work on anthology shows themselves…) Buck Houghton wrote a book all about it which I still find myself referencing and recommending.

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.