Eight Tips for Writing

  1. Read a lot of books
    • After reading a Stephen King novel, you might find that your children’s book is a little rough around the edges. That is because reading is extremely influential! All those new words crammed into your head is bound to reflect upon your personality, which will reflect through your writing. Just as much as you’re researching for your next piece of work, train yourself for that next piece of work. If you’re thinking of an internalized narrative with a twinge of memoir, we suggest Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. If you are trying to write a children’s book with a hint of murder-mystery, go ahead and read Stephen King.
  2. Read a couple of books at a time
    • One mistake is eating with your eyes. Sure, reading is exciting and filling your bookshelf up with the variant, pretty colors of interesting stories is impressive but reading too many books at once can be overwhelming. Try to make two books at the same time your maximum. In this way, you don’t get the plots mixed up and you don’t fall into the curse of procrastination due to feeling burdened and exhausted with completing a book in a reasonable amount of time.
  3. Write everything you’re thinking and then trim the split ends
    • This is similar to our Break and Revise rule. Hold nothing back. Make a descriptor out of every little thing that comes into your head and then shave it down when you read over it, obviously realizing that it’s verbose. You’ll still have plenty of sentences Goodreads.com will quote you by and then you’ll have spare sentences you can elaborate on in future stories. There are hundreds of ways to write one story as there are hundreds of ways to say one thing. Have exactly the adjectives and the verbs and the adverbs at hand so you hit your explanations on the head. There’s no shame in using a thesaurus to remind you of a term you don’t use on a daily basis. We don’t all speak like Donald Sutherland all the time.
  4. Whatever you didn’t say during your last argument, write a story around it
    • We’re all probably familiar with l’esprit de l’escalier. That statement– that one statement could’ve blown everyone’s minds! Don’t worry. You can still blow people’s minds. If you’ve walked away from an argument feeling that your opposed’s wit got the best of you, elaborate a fantasy in which you rewrite history (literally) and your cunning account becomes a beloved piece. You will have defeated every argumentative jerk you’ve encountered and people will like your version better. Even throw in some accounts that didn’t make the cut. Inglourious Basterds did it and we were all like, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Some people enjoy realistic tales of misfortune. In movies and in real life, no person who has suffered a loss really lost at all. Or, in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost.” We either learn something from it, gain the sympathy of others, or become renowned for our dereliction. However, like in every Disney movie, most people love watching the underdog prevail. The greatest defeat is success. We should perceive success in everything we endure but the greatest defeat is success.
  5. Make an idea for a novel and an idea for a flash fiction piece interchangeable
    • All novels don’t necessarily have to contain a full cast of characters and several different conflicts leading up to a grand conclusion; all flash fiction pieces don’t have to have a couple characters interacting in a very light plot. In Forty Years From Yesterday, a man discovers his wife has passed and grieves. The eighty-minute relatable drama has a minimalistic script and very little drama. Have one character and one situation complete your five-hundred page novel; have thirty characters drive an intricate plot in your flash fiction piece. They do call it creative writing for a reason, after all. A British novelist from Gloucestershire, England wrote a ridiculous tale about witchcraft and wizards and a schoolboy who must save his school and was acclaimed because the Harry Potter series was so well-written. Remember to depend on the writing because any bad story can be great if it is written masterfully. Any great story can suffer at the hands of bad writing.
  6. Don’t think about the book as a whole– think about the stories that make it up
    • Wanting to become J.K. Rowling is a long shot because not even J.K. Rowling thought she’d become J.K. Rowling. Maya Angelou didn’t sit down one day and aim to write as many poems as she did. All great writers took their work one page at a time. If you have a story, focus on the characters and what they’re doing to lead up to the climax, not how many pages you want the introduction to be or how long you want the climax to be dragged on so anticipation can be at an all-time high. If it feels natural getting right to the climax, get right to the climax. If you have no more words after the climax, end the story. Spend more time on what you want to lead up to rather than how many pages you’re going for. A novel wouldn’t make it to Oprah’s Book Club just because it’s five-hundred pages. Again, a great story can receive slack for trying too hard. Gone Girl got right to the plot and anticipation was still at an all-time high. Prisoners took a while to get the peak of the story but it ended short and the story was still good. When in doubt, leave your story up to interpretation and critique (like many great stories).
  7. When starting your book, if your flow has come to a premature halt, think of two different plots and tie them together
    • Sometimes, ideas run dry. Ending the story too soon can make for a piece without an actual story. If you don’t know already, everything can be brought together. For example, we’re going to make the blanket you sleep with connected to deep conditioning your hair by connecting blankets to cotton and cotton to clothing and clothing to t-shirts and t-shirts to drying hair and drying hair to wetting hair and wetting hair to deep conditioning. There! We like to play Wiki Wars to sharpen our open-mindedness for these things. In A Place Beyond the Pines,  we thought the story would be over when hapless Luke’s story is told and he dies after officer Avery Cross faces him. No, no, no! A totally different story picks up! Two random characters meet and you’re all like, “What’s going on?” Jason is AJ are what’s going on– the sons of Luke and Avery Cross respectively! Jason is about to carry his revenge out toward wannabe-hapless AJ Cross. So, anyway, write a story beginning with blankets and explain how warm the cotton is and how cotton is also in t-shirts. And then take the story to deep conditioning and explain the deep conditioning process and how important it is to deep condition hair while wet. And then bring blankets and deep conditioning hair full circle by connecting t-shirts to wet hair. It’ll all work out with a better story line.
  8. Write with a pen and paper outdoors
    • Writing in a Starbucks is pretty cliche but if it’s the only place that will get you off of your couch, so bet it. Watching television for inspiration can only get you so far so quit trying to convince yourself that that episode of True Life is going to provide the basis to your next big piece. Getting out assists writing so much more. When you authentically see what you want to describe, you become more in touch with your ability to describe it. Some people have photographic memory and x-ray vision.. some don’t. Go downtown and sit outside of the library (or inside if you want). Smell the air, observe the density of the clouds, absorb the movement or lack thereof around you. We can offer some leeway and allow typing your story instead of writing it. A quill pen can be a little pretentious. A typewriter is as well– remember that. We commend you for striving for perfection by not giving yourself the opportunity to fuck up but a computer has an undo button for error and a pen can cross permanent things out. Even austerity deserves imagery and you won’t nail the austerity of a small-town downtown inside the austerity of your living room. You don’t have to be in the most interesting of places– not everyone has access to Literary Walk and, anyway, just because the names of authors are inscribed on park benches, doesn’t mean your story will be great. As a matter of fact, writing on Literary Walk is probably more cliche than writing in a cafe.

Regular Show Cameos

For those of you who enjoy the occasional cartoon program, you will find that cartoons ain’t Boomerang or Cartoon Cartoon Fridays anymore. The evolution of cartoons has been a long one. First rife with blackface and antisemitic propositions, animators like Chuck Jones exchanged the insensitivity for animals chasing and very elaborately murdering each other. The Happy Tree Friends are just the Looney Tunes with blood. After eliminating discreet grown up jokes and sexual innuendos– you know that period of time when cartoons were dim-witted and screwball–, Cartoon Network (for some reason) raised the bar for appropriately inappropriate cartoons all the way up. Chowder, the Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, Adventure Time, and Regular Show blessed us with their attractive picture. They are just underhandedly dirty enough for a children’s network but too clean for Comedy Central. Goodbye doltish and balmy, hello awesome television!

Carefully placed 420 on bedside clock.

Carefully placed 420 on bedside clock.

Adventure Time and Regular Show has made their way on over to the adult demographic (marijuana smokers to be specific). For Regular Show, its relaxed humor and natural execution of their scripts are partially responsible for its success; its cameo guest stars are also accountable. Much like the occasional American Dad episode that has you trying with all your memory to put a finger on just who that voice-over is, Regular Show is like the Sesame Street of young adult cartoon shows. Here is a list of all of Regular Show‘s cameos.

0106 – Meat Your Maker: Tim Curry as Hot Dog Leader
0107 – Grilled Cheese Deluxe: Scott MacDonald as Major Williams and B.J. Ward as Dr. Asinovskovich
0112 – Mordecai and the Rigbys: Paul F. Tompkins as Voice on Record
0204 – Dizzy: David Ogden Stiers as Mr. Maellard
0219 – Really Real Wrestling: Lee Reherman as the Fire Marshall
0223 – More Smarter: Sunil Malhotra as the Teacher

0306 – Slam Dunk: Carl Weathers as the Basketball King
0309 – Rap It Up: Tyler the Creator as Blitz Comet, MC Lyte as Damel-ishun, and Donald Glover as Alpha Dog
0319 – Video Game Wizard: Trent Baker as Maximum Glove Kid
0325 – Yes Dude Yes: Linda Cardellini as C.J.
0327 – Dead at Eight: Michael Dorn as Thomas
0328 – Access Denied: Natasha Leggero as LaDonna
0334 – Prankless: Kurtwood Smith as Gene the Vending Machine

0409 – The Christmas Special: Thomas Haden Church as Quillgin
0428 – Meteor Moves: Wayne Knight as Guardian of the Friend Zone
0437 – Steak Me Amadeus: Dawnn Lewis as Duck Lady

0510 – Bank Shot: Phil LaMarr as Cash Bankis
0512 – The Thanksgiving Special: Terry Crew at Broc Stettman, Josh Keaton as Auto T, Letoya Luckett as Jennifer, Chord Overstreet as Dusty B, and Alastair Duncan as Mordecai’s Dad
0515 – Dodge This: Debra Wilson as Council Woman
0516 – Portable Toilet: Mark Deklin as the Corporal, Rhomeyn Johnson as the General, and Tim Russ as the Sergeant
0517 – The Postcard: Zosia Mamet as Celia
0526 – I Like You Hi: Rich Fulcher as Answering Machine
0527 – Play Date: Julian Holloway as Death

0601 – Maxin’ and Relaxin’: Ed Begley Jr. as Mordecai’s Dad and Katey Sagal as Mordecai’s Mom
0602 – New Bro on Campus: Danny Cooksey as Reggie
0603 – Daddy Issues: Christopher McDonald as Carl Putter
0612 – Sad Sax: Jason Mantzoukas as Sad Sax Guy
0615 – Married and Broke: Jon Daly as Teddy
0616 – Format Wars II: Joel McHale as DVD
0621 – Party Horse: Adam Pally as Party Horse 42699

Can you say HQ TV?

The Slap

The American version of the Australian mini-series the Slap, which was a rendition of Christos Tsiolkas’ 2008 novel the Slap, ended two weeks ago. Although it is past-due a review, we’re going to write one anyway.

The novel, a 483 page multiple perspective, begins with a slimy depiction of Hector– he farts, he uses the word “cunt,” he fantasizes about his teenage prospect Connie in the solitude of his integrity. With the typical descriptive nature of a novel, Tsiolkas leaves room for a better critique than its television adaptations so Hector is also characterized as a family man. At the barbecue, family friend and nonconformist mother Rosie consoles her son’s erratic behavior by breastfeeding him in front of the other guests. Hector is partial to her as a result– “[Hector’s] mother could not take her eyes off the suckling child. He knew she was disgusted that Rosie was still breast-feeding Hugo at his age. He agreed with her. ”

Four characters later, Hector’s father Manolis is introduced. His chapter is themed with disappointment for growing old but Tsiolkas also details a closeness with his daughter-in-law Aisha that may have been missed in the show. “Aisha would listen to him. He’d be calm, reasonable. His reasons were sound. She respected him, she loved him. She would listen to him. ” Aisha doesn’t comply with Manolis. She is loyal to her childhood friend however kooky Rosie is because she believes her husband’s cousin is theoretically in the wrong. Her husband and her in-laws, on the other hand, believe that it takes a village. Manolis emigrated to Australia to make a better living. He and his family are all they have. Harry built his fortune through disciplined drive his family’s support.

In the 2011 Australian series, Anouk follows the pilot “Hector.” She is appropriately depicted as an older woman wanting to reverse time. Anouk is a stable writer for a soap opera and is dating a much younger man– a man who is not an actor on the show she writes unlike her character in the book. Nonetheless, the age difference we see in the show allows the series to make more sense if you haven’t read the book. Again, with more detail provided in the novel, Anouk’s character is left shortened and more condensed. The episode jumps right into which side she claims. She agrees that Harry is wrong for slapping Rosie’s son but she disagrees with Rosie’s legal pursuit. In the end, faced with personal dilemmas, her perspective is ambiguous. In our opinion, she could have served as a supporting character in exchange for Gary, Rosie’s husband.

Watch the Slap (AU) here.

Finally, in the United States, Americans rely heavily on blunt, specific, and repeated themes, which makes it less a theme and more a “tell.” Directors cannot simply have Anouk look at Manolis with trust and be certain that viewers understood she respected him. Directors had to spend more time on fundamental aspects of the story, sacrificing important details for the simplistic aesthetic of the mini-series. Naturally, the characterization was rushed and all over the place. Before reading the book, with only the series to rely on, I totally missed Aisha’s close relationship with Manolis. In the second episode, “Harry,” Harry’s relationship with his wife was explained too briefly. It was too segmented to be properly picked apart– he’s at home teaching his son the lesson of diligence, and then he’s aggressive with his wife, then he’s kissing his subordinate, then he’s running his household while being pitifully detained for his split-second decision that is the foundation to this story. His opposed, Rosie, follows five episodes later. Nearing the finale, the series started to make more sense. Those who initially disagreed with Rosie can’t help but feel sorry for her as she is a struggling soul. She adjusted to her life as a protective yet free-spirited mother after living the fast-paced life of a model. She isn’t like Harry who values laborious structure for what it’s worth because she values freedom for what it’s worth. Harry built his fortune through his family’s drive– his family’s American-dream-attaining drive.

In the end, Harry is sent to jail with a side note from the convicting judge that Gary and Rosie need to watch it. “Mr. and Mrs. Weschler, before you leave this courtroom gloating, you can expect a visit from Child Protective Services. If there is another incident of your son potentially being harmed or harming someone else, you will be held responsible.” The show’s literal symbol of justice stated that there is no side to take– they are both equally in the wrong.

Anouk’s stance on the matter is probably the most popular stance readers and viewers took but the reality is that the boy needed to be disciplined. Harry was out of line but Rosie was too aloof. So who takes the disciplinary reins? There needed to be a side. We, as Americans, can’t not take a side. We’re not down to leave things up for discussions.

Watch the Slap (US) here.

In the closing scene where the characters gather round Anouk and her baby and Gary, Rosie, and Hugo unexpectantly enter, Hugo trails off to Anouk who has separated herself from all of the commotion. In our opinion, it would’ve been so clutch if the directors assumed poetic license let Hugo drop or hurt the baby. In this version, the slap would’ve come full circle.

Who do you think is or should be responsible for correcting Hugo’s uncontrollable behavior?

Anyway, it’s a work of art all around– an excruciatingly long work of fiction shortened for the fleeting attention span for television. Both mediums complemented the story.

Five Simple Ways to Celebrate Lit Mag Success

1. Gloat in Your Glory
For just a moment, you deserve to do your little dance because a literary establishment considered your work valuable enough to share with the world. This is the first step in your benefaction to the world. Someone may stumble upon your work and rethink their entire life!

2. Compose Yourself
After being shot with energetic self-encouragement, collect yourself and think about what you’re actually going to do. Developing a big head is the last thing you’ll want to do. Harvey Mackay said, “A great accomplishment shouldn’t be the end of the road, just the starting point for the next leap forward.” Accomplishments are checkpoints to a never-ending game. You have several options to become a greater you. Meetup may have a literary event in your area if your town’s Parks and Recreation isn’t already hosting one. After treating yourself to an old-fashioned skills sharpening, submit to another magazine that will either put you through the same intense excitement or bring you all the way down. Visit Poets & Writers to decide which magazine will be the lucky one to do that to you.

3. Write a Saga Inspired
Perhaps your story wasn’t monumental enough to become a novel overnight. Perhaps it is! This is your time to go over the possibility of expanding your plot and taking it from there. Add a fictional character whose name rhymes with your name and some very vague personal accounts wouldn’t hurt, either. Your life is interesting, too. It could even become a film the way Jeffrey Eugenides did it. Don’t feel up to hacking away at your keyboard for months? Maybe create a theme throughout your craft by being inspired by yourself. Pretentious, right? It just may work.

4. Watch Something
Ever watch a movie about dancing and contemplate a dancing career? Ever get done watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians and wonder, with bitterness mixed with drive, why you can’t have the kind of lifestyle that allows you to visit three major cities in one weekend? Better– why you weren’t the kind of teenager who, instead of telling your parents you’d be down the street, would tell them you’d be across the country. Finding Forrester and the Words are two amongst fourteen films that deliver that literarily drive to us. Watch or rewatch these picks to remind yourself of the perks of modern-day writing as well at the roots of literature.

5. Break and Revise
The best habit a writer could take up is storing work away in a “vault” and then coming back to it weeks, months, even years later. You’d be surprised at how different your writing perspective is after reading other literature, watching things that inspire you, and just developing as a person. As you allow things to influence you, you become more experienced and your writing improves. Your writing is a template in the first draft. By putting yourself on these breaks, you refresh the writing and it becomes a second draft the first time you revisit it. After a while, the story becomes unrecognizable! You may even wonder what you were thinking when you read the original version. No piece will suffer from a revision. Read more about Muphry’s Law.

Fourteen Films That Drive Us Literarily

Finding Forrester (2000)

A wise old man guides an ill-fated boy with a natural knack for writing. If this isn’t the Karate Kid of literature, I don’t know what is. Forrester is allegedly inspired by J. D. Salinger because of the private life the character led.

The Words (2012)

Frustrated with his manila folder full of rejection letters, a writer allows the lost work of another man to make him a legendary writer. Inspired by Hemingway’s suitcase full of manuscripts misplaced at the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris, this film embodies the genuine struggles of being a modern-day writer.

Adaptation (2002)

The slack Nicholas Cage receives is beyond us. He portrayed a depressed divorcee in the Weatherman, an effortful husband in the Family Man, and a deep, poetic rambler in Leaving Las Vegas. Two of the three were less about literature but were great plots nonetheless. He played his own twin in this film written after Susan Orlean’s the Orchid Thief. An anxious screenwriter, his slovenly brother, writer’s block– what more do we need here?

The Secret Window (2004)

When the writing process meets insanity, the work is sure to be great. Mort Rainey over-exceeds what he’s willing to lose in order to gain his next big story. The psychological thriller accompanied by Rainey’s too-casual humor is based on Stephen King’s Secret Window, Secret Garden.

Howl (2010)

This fast-paced, spoken word-ridden, cigarette-curling, nonstop account on Allen Ginsberg’s life is one for the books. Grimy, congested 1950’s New York City doesn’t hurt our eyes either. Frankly, we’re impressed James Franco pulled it off.

Running With Scissors (2006)

Augusten Burroughs is an actual guy who wrote this memoir, outshining his struggling writer, mentally ill mother Margaret Robison. If our memory serves us correct, there’s a scene in which Augusten’s mother receives yet another rejection letter. Oh, the trials of literature troubling our souls!

The Hours (2002)

The Hours chronicles one unrecognizable Nicole Kidman channeling Virginia Woolf, an internalized Julianne Moore as 1950’s housewife Laura Brown, and Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughan offering a helping hand to her AIDS survivor, poet friend, who we later learn is the son of Laura Brown. The film was pretty lengthy but we got the gist of it– the distressing heartbreak of women goes beyond the burden of keeping up a household and Mrs Dalloway is an exceptional read. And Philip Glass on the soundtrack made the film worth watching.

Young Adult (2011)

Young Adult might be difficult to follow because the climax is so quick and random. Pretty much– a ghost writer for teeny-bopper novels returns to her hometown to reclaim her high school man. Unfortunately, the guy is married, a new father, and in no way dropping hints that he missed what they had. Still, instead of trying to meet her deadline, she devotes all of her time to making a fool of herself and then she goes back home. As Flavorwire put it, the story represents the whole writing process. Perhaps Mavis Gary is at work and using her experience to meet her deadline. She does finish her story troubled-artist-isolation style in a nearby hotel (no disrespect to her parents). Her story ends with her main character graduating high school and looking forward to the future.

Girl Most Likely (2012)

Like Young Adult, Imogene is a once-successful writer who just can’t get it together. The film is quirky and the characters are true. We just sorta felt that Imogene was a little before her beau’s time. Oh, well.. when you write your own movie you can choose the tallest, darkest man to fall in love with you.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

This movie is an accurate depiction of the writing process for mainstream audiences. Unfortunately, unless writing is your life (or depends on another’s life), they won’t actually get it. Something to take from this film– narrating your own life as you commute to work, walk to the shitter, even lie in bed at night can improve your writing.

A Single Man (2009)

Quiet, gray, cerebral, and sad, A Single Man tracks the day of an English professor planning to commit suicide while mourning the loss of his partner. He meets a young student, they converse, they make love, the professor becomes content, and then the professor dies suddenly of natural causes. This isn’t artsy Los Angeles in the sixties the way Harvey Milk enjoyed it but it’s artsy Los Angeles nonetheless. As a matter of fact, the scenery looks more like the Hamptons than California.

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Bloated with fictitious quotes we writers can still take with us in our literary expeditions, Woody Allen delivers an easily brilliant script as he has always done. If you like simple-science-fiction-meets-literature, you like Gil Pender overlapping the eras of renowned, venerable authors to discover that he hates his eras and his pseudo-intellectual friends.

Paper Man (2009)

This isn’t that animated black-and-white that pops up in your Google search results. This is Ryan Reynolds in tights and a writer tortured by his failed enthusiasm and the hundreds of unsold, printed books that surround and remind him. Let us all pray we never have to sit on a one to two thousand dollar couch fashioned out of our failed pile of books. As a writer, your couch should cost at least three hundred dollars.

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Another film about an educator who is grieving the loss of what makes him a passionate man. As a married man’s writing suffers on account of his day job, his separation from his wife bleeds onto their two sons– the eldest slowly turns into his arrogant father, the youngest just becomes angry. To add injury to insult, the wife’s work is published to the New Yorker and Bernard Berkman officially becomes a dying artist. Everything turns out okay, though, because this is an arthouse dramedy.

Six Films On Our Should’ve Watched List
(We’ll get back to you.)

  • Adult World (2013)
  • On the Road ..? (2012)
  • The Door in the Floor (2004)
  • Swimming Pool (2003)
  • Wonder Boys (2000)
  • Deathtrap (1982)