Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself. – Doris Lessing

Go forth into the unknown, explore the caves of your unconscious, fear not your “dark side,” find the gold.

— Robin Hoffman (@AuthorAlchemy)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Writing Advice from SexyWolfen

By guest blogger Joseph Greene

WHEN I REALLY sat down and thought, “You know, I think this writing thing is what I want to do for the rest of my life” it was about 12 years ago, at the wise old age of ten.

I had always loved writing stories, mostly for the happiness it provided for others. I thought, “Why stop there?” and decided to write short screenplays. Which I did.

I finished my first full length screenplay a year later. Granted it wasn't in the industry standard format and I hadn't yet discovered the buggy wonder that is Final Draft. But hey, for a kid with low self esteem you'd think I had written half the Bible.

But I guess that's enough tooting my own horn for right now. Let’s get down to business.

Really, my writing style was wild and misguided until high school. I won't go into detail, but there are a bunch of stories about talking food. That's when I met my mentor . . . writing wise anyway. Really showed me what writing is truly about. Mort Castle, Pulitzer Prize nominee and writer of some pretty darn good horror. I thank him every day for getting me where I am today . . . writing-wise.

But anyway, some quick things to share.

1. You Can't Be a Judge of Your Own Work

Since you write the stuff, you know it better then anybody . . . but come on, no one writes for just themselves. Seek out as many people as you can to read it.

Be wary of other screenwriters sometimes. From my experiences, they can sometimes be the rudest, most snarky individuals since the ladies that work in the office of your local high school: you know, the ones that are the least helpful on the planet.

If you got family, hit them with it. I know it's tough to get any American to read something, but if you nag enough you'll be successful in that task. But that's hard to do as well when you have a 120+ page screenplay to chuck at them.

2. Write About What You Know and What Excites You

If I wrote a book about corn reapers, it might be informative, hilarious at times and quite heartwarming. But would be published posthumously . . . me having died from boredom. Write about things YOU would want to read about.

That's what makes writing hard during high school/college. I always hated having to write about some lame Toni Morrison novel straight off the Oprah's Book Club list. Or Romeo and Juliet (I swear if I have to read that one more time).

I really don't have to work that hard to find interesting things to write about. I just look out my window. I'm 22, so by the laws of nature, I have to live someplace crappy. ’Tis life.

What do I see?

— Crazy guy who never wears a shirt and yells a lot.

— Dude across the way selling various weaponry. Nice guy. We go out for lunch sometimes.

— Strange Mariachi/tuba music with Spanish wailing over it.

The possibilities are endless. Take a walk and see what's what.

3. Accept Criticism

Doesn't mean you have to listen to it. When it comes down to it, you really gotta use your gut. Because if you're not proud of your work, the heck if the reader is going to. Be sure to always get a second, third, and seventh opinion.

4. Writing is Healing

Long as I can remember, the best times I've had involved writing. As writers, we're the ultimate control freaks. While we're writing, we're in total control and nothing else really matters.

Even when times were tough in my family, writing would always cheer me up. Nothing like drowning your workplace in a pool of fire to brighten a bad workday.

5. No, There is Nothing Wrong With You

During my 2 years of writing classes in high school, I went to the school psychiatrist about 20 times for different things. It got me out of math, but that didn't make it any less irritating. People saying they “just don't get it.” You have two choices there.

A recent experience made me question my writing. My estranged father happened to run across some of my work and used his political connections (shoutout to Chicago politics!) to have me dragged out of my home and thrown in a mental hospital. Took my friends three weeks to convince them to let me go.

What that thought it was . . . my writing was a little better than I thought. Which kinda brings me back to the judging your own work thing. If people have complaints about things IN your story instead of how it was written, then you've done your job.

Keep writing. And thanks to Milli for letting me spend some time writing for you.


JOSEPH GREENE is a live or die writer, part time blogger, and an editor from time to time. He blogs at SexyWolfen and his Twitter handle is SexyWolfen. He's written a number of short stories in the past but his current focus is feature screenplays. Joesph lives in Chicago, Illinois and doesn't intend to go anywhere.


Patti Stafford said...

Good post. I have to admit your name gives me visions of 'wolfman fairies dressed in drag for homicide', but at your ripe age, you may not be Springsteen fan or have a clue what I'm talking about. He's an excellent wordsmith and I recommend reading his lyrics if you get a chance.

Your first point is a really good one, and although I've known this all along, it's never really been spoken or presented has it? Well not straight forward, it's one of those "big writer secrets" "they" never tell you about. Very good advice.

Your second point--ah the corn reapers. I've been writing about those for years. Oh they're disguised as helpful articles about toothbrushes, healthcare and gold trading, but it's still just a damn corn reaper isn't it? I've recently been renewing my passion for fiction. I feel like the new kid on the block again.

Accept criticism. I did a recent blog post asking writers if they had what it takes to handle rejection and the like. But criticism comes with the territory, and some people have no clue how to properly deliver the axe of that chopping block.

Nothing wrong with me? Whatever do you mean? I picked the term eccentric writer so people would know why I had my quirks. Now they can look at me with that still puzzled look, scratching their chins, but saying to themselves, "Oh that explains it. She's a writer." I love it. Embrace the quirky weirdness that makes us who and what we are. Oh, and there really is nothing wrong with us--as long as you ask another writer, or musicians, they're a quirky bunch too--and I happen to be married to one. Our home reeks of eccentric personalities, but to us--it's just normal.

The mental hospital--oh there's some good writing. I think that may be how Poe came up with all his creepy tales. Very good. I love Poe, you may have to consider shadowing him.

I live in an apartment complex--and if it wasn't so hot here in hillbilly hell--I might go out and watch the neighbors. But then again, I don't care for that corn reaper hillbilly storyline. On the other hand, if you read "True Grit", it was about these kind of folks and it became a movie. Hmmmm, I may have to rethink this--when winter gets here. :)

And last, but definitely not least, welcome to Milliville, it's not exactly a sane place, but it is a fun place. Glad you could share a bit of your life with us. Hope to see you again soon.


Wolfen said...

Thank you Patti. Good to see I'm actually making some sense.
Far as Springsteen goes, I know him well. I have the pleasure of living in a city where you're exposed to everything from a young age.
And for the criticism... Yeah, 70% of the time, folks don't know what they're talking about. It's not like a listen that much anyway.

And I'm sure Poe had similar experiences to mine... in the mental hospital anyway.

LMEighmy said...

Great advice! I'll have to follow it. :)

kEkURe said...
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Thanks for commenting on my blog! ~ Milli