Monday, November 17, 2008

Reading about Writing

It's blog chain time again! And we all know what that means - there's a shared topic that a group of writers blog about and pass along with links from one person to the next. It is super easy to follow too. Want to start at the beginning? Michelle McLean started the fun over at Writer Ramblings. After Michelle, Sandra of Dual Citizenship in SpecFic and Mundania gave her take on the topic, and now it is my turn. Cool, right?

Now for this weeks topic:

Share a favorite poem, quote, joke, anecdote, or anything of the sort that deals with writing, writers, the publishing industry, or the other strange and unusual tidbits that belong to our little world.

I am going to start with a quote that is equal parts funny and true.

"Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing."
(Meg Chittenden)

Next is a column that is written specifically addressing screenwriters, but which can apply to any kind of writer. It was written by Terry Rossio who along with his writing partner Ted Elliott wrote a few movies you might have heard of - among them: Aladdin, Shrek, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Clearly, these two guys know a thing or two about finding success as a writer. However, this particular column titled, Throw in the Towel, is more about failure. I recommend reading the whole thing, but am going to excerpt a few key parts. This is how the column starts:

You don't get to hear the truth much in this town, so listen up. I'm gonna back up the truck and unload. Harsh truths, right here, right now. And we're gonna start with the most brutal:
You people really aren't much good at writing screenplays.
In fact, your writing pretty much sucks.
You think that's harsh? It gets worse.
-- oh --
-- oh, wait a second, that's right --
-- I almost forgot --
-- you're the special case.
You're the once-in-a-generation manifestation of talent personified. The exception to all the rules. You know that there's only a tiny amount of room in this business for only the absolute most talented, but it's always all those other people who're gonna get squeezed out by the numbers game. Soon, very soon, the industry is just gonna fall all over itself to recognize your unique genius. If only you could juuuuuust get the right people to juuuuuust read your work, they'd see how very SPECIAL you are.
Hmm, funny how all those OTHER people out there trying, they each think THEY'RE the special case too, and that you're part of the loser crowd.
How could that be?
Could it be you're ALL part the loser crowd?

He then goes onto list 15 traits or characteristics that a writer must have to succeed, and with each one points out how you and me do not possess these traits. Depressed yet? Or just pissed? Well, he actually goes on to list another SIX reasons more why we will never succeed.

Okay, now before you start composing angry, "who the hell do you think you are?" emails to either myself or Mr. Rossio, please read just a little bit more.

In truth, anxieties and fears and second-guessing are things we all go through. It's easy enough to write about characters who never say die -- but that sentiment can be tough to live out, in the face of continued rejection, when the rent is due.
In this column, I've tried to put all the negative thoughts you might have in one place. I hope the nay-saying and insults have stirred you up. Maybe along the lines of, "Who the %#$@!!&* does that +^%$*@! think he is? I have talent, I'm as good as anyone, and I'm going to prove it!"
Because you should be pissed if someone tells you you're no good, that you can't do it. And you should be able to shrug off the negative thinking, and prove them wrong. You need to have the confidence to tell everyone they're full of crap. That you know the right path, and you don't need anyone's help.

He finishes the column with two simple ways to know when you really should throw in the towel.

1.) You've given yourself a legitimate shot.
2.) Trying is no longer fun.

You really should read the whole column (And the other columns too. Yes novel writing and screenwriting are different in many ways, however, things like: coming up with a concept, naming your characters, finding a good title, story momentum, and many many many other topics - are concerns that all storytellers share.

That's it from me. Want to read more cool thoughts on writing? If so I suggest you hurry on over to Mindless Musings. Go now.


  1. Wow, that column is harsh. I do have to laugh a little at this: "Many of them [good writers] are wealthy to begin with, so they have time and resources to dedicate to the task." It still makes you think, though.

    Thanks for posting!

  2. I think that's really good advice. You do have to be able to say, p*ss on you...only sometimes in a nicer way...or even not saying it at all but feeling it deep inside. Great post, Kate

  3. You should NEVER throw in the towel.

    A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. ;)

  4. Kate,

    First, thanks for covering my spot on the Chain Gang while things are going crazy here in the OC. I hope I can do your spot as much justice.

    This is a fabulous post. I love the fact that at any level writers are writers are writers...and apparently, the griping, complaining, self-doubt, over-confidence, and grandiose expectations still exist amongst a sea of rejection.


  5. Since beginning the arduous journey as a writer, one theme seems to always come up...You need THICK skin!

    I wholeheartedly agree. Without thick skin, if you have every other talent that makes a great writer, you will never survive the publication process.

    :) Terri

  6. Very very true Terri - and great post Kate! That was a harsh column, but I love the two bits of advice at the end. This is a brutal business to be in...if the trying isn't fun, why put yourself through it? And that quote at the beginning was awesome! And so very true :D

  7. I'm excited Heather is telling us never to throw in the towel. :-D

    I tried to go read the whole Harsh column, but my browser balked, so I'm going to have to try again a little later -- thanks for including snippets in the meantime!

  8. "Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing."

    LMAO! So true!

  9. Great post. Loved how you had funny, harsh, and oh-so-true all covered!