I think I’ve been pretty upfront with the fact that I really don’t know squat about anything I talk about on this blog, other than the simple truths I’ve learned through trial and error. Anything I tell you can be taken with a grain of salt, in the vein of ‘your mileage may vary’.
Just because it works for doesn’t mean it will work for you. Other than the obvious things like ‘Write every day.’ or ‘Don’t talk about writing. Just write’.
For example, my routine that I’ve developed that helps me put my butt in the chair might do exactly the opposite for you. I like to write in the evenings. You might not be able to face the page at any time other than the wee hours of the morning. If you need two hours of free writing in your journal before you can even think about working on your Project, more power to you. Personally, I don’t have that kind of time. Or energy. If I put anything more than a couple hundred words into my journal, I find that I have nothing left when it comes to writing For Score.
Whatever. What I do gets me writing. What you do should do the same. It doesn’t matter how, it only matters that you do.
Anyway, given the caveat above, I think we all need to be careful about where we get our advice, or more importantly, who we listen to. If our Chosen Expert makes more money talking about writing (ie, teaching writing classes) rather than selling their own writing, it might be time to Choose Another Expert.
I recently found out that one of the Gurus of Screenwriting (with a very famous book on the subject) hasn’t changed his course in over 30 years.
The industry has changed – markedly – since he started teaching.
But his class still pounds out the same routine about spine, plot, the foundational challenges of the three-act structure, over-arching theme, sub-textual elements coming into play when developing the b-story, or whatever, that he was teaching back when feature writers were king and selling scripts for seven figures. TV, in those days, was for hacks that couldn’t sell a movie to save their lives. Nowadays, it’s almost the reverse. TV is where the excitement is, it’s the medium attracting the talent, and the writer is become king. There is still a place for feature writers, but they are more a part of a committee than a sole author.
You’d think he’d change with the times.
This is the example that jumps out at me, but he isn’t the only one. There are others peddling the Secrets of Success to writing for TV. Novels. Short stories. Stage plays. Screenwriting. On and on and on.
In my opinion, you learn more by doing – more by sitting down and writing on your own – than you do worrying about how many spaces you put after a period at the end of a sentence or whether it’s ‘INT -THE LIVING ROOM – DAY’ or ‘INT. – THE LIVING ROOM – DAY’.
Quentin Tarantino wrote Pulp Fiction out longhand in a pile of spiral bound notebooks. He worried about his story first.
When the time comes, you can figure out the format you need to submit your work in. Formatting is the easy part. The hard part is getting a good story together. Write. Edit. Rewrite. Polish. Throw it away and start over. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Worry about making your story good first.
It’s like building a house. The story is the framework and the rafters and the plumbing and the electrical – the stuff that makes the house work as a house. It’s at the end that you worry about the paint and drywall and whether you use cherry for the cabinets and Italian travertine marble for the floors – the things that make it pretty.
And be selective of who you take advice from. Would you take parachuting lessons from a guy that’s never seen the inside of a plane before, or you would want to learn from someone that jumps out of a plane – and lives – every day?
Of course, I could be completely wrong. It’s not like I know anything.
PS – I’ve started contributing to The Corner of the Galaxy, a website devoted to the LA Galaxy. They can be found at: http://cornerofthegalaxy.com/
You can also follow me on twitter @JamesGGlass. It’s a different brand of idiocy than the blog is.