Monday, September 16, 2013

Two Authors Discuss Writer's Block


Mont: Hell, I don’t know what it is, Hal, but I’m not in the right place right now.  Every time I set aside some time to sit down and write it’s like I’m setting down some time not to write, which is crazy because that’s what I’m doing all the time.

Hal: Yeah, sometimes you just end up in the wrong place, I suppose.

Mont:  Hey, I never said I was in the wrong place, just not the right place.

Hal:  But you kind of inferred it.  And that’s how it is with writing, for me.  I’m either writing or not writing.  There’s no grey, no fuzzy, no in-between.

Mont: You want my opinion?  I think that’s just a crime writer thing.  Everything in black and white.  Right/wrong, either/or — works for the genre I suppose.

Hal: Quit confusing me with my genre, willya?  What you say about crime writing is true — it’s very clinical in those either/or terms — but I’m a regular guy, and to assume the lack of fuzziness regarding my craft either reflects upon, or dictates, my personality or my character or my soul — or whatever aspect of me you wanna discuss — well that’s just crazy.

Mont: So you’re saying you’re not fuzzy right now?  If you have writer’s block you gotta be fuzzy as hell.  That’s the whole problem, surely?

Hal: Said Mr Fuzzy Guy Fuckin’ Central.

Mont: Whaaat?

Hal: You gotta admit, fantasy kind of lends itself to fuzziness, and I wonder sometimes if you’re not just making it all up about your writer’s block, like you’ve written a Tolkienesque trilogy and you’re just keeping it under your hat, playing like you have writer’s block so you can surprise me three months down the line when Iain Banks’ agent takes you on as the new Iain Banks.

Mont: So you’re saying fantasy is crap?

Hal: I’m saying fantasy is a shedload easier to make up than crime writing, and when it comes to writer’s block, you know shit all about it.

Mont: The hell I do!  Remember the script I showed you last autumn?

Hal: The dwarves in the flying longboat?

Mont: Exactly.  I took your crits onboard, and revised the whole section with the dragon — remember the dragon?

Hal: How could I forget the dragon...?

Mont: Exactly.  So I got five hundred words in and dried up.  Couldn’t figure what the hell to do.

Hal: Your point being?

Mont: My point being that I had writer’s frickin’ block!

Hal: No you didn’t.  You just couldn’t be bothered to follow my suggestions about losing the dragon.

Mont: The dragon made the scene!

Hal: Or the longboat.

Mont: How in hell are the dwarves going to fly to the promised land without their friggin’ longboat?

Hal: Or the dwarves.

Mont: Fuck off, Hal.  You’re just a smug smartass of a crime writer who knows jack shit about...jack shit.

Hal: So what am I doing sharing a bottle of Southern Comfort with you on your couch barely an hour after you rang me up, in tears?

Mont: Throwing you the hell on out.  That’s what I’m doing.  Fuck off, Hal.  Fuck the hell off.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Killer Method For Improving Your Fiction Writing


    It’s well known in most quality writing circles (and even one or two of the stinkers) that opening your novel or short story with a passage about the weather is a klutz of a boob of an error from Planet No-no.

    Consider this novel opening:

    James looked up at the Sun.  Its warm July rays beat down on his skin, tanning it to the human flesh equivalent of a size 8 gentleman’s brogue.
    “Isn’t it hot?” his sister ejaculated.
    “Oh, yes, it is,” observed James as he leafed through a Christmas card catalogue while mowing the lawn and eating a cheese sandwich which his elderly grandmother had made him only a few hours earlier before she was taken to the hospital after a cycling accident.
    A solitary cloud floated over the apple tree.
    “Maybe we’ll have rain later,” intoned Jane, James’ sister.  “That would be a great pity because I’d like to sunbathe naked for a few hours.”
    “The weatherman said there might be rain,” chuckled James, tucking into a strawberry and cream flavoured yoghurt.  “But I don’t remember his name.  Oh, wait a minute, it was Alan.”

    It’s all exciting stuff, and more potential plot twists are hinted at here than in the first few minutes of any of the recent Batman films.  The problem is that all the business of the weather acts as a major distraction from the action.

    But look what happens when all reference to the weather is edited out...

    James’ skin was like the human flesh equivalent of a size 8 gentleman’s brogue. [Weird, isn’t it?]  His sister ejaculated as he leafed through a Christmas card catalogue while mowing the lawn and eating a cheese sandwich which his elderly grandmother had made him only a few hours earlier before she was taken to the hospital after a cycling accident. [OK, I admit — this section is still pretty good]
    James tucked in to a strawberry and cream flavoured yogurt.

    Everything seems kind of meaningless now.  The weather helped to set the original scene, and without it our intrepid heroes are lost in an unappealing cardboard limbo.

    But there’s a way round this dilemma — a cunning way, a way that will have literary agents and publishers lapping up your writing like cats with milk or cat-eating pandas with cats with milk.

    I call it the Slip The Weather In Gently Like A Banana Between The Thighs Of Queen Elizabeth II And The Duke Of Edinburgh As They Flounce Down The Mall In An Open Carriage Technique.

    Here it is in action:

    A warm July glow leapt from James’ skin like the tanned leather of a gentleman’s size 8 brogue.   [Notice the subtlety here?  It’s killer.] His sister crossed the patio, sweating.
    “I could do with being locked in a fridge for a week,” she ejaculated, sweating again.  [Notice how I’m ladling in the effects of the weather here rather than pointing it up gratuitously?  It’s a technique called “Showing, Not Telling”, and it’s an indispensable tool for generating quality fiction — apart from when you need to lie to the police after exposing your genitals in a supermarket.]
    “My, you’re really sweating today,” observed James as he leafed through a Christmas card catalogue while mowing the lawn and eating a cheese sandwich which his elderly grandmother had made him only a few hours earlier before she was taken to the hospital after a cycling accident. [Classic lines like this never, ever need editing.]
    “I’m Jane,” intoned Jane, “and I’m your sister.”  She took off her bikini and flopped onto the patio.  “I could still use a fridge, but maybe not quite so much now that I’m in the buff.”
    James tucked into a strawberry and cream flavoured yogurt.  “I’m just going to the kitchen to get some plastic carrier bags and cling film,” he chuckled.  “Then I’ll visit the shed and pick up some bamboo canes.  After that I’m going to construct a kind of waterproof gazebo for you because I have every reason to believe you may need it later on this afternoon, thanks to a guy called Alan.” [There’s room for trimming here, but you get the idea.]

    Take a look at that passage again.  All the storytelling, mood and scene setting elements of the weather are included — yet not once has any direct reference been made to the Sun.

    I guarantee that if you use my Slip The Weather In Gently Like A Banana Between The Thighs Of Queen Elizabeth II And The Duke Of Edinburgh As They Flounce Down The Mall In An Open Carriage Technique, your fiction will glow like the work of a genius.

    Try it today!  You have nothing to lose!